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Steve Munisteri

Cornyn’s 2020 strategy

I have three things to say about this.

Big John Cornyn

As the Texas GOP Party chairman from 2010 to 2015, Steve Munisteri warned that Republicans could no longer take the Lone Star State for granted and that the party needed to reach out to the state’s burgeoning minority population.

“I’ve consistently said since I first ran for state party chair that Texas should be considered a competitive swing state,” he said. “That was my whole schtick when I ran.”

On Wednesday, as he announced he would be leaving his White House job to join U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s 2020 reelection campaign, Munisteri again sounded the alarm, joining other state GOP leaders in warning that once reliably red Texas could be in play in the next presidential election.

“Texas is not as solidly Republican as people think,” he said. “You need to treat this as a swing state.”

Munisteri cited U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s narrow win over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, as well as a history of Democratic advances in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio going back to the 2008 presidential election.

“A decade ago, we lost the urban areas,” said Munisteri, who will be returning to Texas after two years in the Trump administration, where he serves as deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison.


“The Democrats are still riding the splash of the 2018 elections in hopes that it will carry over into 2020,” Dickey told the Chronicle. “But the reality is, they have shown Texas Republicans what can happen if any Republican stays home during these crucial elections. We are engaging a massive campaign effort which started the day after the election to ensure we not only will successfully defend Republican seats, we regain the seats Democrats won from the Beto bump of 2018.”


The Cornyn campaign said Munisteri will serve as chief liaison to the state party and its “2020 Victory” effort. As party chairman, Munisteri was credited with helping encourage minority outreach, hiring Spanish speaking staffers, and increasing the number of Republican office holders in the state by nearly 70 percent.

“I gained a great deal of respect for Steve when he successfully led our party to new heights as chairman of the (Texas Republican Party) and have been proud to work with him in Washington as he’s served President Trump in the White House,” Cornyn said in a statement Wednesday.


Despite Cornyn’s seemingly clear path to a fourth term, Munisteri, like other top Republican Party officials, warns that the Texas GOP cannot glide into 2020, despite the party’s generational dominance.

“It’s a competitive state,” he said. “It’s just that we keep winning the competition.” To continue that dominance, he believes that Cornyn is committed to campaigning in the Hispanic community, the fastest-growing segment of the Texas electorate.

In a minority-majority state, Munisteri said, Republicans have little choice but to find messages that resonate with minority voters, particularly Hispanics. “If the party doesn’t look on the inside the way it looks on the outside, it means that we have work to do. I also believe in the depths of my bones this is not just about being pragmatic and trying to win votes. There’s a moral element to that.”

One challenge facing Republican outreach to Latinos in Texas in 2020 could be Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on illegal immigration and his continuing campaign for a border wall – the central sticking point in a 35-day partial government shutdown.

But Munisteri noted that despite Trump’s focus on illegal immigration, exit polls showed that he won nearly 29 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally in 2016, a slightly larger share than that of Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee. Trump did slightly better with Hispanics in Texas, though he only beat Hillary Clinton by 9 points – a margin that raised the eyebrows of strategists in both parties.

1. Everyone’s fully on board with the idea that Republicans were spooked by what happened last year, right?

2. The bit where Munisteri talks about what happens when Republicans don’t turn out is the most interesting part of the story. Turnout, at least statewide, wasn’t the Republicans’ problem last year. Greg Abbott got almost as many votes as Donald Trump did in 2016. They clearly left some votes on the table – I believe Dems did as well, despite blowing past all previous high-water marks – which leads me to wonder what Munisteri thinks the GOP’s natural level of turnout should be for a Presidential election. Eva Guzman was the high scorer in 2016, with almost 4.9 million votes (Trump got just under 4.7 million). What does Munisteri think the top of the Republican ticket – which is to say, Trump and Cornyn – will get in an “all things being equal” context? GOP Presidential candidates ranged between 4.4 million and 4.7 million from 2004 to 2016. I think Guzman’s total is a perfectly reasonable target for next year; it would mean Dems would have to exceed Beto’s total by nearly a million votes in order to win. Does Steve Munsteri think they can do better than that? I’d be interested to hear it.

