It is rare that the internal struggles of a major political party are contentious enough to draw public attention. After all, the participants are all members of the same organization. The differences between candidates are often so nuanced as to leave the outsider baffled as to why there is a contest at all. Sometimes the outcome of these internal contests have consequences that are so enormous, that it can reshape the political map in fundamental ways. Nowhere is this principle more readily observable than in the current race to see who will lead the Republican Party of Texas — one of the largest and most influential state parties in the country.
After presiding over historic gains while leading RPT, James Dickey now faces an unlikely opponent — the anointed successor to Tom Mechler, Cindy Asche.
After the sudden resignation of the wildly unpopular Tom Mechler (defeat in all but name), Dickey, the former County Chair for Travis County, found himself in charge of a Republican Party that seemingly had lost its way.
At the mercy of highly leveraged and well-funded special interests, faced with plummeting fundraising, and suffering from a lack of transparency and accountability indicative of a tottering establishment clinging to perceived power, Mechler was killing the party.
In stark contrast to the corrupt politics of destruction practiced by Mechler, Dickey brought a renewed sense of purpose to the party. His victory as chairman energized the base, motivated the most dedicated party activists, and reengaged peripheral constituent groups long neglected by the elitists formerly in control of party leadership.
The result? Fundraising increased to levels not seen in years and turnout in the March 2018 Republican Primary was higher than any in recent memory.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would believe that all of that was a bad thing. But those who previously supported Mechler and were caught off-guard by his resignation, think success is a very bad thing — if anyone but Mechler is responsible.
Enter, Cindy Asche.
Out of Nowhere
To say that Asche was “recruited” is perhaps a dramatic understatement. In fact, until she announced that she was running for RPT chair, there were no indications that she had any intention of doing so.
When candidates are preparing to run for any elected office, they conventionally make use of every opportunity to show their faces, shake hands and kiss babies — unless they are a dark horse (i.e., someone else’s political avatar).
The comedy comes when a candidate, laying the groundwork for their last-minute run, begins to show up at events and meetings — as if they’ve been there all along — feigning concern for the major issues. Asche’s theatrics are indeed consistent with the MO of a dark horse candidate.
Asche previously showed little concern for how the RPT was being run until she announced that she was running — much like local judges who voted for BHO twice, but need to win a red bench in a red district. It’s amazing how quickly candidates “get religion” when they need other people’s money and support.
Instead of being driven by a desire to advance the RPT and concern for the status quo, Asche’s motivations are arguably less than altruistic. Delegates still upset that their hand-picked successor — Rick Figueroa — didn’t get the job when glorified accountant Tom Mechler resigned, begged Asche to run.
It’s the same old story in Texas politics. The political class hates two things – transparency and accountability. In the short time that Dickey has been Chairman, he has instituted an unprecedented level of both. In doing so, he posted record numbers for the party and got results. For those on the State Republican Executive Committee who prefer the party to be governed as a closed-loop system, open only to those deemed worthy by themselves, Dickey’s openness, even-handedness, and results-driven strategic thinking are like sunlight to a vampire.
Who Are You?
One of the by-products of being a candidate plucked out of the ether, is that no one knows who you are. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have to work overtime to build your name ID. On the other, you have the opportunity to, in the absence of an actual record, create your own story. It is the latter which has proven problematic for Asche.
While her biographical information and work history have been fairly consistent, her credentials within the Republican Party have not. Instead, in the early days of her campaign, Asche’s party credentials changed depending on where you saw her speak. She has been fond of claiming that her experience in the Republican Party goes back to when she was a child when she attended a convention with her father. While exposing your child to the political process at an early age is laudable, it doesn’t qualify as party engagement. Using Asche’s logic, the child of a corporate CEO who goes to the office on “bring your child to work” day, is qualified to run a company.
That can be chalked up to the puffery that is a normal part of political campaigning and used car sales. What is conspicuous, is her total absence from party engagement over several decades. Should we call that a slump?
Asche was such a ghost in the Republican Party, that when she announced that she was running for RPT chair, social media was flooded with messages from long-time active party members asking one question – “Who in the hell is that?”
One would think that someone who has made her concern for the principles and platform of the Republican Party the cornerstone of her stump speeches would have been, at the very least, visible in her legislative support of those principles and platform planks over these decades. Instead, Asche is nowhere on record as having testified in front of any committee in the Legislature on any issue related to the Republican Party platform or principles at any time.
An Offensive Offensive
It is far too often that political campaigns devolve into mudslinging and negative attacks. It is rare that you get a candidate like Asche who promises that she will not stoop to those levels, preaches unity in the party, and then immediately and publicly breaks the promise while simultaneously doing her dead-level best to fracture the party by marginalizing and insulting the most active members.
In a speech she delivered near Victoria, Texas, Asche did all of this. Starting off by promising “not to go negative” and talking about how the party needed to “unify,” Asche then went on a toxic tirade against Dickey and subsequently attacked the party’s grassroots activists.
What was missing from her speech? Answer: anything about how she would lead the party.
