When Republicans gather this week in Dallas for their state convention, they'll be joined by delegates from the new party in town — the Tea Party.
For the first time, activists with conservative grassroots movements such as the Tea Party and the 912 Project will join the state GOP at its every-other-year convention and will have a role in hammering out a party platform, electing a leader to head the party and finding ways to work together to elect more Republicans in November.
"I think that this convention will be one of the best we've ever had. Folks are very fired up," said Bryan Preston, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas. "Texans are angry at what's coming at us from Washington.
"The Republican record in Texas speaks for itself, and we're all aware of how critical these upcoming elections are to beginning the process of rolling back the liberal Democrats' agenda," he said. "This is ... a great prelude to November." More than 10,000 delegates and alternates, including nearly 1,000 from Tarrant County, are expected at the Dallas Convention Center for the GOP's two-day state convention, which will address anti-Washington sentiment and contentious issues such as illegal immigration.
Also hoping to stir things up is former GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who will launch a grassroots group during the convention.
Some of the new delegates aren't sure how they will be received.
"A lot really depends on how the party leadership, the old guard so to speak, treats these newcomers," said Adrian Murray, president of 912 Project Fort Worth, a group created last year, and a first-time delegate to this year's GOP convention. "If the reception is not embracing, if the old guard use parliamentary tricks and procedures to silence and thwart the newcomers, that would be quite unfortunate indeed.
"Most of the 912 members are getting involved with the Republican Party with one hand firmly covering their nose due to the past experiences with the GOP which have left a very bad taste in a lot of mouths," he said. "This convention represents an opportunity for the Texas GOP to embrace a strong and impassioned new membership bloc — or it represents an opportunity to isolate, alienate and ultimately eliminate an enthusiastic bloc of support. We'll see how they play their cards."
Delegates will meet Friday and Saturday; committees will meet earlier in the week to discuss the platform and other issues before presenting proposals to the full convention. By the end of Saturday, the party should have approved a platform to serve as a guide for candidates and chosen a person to head the state GOP for the next two years.
"It's going to be a really exciting convention, and I hope the main theme is defeat the Democrats," said Mona Bailey, a delegate representing Senate District 12.
"It's like going to a ... weekend retreat somewhere where they get you all enthused again. We do leave much more excited and enthused, and ready to fight the battle in the fall."
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