The challenge Munisteri and the GOP faces is that as we saw in 2018, Dems had a majority in the most populous parts of the state, which is also where all the growth has been. They achieved that by turning out reliable voters, bringing in a ton of new voters, and getting a significant number of votes from people who had previously been voting Republican. Republicans can get some growth from new voters and irregular voters, though that pool is much shallower for them than it is for Dems. They will probably get a few of the pre-2018 voters who abandoned them last year back; surely the mainstream, establishment man Cornyn will do better with that crowd than Ted Cruz did. They might be able to woo a few disgruntled or disillusioned Dems. I don’t think any of that will amount to much, but they do start out with a lead, so they don’t need it to be too much. How much potential does Steve Munisteri think there is for growth? Again, I’d love to know.

3. This again is why I will base my vote in the primary in part on who I think will do the most to fight for Texas in 2020. We can and should build on what we did in 2018, but it’s not going to happen on its own, and it’s not going to happen without a fight from the Republicans. Republicans think Texas is a swing state now. Dems need to act accordingly. Politico has more.

How’s that GOP Latino outreach going?

There are issues.

On Election Day, it became clearer than ever how important Hispanics, as the fastest growing portion of the U.S. population, are to national political success. Republican Mitt Romney earned only 27 percent of Latinos’ support in his failed bid for the presidency.

Now, as Republicans in Texas examine Romney’s loss, they are confronting a serious conflict within their own ranks.

On one side, the party leadership wants to court Latinos with outreach efforts and a kinder message about immigration, which polls consistently show as one of the top issues among Hispanics.

“I just don’t want the party to be toast,” said Steve Munisteri, the Republican Party of Texas chairman, who has made the issue a top priority.

Meanwhile, a big part of the Republican base wants to keep driving the party’s ideology to the uber-conservative side of the political spectrum, which means passing tough immigration bills.

Katrina Pierson, a political activist and member of the Dallas Tea Party, said many of the rank-and-file Republicans want to see less pandering to an ethnic group and more work to pass strict immigration laws in Texas, laws like the one in Arizona that requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they think might be in the country illegally.

“It’s one thing to be inclusive,” Pierson said. “But it is another thing to abandon your principles.”

This is the conflict in a nutshell. Some GOP leaders like Steve Munisteri want the party to be more inclusive, or at least less inflammatory, but the rank and file ain’t buying it. The tell is that it’s very hard to win a Republican primary as anything but a hard-liner on immigration. I can’t say it’s “impossible”, I don’t follow GOP primaries closely enough to draw that broad a conclusion, but we all watched the Presidential primary, and we all saw Cruz versus Dewhurst. The people in the GOP who are talking about this are not being listened to by the people who vote in the GOP. And just as a reminder, “sanctuary cities” legislation will be a top priority this spring, as it was two years ago. In fact, a bill repealing the Texas DREAM Act that Rick Perry signed in 2001 and was raked over the coals for by Mitt Romney has already been filed, and the author of the failed 2011 “sanctuary cities” bill warns that what comes out of this year’s Lege “may turn out to be a much harsher bill”.

And even when legislation might not be seen as overtly hostile to Latinos, Democrats in the Texas Legislature have become adept at painting it as such. For example, Democrats portrayed as discriminatory the 2011 redistricting law, which Republicans say was meant simply to elect as many Republicans as possible, not hamper minorities’ voting power. And Democrats cast the GOP-led voter ID effort as discriminatory, even though lawmakers who supported it said it was a common-sense move to protect the sanctity of the ballot.

Of course, the DC federal court also said that the redistricting and voter ID bills were discriminatory in intent and effect, so there’s more to this than just a “some people say” media dodge. Everyone can say what they want about these bills, Democrats have two federal court rulings on their side.

Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor , said messaging is important, but Texas Republicans need to do more than adjust their words and pass a guest worker plank, if they want to remain relevant.

“If that’s what they are doing, that’s dumb politics,” Jillson said.

Jillson said Munisteri and the GOP must substantially address issues such as jobs, education and health care, which are vitally important to Hispanics. “Until that happens, they (Hispanics) are not going to be interested in Republican messaging,” Jillson said.

Again, as I said before, Latino voters have a stronger belief in the role of government and by a sizable majority support the Affordable Care Act and believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance. They tend to be big supporters of public education, too. What’s the GOP got for that? Toning down the anti-immigrant stuff is a necessary first step for them, but it’s far from sufficient.

This is all assuming that they care about competing for Latino votes, of course. The Anglo-centric model is still working pretty well for them here in Texas, even as we heard its likely death knell nationally. As long as Latino voting rates lag behind those of other states, which is another way of saying “as long as there’s no concerted, fully-funded, long-term effort to engage and turn out Latino voters in Texas”, the current model could be good to go for several more cycles. Despite the Munisteris of the world, I suspect the Texas GOP won’t really take this seriously until they have no other choice. See this Ryan Lizza story for more.