Her attacks haven’t been confined to stump speeches. Perhaps channelling Josef Stalin, who said that “quantity has a quality of its own,” Asche is sending a relentless stream of mailers insinuating that voting for her opponent will hand Texas to the Democrats and touting the generic labels of “proven leader,” “dedicated conservative,” and “proud Texan.” After all, who in the Republican Party wouldn’t also fit those descriptors? All of these mailers are attempts to convince convention delegates that she is just like them, with the unspoken assertion that Dickey is none of those things.
When Jeb Bush decided to place an exclamation mark after his first name in all campaign literature “Jeb!”, memories were not altered. Americans did not forget that Jeb is the son of “read my lips,” and the brother of “is our children learning.”
In much the same way, the elevated and sensational syntax of Asche’s mailers do not make her claims more true, or her own candidacy more desirable.
Moreover, Asche’s attacks and junk mail haven’t been reserved for mailboxes. Many delegates receive unsolicited emails from Asche’s campaign accusing Dickey of securities fraud. Ignoring the publicly available facts and the easily rebutted assertions, the misinformation and half-truths contained in these emails are still defamatory and legally problematic.
It is this email, and what happened as a consequence, that definitively proved that Asche has a fast-and-loose relationship with the truth. Within days of sending that email, Asche claimed that the email account that was used to send that had been shut down at the request of Dickey. All that came to mind was the line from the GEICO commercial with the senior citizen who showed her friend her wall of pictures. “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”
It turns out that while Asche’s email account may have been closed by the provider, it wasn’t Dickey who was responsible. Rather, it was Asche’s own incompetent and possibly illegal use of the service that was to blame. Asche’s campaign used a popular email list service called Mailchimp. The terms of uploading an email list into the Mailchimp include a provision where you attest that all of the email addresses that you add to the system have given you permission to send them email. Mailchimp, like all other reputable email services, requires list owners to attest that recipients have “opted-in” to receive emails. Further, when uploading a list you are again reminded that you may not upload lists that have been acquired or purchased from third-party providers. Asche literally had to ignore multiple warnings and falsely attest to her compliance to send the email claiming that Dickey was unethical. The irony burns.
As Asche’s email began to hit email boxes, most people do what they normally do with unsolicited email. They mark it as SPAM. As Mailchimp tracked the ever-growing percentage of SPAM complaints, they did as they promise they will do in their terms of service – they suspended Asche’s service. Contrary to Asche’s assertion that Dickey was responsible, the fact is that it was Asche’s unethical and irresponsible use of the service which got her suspended. It seems inconceivable that someone who can’t follow the rules of an email service, who willfully ignored the federal laws against spam emails, and who cannot manage a simple email list would be asking to manage the Republican Party of Texas.
Since the email debacle, Asche has ramped up her rhetoric, claiming that Dickey is cooking the books and lying about the financial health of the organization. Her claims have been repeatedly and conclusively proven false, yet she continues to make them. Her willful choice to ignore record-breaking fundraising and electoral results, leads to one of two possible conclusions. Either she is comfortable with repeating a lie or she is simply bad at math.
In public forums, after her attacks, Asche is being pressed to explain how she would manage the party differently. She says that she would make the party more transparent. At this moment, as a result of Dickey’s leadership, it is more transparent than it ever has been and is the most transparent state party in the United States. She claims that she would bring “unity” to the party. It is hard to see how that promised unity can happen when Asche’s entire campaign is predicated on driving wedges between every segment of the party. She claims that she would be more effective at fundraising and in electoral contests. It’s hard to see how she could do it any better than it is being done since Dickey took the reins. It will definitely be infinitely more difficult for Asche since she is going out of her way to alienate the heart of Republican efforts in the field – grassroots activists.
Cue The Boogeyman
As Asche’s attacks are failing to resonate with convention delegates, she is implementing a new strategy. While her campaign began by insisting that electing her as chair was the only way to withstand the “blue wave” of Democrats, when the much-touted “blue wave” failed to materialize, she introduced a new boogeyman – Libertarians. Asche’s grand conspiracy theory goes something like this.
“The Libertarians (or libertarians) are taking over the Republican Party.”
That’s it. No context, details, or proof are necessary in Asche-world. When pressed for details she lists a set of characteristics that fits everyone in the Republican Party who share a legitimate concern about the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of Texans. Asche commits a political bait-and-switch by labeling those who are lovers of liberty as “Libertarians” and seeking to demonize those who want the Republican Party to value liberty as much as the it was valued by the Founding Fathers. By her criteria, the ascension and election of Ronald Reagan constituted a “libertarian takeover” of the Republican Party.
Asche doesn’t seem concerned with the one infiltration of the party that should cause concern for Republicans – Democrats. Over the last two decades Texas has seen a tsunami of elected officials and voters switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. It is understandable. When a political party, which is no different than any other organization, shifts its mission, methods, and values and they no longer align with the personal mission, methods, and values of an individual, they will leave that political party and join the one that does. Asche seems to ignore those who defected from the Democrats and continue to think and act like Democrats but do so under the cover of the Republican brand. Instead, she embraces them and wants to protect them by repealing provisions of the Republican Party rules created to solve this problem and protect the Republican brand.
