Travis County Republican Party Chairman James Dickey defeated Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee Saturday.
Dickey succeeds Tom Mechler who called a snap election to lead the party in the nation’s largest red state with his sudden resignation two weeks ago.
“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions in the party revealed by the razor-thin margin.
For Dickey, the victory is a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks and quickly piled up endorsements from conservative activist groups.
Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of those grassroots activists, particularly of a tea-party bent, who did not look kindly on Mechler, who they felt was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol, attempting to anoint a successor. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S Sen. Ted Cruz, all up for re-election in 2018, all steered clear of any involvement in the party choice.
Personally, for Dickey it was an impressive comeback from his low point when he was defeated for re-election in the March 1, 2016 Republican primary by Robert Morrow, a deeply eccentric political gadfly who wore a jester hat during his brief tenure before Dickey reclaimed the chairmanship, and was wearing it again Saturday at the SREC meeting. While Morrow announced he was also a candidate for chairman, his name was not placed in nomination.
“We took that lemon and made some serious lemonade,” Dickey said at a Friday night forum on the chairman’s race before the members of the SREC of his rebuilding the county party after the Morrow debacle.
Rick Figueroa, Mechler’s choice, would have been the first Latino to lead the Texas Republican Party and a signal of the seriousness of the party’s commitment to increasing its standing with the state’s large and growing Hispanic population.
Figueroa, the youngest child of a single mother in public housing in the barrio in Bay City, now a wealth management executive in Houston, was a prominent Hispanic backer of President Donald Trump as a candidate and as president, serving on Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Committee during the campaign and now on President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.
Mechler, an oil and gas man from Amarillo, succeeded Steve Munisteri as party chairman in 2015 when Munisteri left to take a senior position in Kentucky Sen Rand Paul’s campaign for president. Mechler was re-elected chairman for a full term at the 2016 Republican State Convention.
The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice, or select someone else as chairman.