New Texas GOP Chair wants party unity, eyeing another run in 2018

James Dickey , the newly elected chair of the Republican Party of Texas. KXAN photo/ Alyssa Goard.
James Dickey , the newly elected chair of the Republican Party of Texas. KXAN photo/ Alyssa Goard.

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  James Dickey is getting used to introducing himself as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, he’s grown accustomed to making introductions as the Chair of the Travis County Republican Party.  Dickey was elected chairman on Saturday through a vote by the State Republican Executive committee. He earned 32 votes, just one more vote than his opponent Rick Figueroa.

“I won the election by one vote, and really my mission for my next term is to make sure that everyone on that board, whether they voted for me or not, will be very happy that we took the party where it goes next” Dickey said in in an interview with KXAN Sunday, his first on-camera interview since being elected.

Dickey resigned from his role with Travis County GOP Saturday and will serve as state chair until the Texas Republican Party convention in June of 2018. Dickey was emphatic: he plans on running for reelection as state chair in 2018, a position which serves two year terms. The previous chair, Tom Mechler stepped down last month.

Dickey said he was surprised when Mechler stepped down, and even more surprised when his name was floated as a candidate for state chair. He only decided to run when he learned that Mark Ramsey, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, was not going to run.

“For some time I had been frustrated with the way the party wasn’t really living up to it’s potential,” Dickey explained. “I’d had donors and legislators both tell me that the party carried no real weight in the Capitol, even in the middle of session. And it just felt wrong and it was wrong. it’s not standing up for our people our members.”

Dickey had just 12 days to run his campaign, with one paid staff member and over 30 volunteers from across the state, he began on a campaign tour. He said party members around Texas told him they wanted to see unified leadership, more fundraising, and more of a voice for their party in the state legislature.

He explained that representing the Republican party in a left-leaning county may have given him an edge in his campaigning.

“Actually that was part of the convincing argument that I could make, that if I could stand up and be a Republican clearly in Travis County, in Austin, and defend our principles here, then there’s no question that I’m willing to defend our principles,” he said. “And it was clear that’s what a lot of the base — especially the grass roots base — that was a big thing they wanted.”

Dickey believes that division within the Texas Republican Party led to fewer policy gains in this past legislative session. He hopes that the party can channel it’s energy toward common goals instead of division, putting more resources into things like voter registration and candidate preparation.

“Almost no one is attracted by lukewarm water, we either want it hot or we want it cold and unfortunately we’ve been lukewarm for a while and we need not to be,” he explained.

Under his leadership, Dickey hopes the Texas GOP will crystallize their values.

“What I’m hoping for is a very clear communication of the principles we believe in, that truly lead to a better life for everyone,” Dickey said. “And that more opportunity, more freedom, more self control is better for all. You can see it in spots in Texas and it’s our mission to make it more visible. And I hope that everyone– they see where it really benefits where the economy takes off, where government is not in your face, where you can use the ride sharing service of your choice.”

Dickey was born in Northern California and was raised in California, Arizona and Texas. He’s lived in Texas for the past 25 years, living a majority of that time in the Dallas area and the past 8 years in Austin.

The executive vice president, Matt Mackowiak will serve as interim chair for the Travis County Republican party, Mackowiak announced in a statement Sunday that he plans on running to officially become county chairman during an executive committee meeting election on June 13.

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