The plaintiffs’ proposal for the Lege

I know it will break your heart to hear that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is a little peeved at Greg Abbott and Steve Munisteri because he thinks the Abbott map makes Harris County too Democratic.

What got Woodfill going was Munisteri’s willingness to go along with a map Abbott produced that would cost Harris County Republicans two seats in the state House. “Local Republicans feel like we’re being sold out,” Woodfill told me.

His Saturday e-mail — “a respectful e-mail,” he called it — urged Harris County Republicans to contact Munisteri and Abbott to register their objections to the map. “Unfortunately, my reasonable request has been met with finger-pointing, reassigning blame and simply passing the buck,” he wrote in a subsequent e-mail Monday morning.

By Monday afternoon, things had gotten testier. “This thing has blown up into a war,” he said over the phone.


“We’ve worked to long and too hard for this to happen,” said Woodfill, who also said he had received hundreds of e-mails in support of his no-surrender stance. Paul Bettencourt, Dr. Steven Hotze, Allen Blakemore and other conservative stalwarts were urging him on, he said.

“Any map which costs Harris County Republicans at least two seats is unacceptable,” Woodfill repeated. “Let’s continue the fight and let the San Antonio three-judge panel do what they will. If they refuse to accept the Supreme Court mandate, then we will appeal again. However, if we accept a compromised deal with the wild-eyed left, then we lose our right to appeal. Remember, we will have to live with these lines for the next 10 years, so we must get them right now. Then we can be about the business of defeating the Democrats in November.”

You can see more of the email squabbling here and here if you’re into that sort of thing. Far be it from me to defend Greg Abbott, but I feel pretty confident that he wouldn’t yield any ground he didn’t think he was certain to lose anyway. He certainly doesn’t care about the best interests of any Democrat. But hey, don’t let me stop you from stocking up on pitchforks and torches, Jared. You go on with your bad self there.

If Woodfill et al don’t like Abbott’s proposed interim map, they surely aren’t going to like the map proposed by the non-MALDEF plaintiffs, which is Plan H307. Here’s a little comparison of the numbers for districts of interest in that plan (full data here) with those from Plan H303, the Abbott plan (full data here.

