HISTORY OF THE TEXAS REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLY (TXRA)
|By: Steve Hollern, TXRA Past President Sept 14, 2006
In 1980, the Texas Republican Assembly was formed in Dallas by Ray VanBuskirk, Richard Steenson, Tom Carter, and others. VanBuskirk had moved to Dallas from California, where he had been a member of the California Republican Assembly (CRA). VanBuskirk thought it important to form a similar organization in Texas.Gathering like-minded conservatives, VanBuskirk organized both the Dallas County Republican Assembly (DCRA) and the Texas Republican Assembly. The Dallas County Republican Assembly had continuous activity from 1980 through about 2003 when it became dormant. At its height under President Kay Copeland, the DCRA had over 500 members. The Texas Republican Assembly had a statewide convention in 1982 and has had continuous existence since 1980; thus qualifying for the exception in the NFRA Bylaws pertaining to state Assemblies that pre-date the formation of the NFRA in 1996. In 1982, Steve Hollern, Jane Berberich, Doraline Daeley, and a group of about a dozen Reagan conservatives organized the Tarrant County Republican Assembly (TCRA). Its principle activity was to bring prominent conservative speakers into the county; and to promote conservatives ideals and principles. At this time, the TCRA did not make endorsements. The TCRA was active from 1982 through 1988 when Hollern became the Republican County Chairman. Conservative speakers were brought to the area through the Tarrant County Republican Party than through the TCRA to increase visibility.In 1998, Hollern decided not to seek re-election as county chair and the TCRA was reactivated. During the summer and fall of 1998, the newly-reorganized TCRA Board met to hammer out new by-laws. During the period that the TCRA had been dormant, the CRA had gone national and formed the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. The NFRA had added endorsements in primaries as part of its mission and the TCRA adapted its Bylaws to the new paradigm. The first meeting of the reorganized TCRA was held in January 1999 at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens auditorium with Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland as the speaker.As the NFRA established a national presence, a group of conservatives from Houston chartered with NFRA what they thought was the Texas Republican Assembly. This action was taken without the knowledge that the Texas Republican Assembly had continuous existence since 1980 with two chapters in North Texas. Carol Gaines (Houston) became a regional VP for the NFRA and Jolene McMaster (Houston) became president of what they thought was the TXRA. A Houston Assembly chapter was formed as the East Gulf Coast Republican Assembly. This chapter claimed a five county area including Harris, Fort Bend and three other counties.
After an SREC meeting of the Texas Republican Party in late 1998, the various representatives of the TXRA met in a hotel in Austin. At that point both Kay Copeland, President of the DCRA, and Steve Hollern, President of the TCRA, agreed to accept Gaines and McMaster as leaders of the TXRA and to fold all chapters and both TXRA groups into a single organization to avoid confusion and dispute over leadership roles.
Sometime after that meeting, Carol Gaines went to work for Paul Bettencourt, the newly-elected Tax Assessor in Harris County and became unavailable. Shortly after that, McMaster also became unavailable. To get the TXRA back on track, the Dallas and Tarrant County Assemblies set up a statewide meeting in Dallas to reorganize, and contacted Stan Smith of the East Gulf Coast Republican Assembly to have his input. Although Houston did not attend the meeting, Dallas and Tarrant County did and Hollern was elected to serve as the TXRA President to replace McMaster.
In 1999, Sue Evenwel and others formed the East Texas Republican Assembly (ETRA) based in Mount Pleasant. The ETRA represented the counties of Titus, Camp, and Rusk.
In October 1999, the TXRA sent a delegation to the NFRA Biannual Meeting and Presidential Preference Convention in Kansas City. Among those that attended were Stan Smith and Jeannie Hayes representing the EGCRA. Attendance at the Convention is evidence that the EGCRA considered itself a valid chapter chartered by the TXRA, as only TXRA members were entitled to attend and vote at the Convention. The TCRA and DCRA made up the bulk of those in attendance, along with Sue Evenwell of Mount Pleasant. Also attending was Diana Denman (former Vice-Chairman of the Texas Republican Party) of San Antonio as an at-large member of the TXRA, but affiliated with the TCRA.
Subsequent to the Kansas City NFRA Convention, the EGCRA has not participated in TXRA Board meetings or annual conventions with the exception of two delegates who attended the annual convention in Austin in the summer of 2004.
In Austin, Mike McNamara, Pat O'Grady, and others formed the Central Texas Republican Assembly (CTRA) in 2000. That chapter represents the area of Travis, Hays, and Bastrop Counties.
A chapter in Johnson County (Cleburne and Burleson) was formed in late 2003, but it fell apart over divisions in the 2004 Republican Primary over a state representative race. An attempt to revive the chapter in 2005 was unsuccessful.
At the TXRA Annual Convention in July 2005, Hollern did not seek re-election and Mike McNamara of the Central Texas chapter was elected TXRA President.
In early 2006, the Denton County Republican Assembly was formed with Nancy Dillard as its president. The chapter has a growing membership. In 2009, Mike McNamara resigned as president to run for office. Vice-President Michael Gallops assumed the office of president. At the Annual Convention in Austin in August 2011, Gallops did not seek re-election and Bob Gill from the Tarrant County Assembly was elected president. Rudy Cajka from the Denton chapter was elected vice-president.