Wednesday afternoon in Harris County Texas, Judge Tom Sullivan issued a temporary restraining order to a group of Republican delegates and party officials seeking to force the state Republican convention to comply with Texas election law and elect officers for the convention before conducting other convention business. A further hearing on the case will be held on Monday the 9th to discuss charges of irregularities at various county conventions. The State Republican Convention is scheduled to start in Houston on the 12th.
The suit was initiated by convention delegates and county party officials led by Debra Medina of Wharton County, but they were soon joined by others from all over the state who were concerned that the Republican state convention would follow the practices of previous years and conduct most of its business under the authority of unelected temporary officers, which is a violation of state election law.
The Credentials Committee appointed by these temporary officers has been meeting in advance of the convention and is considering a move to challenge and potentially disqualify the entire delegations from Nueces, Parker and Galveston counties where Ron Paul supporters had won delegate seats far out of proportion to his showing in the primary voting. They will be meeting again next week to decide if these delegates should be disqualified.
While many of those involved in the suit were activists associated with the Ron Paul campaign, the suit also attracted many concerned mainstream Republicans and party officials who believe that the way that state conventions have been run in the past gives too much power to entrenched interests and limits the input of the party rank and file. They are all worried that with party insiders running the convention the Credentials Committee report will be passed without a fair hearing or any kind of floor vote, disqualifying many delegates unfairly, and that delegate participation in the convention will be restricted to virtually no input at all as has happened in other states. This is an issue which bothers regular Republicans who want to have a meaningful convention as much as it does Ron Paul supporters who may find themselves kicked to the curb.
Plaintiff Kay Fischer who is a delegate from Corpus Christi in Ron Paul’s congressional district, commented “Based on past performance and history of the Texas Republican Party Convention, I am afraid that the rules will continue to be violated and the rights of the delegates will be abused,”
As it stands now, the court order will require the convention to hold officer elections as one of the first orders of business before proceeding to the adoption of any of the committee reports. Monday’s hearing may add more specific instructions and requirements to compel the convention to comply with state law.
While this ruling certainly marks a major victory for Ron Paul supporters and other pro-liberty activists in a primary season which has given them much frustration, it is also a necessary response to long-standing problems in the Texas Republican Party which have limited participation and tightly limited power to an elite faction largely dominated by the religious right. With any luck convention attendees will see a more open and accessible process next week than they have in many years.