Dist Incumbent Plan McCain Obama Wainwright Houston ========================================================= 26 Howard*+ H303 61.51 37.77 60.74 37.17 26 Howard*+ H307 51.38 47.96 50.44 47.52 54 Aycock* H303 51.20 47.93 47.97 49.01 54 Aycock* H307 38.68 60.56 36.78 60.44 77 Marquez H303 34.56 64.25 30.18 66.08 77 Marquez H307 35.82 62.99 31.53 64.75 78 Margo* H303 43.64 55.31 39.57 56.84 78 Margo* H307 42.65 56.31 38.49 57.90 80 T.King H303 48.65 50.76 41.30 55.87 80 T.King H307 47.51 51.94 40.34 56.84 85 Open H303 58.68 40.68 52.81 45.22 85 Open H307 65.84 33.46 61.62 36.37 90 Burnam H303 29.89 69.40 25.82 72.00 90 Burnam H307 28.20 71.11 24.41 73.50 93 Nash* H303 57.57 41.60 55.45 41.54 93 Nash* H307 50.94 48.08 47.78 49.07 101 Open H303 37.82 61.59 35.63 62.19 101 Burkett* H307 50.21 48.89 46.00 51.47 102 Carter* H303 52.18 46.64 50.17 46.75 102 Carter* H307 39.61 59.52 36.79 60.78 103 Anchia H303 31.44 67.47 28.78 68.04 103 Anchia H307 30.78 68.13 28.22 68.59 104 Alonzo H303 30.25 68.76 25.88 71.39 104 Alonzo H307 33.92 65.05 29.22 67.98 105 H-Brown* H303 52.69 46.14 48.72 48.18 105 H-Brown* H307 47.50 51.38 43.64 53.34 107 Sheets* H303 52.25 46.71 48.72 48.46 107 Sheets* H307 47.13 51.44 47.11 49.33 108 Branch* H303 53.86 44.88 54.77 42.18 108 Branch* H307 60.04 38.90 60.34 37.20 112 C. Button* H303 54.89 44.03 51.69 45.68 112 C. Button* H307 58.15 40.88 54.86 42.55 113 Driver*+ H303 53.00 46.05 49.53 47.87 113 Open H307 37.34 62.01 35.73 62.05 114 Hartnett*+ H303 52.36 46.57 51.71 45.66 114 Hartnett*+ H307 55.60 43.12 53.39 43.43 115 Jackson*+ H303 54.91 43.86 53.62 43.24 115 Jackson*+ H307 57.22 41.55 55.76 41.11 117 Garza* H303 47.71 51.33 44.69 51.76 117 Garza* H307 46.49 52.52 43.73 52.76 118 Farias H303 42.57 56.36 37.44 58.81 118 Farias H307 43.86 55.10 38.62 57.61 132 Callegari* H303 59.68 39.59 57.27 40.62 132 Callegari* H307 49.40 49.93 46.95 50.96 134 S.Davis* H303 54.39 44.59 56.95 40.36 134 S.Davis* H307 52.63 46.30 54.74 42.57 136 Vo H303 34.89 64.47 32.15 65.73 136 Open H307 51.81 45.92 51.20 42.93 137 Hochberg+ H303 43.64 55.47 42.22 55.26 137 Hochberg+ H307 35.69 63.58 33.01 64.54 143 Luna H303 35.22 64.14 27.89 70.22 143 Luna H307 33.75 65.61 26.92 71.24 144 Legler* H303 51.04 47.95 43.02 54.53 144 Legler* H307 47.99 51.02 40.04 57.59 145 Alvarado H303 41.99 57.13 35.76 61.73 145 Alvarado H307 38.27 60.97 32.15 65.64 147 Coleman H303 18.94 80.34 18.16 79.68 147 Coleman H307 22.56 76.63 21.95 75.72 148 Farrar H303 41.43 57.49 37.68 59.18 148 Farrar H307 41.28 57.65 37.60 59.22 149 Open H303 51.81 45.92 51.20 42.93 149 Vo H307 38.60 60.66 36.58 61.08

* = Republican incumbent
+ = Not running for re-election, at least as of last report

The above represents all of the Democratic districts in which changes were made, the districts that become Democratic (or at least Democratic-leaning) as the result of changes, and a few other related districts that show where all the Republicans were relocated. Some of these changes are simply the result of renumbering. HD101 becomes HD113 and vice versa in Plan H307, while Hubert Vo’s district is HD136 in H303 and reverts back to HD149 in H307, with HD136 becoming the new Williamson County district. (Districts 30, 33, and 34 were shuffled around with no precinct changes made, just the labels.) You can see some pretty big changes, however, which would likely result in at least another 3 or so seats for the Dems. Districts 26 and 93 come (back) into play, while districts 102, 105, and 107 go from lean/likely R to lean/likely D. Most surprising to me is HD132, which remains a west Harris County district but shifts radically in partisan performance. I don’t have CVAP or SSVR numbers, but I’m guessing it’s a lot more Latino in the plaintiffs’ plan. That one I didn’t see coming.

Here’s a look at how Harris County and the Metroplex fare under each map:

Harris County - Plan H303 (Abbott)

Harris County - Plan H307 (Plaintiffs)

Dallas and Tarrant Counties - Plan H303 (Abbott)

Dallas and Tarrant Counties - Plan H307 (Plaintiffs)

If all that’s not enough for you, here’s 2008 electoral data for the two Congressional plans submitted by the NAACP, PlanC232 (map here) and PlanC233 (map here). Both restore CD25 for Lloyd Doggett and give three of the four new districts to Democrats while making Quico Canseco’s CD23 a tossup/lean Democratic district. PlanC232 makes Smokey Joe Barton’s CD06 a tossup/lean Republican district, while PlanC233 makes Ken Marchant’s CD24 a lean/likely Democratic district. As CD14 remains the same in each and in the Abbott map, that means Dems would likely win between 12 and 15 seats under C232 and between 13 and 15 seats under C233.

None of this may ultimately matter, of course. The parties could come to some other agreements, an outcome that looks increasingly remote right now, except possibly for the Senate. The San Antonio court could decide that the Abbott maps are good enough. Alternately, the San Antonio court could wait for the DC court ruling despite its seeming insistence on coming up with something in time to salvage an April primary and then draw something completely different. Who knows? Actually, at this point, any hope for an April primary is all but dead, and we have less than three weeks to get maps in time for a May 29 primary. I suspect that somewhere in all of these pieces is most if not all of the final puzzle. It’s making they fit together that’s the hard part. See Michael Li’s live Twitter feed for the blow by blow of yesterday’s hearing, which will continue today. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Michael Li summarizes the day’s activity.