Asche seems so desperate to find a boogeyman, she overlooked defectors from the party which she used to cause alarm early in her campaign and jumped to those who actually joined the Republican Party because they value the Constitution and liberty. But Asche’s lack of understanding and her constantly moving targets prove one thing. Neither her outrage nor her concern are real. They are just more manipulation tactics in a campaign full of them.
The Race Card
Despite endorsements for James Dickey that reflect more racial and ethnic diversity than a magazine ad for Benetton, Asche has gone out of her way to manufacture a racial divide within the RPT. Asche has launched direct and repeated attacks on how Dickey has handled engagement to the Hispanic and Black communities. Through proxies, her campaign has been even more divisive stirring up accusations of racial bias and creating racially-charged animosity where none existed before.
One Asche campaign operative, in an apoplectic social media tirade, exposes just how divisive Asche’s campaign is on the issue of race. Bianca Gracia, in response to a Dickey supporter on Facebook, said, “…keep telling yourself that and you and your little race as its disappearing while Hispanics become the majority minority…”
While those words would be expected from a member of LULAC or La Raza, they actually came from a high-level campaign operative for someone who is running for chair of the Republican Party of Texas. Cindy Asche has yet to disavow or condemn these remarks.
All of these attacks are calculated to create the impression that Dickey is a racist. If this line of attack seems familiar, it should. It’s a favorite of the radical left and is employed with great skill by the Democrats. It hard to believe that anyone running for chair of the Republican Party of Texas, especially one who professes an undying love for Donald Trump, would deploy this favorite tactic of the left and one used relentlessly against Trump. Yet, Asche has made this a cornerstone of her campaign.
When candidates at any level fail to connect with their political punches, they often resort to the ridiculous. This is exactly what Asche did at the final candidate forum hosted by the Harris County Republican Party. Asche used her allotted time in the first few minutes of the forum to take Dickey to the whipping post for adding a hamburger and ice cream to his expense report while traveling on party business.
Dickey easily deflected the attempted attack by clarifying that it was a cheap hamburger and that his expenses were far less than his predecessor, Tom Mechler, who had endorsed Asche. Despite the fact that those in attendance could barely contain their laughter and astonishment that the race had come to this, Asche went “all in” by bragging how she was wealthy enough to cover her own expenses. This line of attack did not endear her to the crowd. They were able to read between the lines and understand exactly what Asche meant.
Asche’s unspoken argument was that the only people deserving to manage the Republican Party of Texas were those who those who were wealthy. This was a backhanded insult at all of those within the Republican Party of Texas who are on fixed incomes, work two jobs to make ends meet, and those who make just enough to get by, but still share the party’s values and give what they can of their time and money. In Asche’s world, they are unworthy to hold the top job in the party because they don’t make enough money.
It wasn’t until after the forum that it became abundantly clear that Asche was a raging hypocrite on this issue. The first blow came when people began to review her campaign expense reports from the Texas Ethics Commission and saw that despite her claims of wealth, she wasn’t even self-funding her own campaign. Instead, she was receiving infusions of campaign money from former Chairman Tom Mechler and the chief apostle for amnesty for illegal aliens, Norm Adams. After all, someone with her stated wealth and self-professed concern about the financial health of the party should be able to self-fund her campaign and direct those contributions to the party. She didn’t.
The real blow came when reviewing her contributions to the RPT. Much like her engagement with the party has a serious gap, her financial contributions to the party before her run for city council in Frisco are almost non-existent. One would think that someone who claimed that her “HOA has a bigger budget than the RPT” would be able to squeeze out regular and substantial contributions to the party, especially when she has criss-crossed Texas feigning concern for the financial health of the party. She hasn’t.
Everything That Is Wrong
In the September 1948 issue of Frontier Times, Adina de Zavala, granddaughter of the hero of the Texas Revolution Lorenzo Zavala, suggested a meaning for each point of the star on the Texas flag. According to the article, Zavala believed that the five points of the star represented the characteristics of a good citizen: fortitude, loyalty, righteousness, prudence, and broadmindedness. Cindy Asche has run a campaign that is the antithesis of these characteristics.
Asche’s campaign is a symbol of everything that is wrong with politics. Her motivations are self-serving. Her tactics are immoral, unethical, hypocritical, and sit contrary to long-established Texan values. She has worked to divide Hispanics, Blacks, and Caucasians within the dominant political party in Texas, using the worst form of race-baiting and enticing delegates to forget that we are all Texans. She has systematically insulted and denigrated those who love liberty, those who are not wealthy, and those who volunteer their time to advance the party’s objectives.
Given Asche’s actions over the past few months, it is reasonable to assume that an RPT under her leadership would leave the party in ashes at a time where we can ill afford to lose a bulwark against outside forces that would seek to render Texas a vassal state to the Federal superstate.
Her campaign is reminiscent of the fake campaign of “Gil Fulbright” except that Asche’s campaign is not a parody. It is, unfortunately, all too real as will be the consequences of her becoming the state chair.