Redistricting litigation threatens party conventions

With the April 3 primary date now almost certainly no longer in play, the two parties’ biennial conventions are also at risk as the redistricting litigation drags on.

Congressional districts for Texas as drawn by the court

The state’s Democratic and Republican parties made substantial down payments months ago to reserve convention and hotel space in June. But if the primaries are delayed again — as late as June 26, as was discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court last week — then the parties could be forced to postpone their conventions.


Delegates are chosen from congressional and senatorial districts; so, without valid redistricting maps, the parties will not be able chose delegates for the national conventions.

“We would have no idea how to proceed,” said Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Texas Republican Party. “We hope desperately not to be there.”

Elam said state GOP leaders were challenged to come up with solutions last month when a federal court in San Antonio moved the primaries from March 6 to April 3 because of redistricting uncertainty. But if the primaries get pushed back again, then “all bets are off,” Elam said.

“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” Elam added.

With contractual obligations to host as many as 18,000 people June 7-9 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the Republican Party of Texas could be on the hook for “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Elam said, if the convention doesn’t go on as planned.

And with about $640,000 cash on hand, Elam said, a hit that big would be significant, especially for a party that was $500,000 in the red in 2010.

The Democrats wouldn’t fare much better if they were forced to choose a new convention date.

“Everything just is going to cost a lot more because you expect it to be a certain time and it isn’t,” said Lenora Sorola-Pohlman, who is chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party’s convention committee.

Democratic Party leaders are expecting about 14,000 people at the state convention in Houston on June 8-9. And if the party cancels its contracts with the Hilton Americas, it will be responsible for 80 percent of the rooms reserved for the convention, the party said. The party didn’t say how much the contracts were worth, but officials said the party has about $141,000 on hand.

“At this point, we’re comfortable we’ll have our delegates on time to hold our convention on the day planned. We are reserving any more judgment on the election schedule until we have some rulings on the court maps,” party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said in a statement.

I feel oh so terribly sorry for the Republicans and the financial hardship this may put them through, given that it’s entirely their responsibility for the schedule chaos. RPT Chair Steve Munisteri has floated the idea of a split primary again, for which Democrats are not on board, and has filed an advisory with SCOTUS saying that “for numerous legal, logistical, and practical reasons, moving the Texas primary to any date after mid-April 2012 would wreak havoc with the state’s electoral process and present insurmountable difficulties.” Should have thought of all that before pursuing a stay on the San Antonio court maps, that’s all I know. I don’t know what’s going to happen – I’m not even sure what outcome to root for any more. All I know is that we had an agreement for an election date in hand with maps that were still pretty damn favorable to the Republicans and litigation that would go on in the background, but they weren’t satisfied with that. And so here we are, and they’re whining about the inconvenience of moving the primaries back again to accommodate their aggressive litigation strategy. I trust you’ll forgive me if I’m not moved by their plight.

Do over!

This should come as a surprise to no one.

Steve Munisteri, chair of the Republican Party of Texas, told party members last week that, if the court-drawn interim maps stand, he would seek to have Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature pledge to take up redistricting again in the 2013 legislative session.

He also said he would ask for authority to “instruct the RPT political staff to begin preparing a legislative lobbying blitz to push for redistricting at the next session.”

You can read his full statement here if you want to – it’s mostly a bunch of chest-thumping and judge-bashing. The Republicans have already established a precedent of re-redistricting when it suits them, so like I said, no one should be surprised by this. The fact that Steve Munisteri wants it to happen – in the event that SCOTUS doesn’t soothe their hurt feelings, of course – doesn’t mean that it will, of course. It took a lot of pushing from Tom DeLay for the 2003 do-over to happen. Joe Straus and whoever gets elevated to Lite Guv in David Dewhurst’s place have to want it to happen. Enough Republicans who feel confident that their own districts won’t get screwed over have to want it to happen. The ruling the DC Court ultimately renders in the state’s preclearance lawsuit has to leave room for them to do something. I’m not saying it can’t or won’t happen, just that this is one of those times when the crystal ball is a little too murky to make a prediction with any level of confidence. Burka has more.