The Republican National Convention has held few surprises in recent years. By the time the convention occurred, the candidate has garnered enough delegates to win the nomination long before, and the delegate voting on the floor of the convention hasn’t mattered much beyond being a formality. Delegates assemble at the convention sometimes more focused on tinkering with the party rules and platform than fighting over candidate nominations.
This year, however, there’s a very good chance that no one candidate will have met the required threshold of 1237 votes to win the nomination outright. This may send the Republican Party delegates into the convention in Cleveland with more work on their hands than they usually expect. It will also mean that the competition to become a delegate to the National convention from Texas will be fierce.
Unlike in many other places, Texas elects most of the delegates it sends to the National Convention in elections held in caucuses at the state Republican convention. Out of the 155 delegates from Texas, three will come from each congressional district, for a total of 108. Three additional delegate slots are filled by the state party chair and the two RNC members from Texas. The remaining 44 ‘at-large’ delegate slots are filled by the National Nominations Committee at the state convention.
There are a lot of people who will be new to the convention process in 2016, and I hope I can walk them through some of what will happen in the National delegate selection process.
Congressional Caucuses – In presidential years, each congressional district caucuses together to elect the three delegates and three alternates to the National convention. When I say elections, I mean elections, too. Each delegate running must obtain the support of the majority of the state delegates in their caucus. Nobody chooses or appoints the caucus delegates. Instead, each person wanting to be a national delegate from a congressional district must run in their caucus, which means a few hundred people will decide on those six slots.
How does that election work? Each delegate slot is a separate election. The chair will hold an election for the First Delegate slot, then the second, and so on, until all six slots are filled.
The chair will open nominations for the first slot, and then all the delegates who want to run for it have their names submitted for nomination. Once nominations are closed for that slot, the candidates typically have supporters speak for them, and then speak on their own behalf. When speeches are done, the caucus votes, and whichever person gets the most votes becomes the first national delegate.
This process is repeated over and over, until all delegate slots and all alternate slots are filled. You’ll see people run for multiple slots if they miss getting a majority of the vote on the first one for which they try.
Additionally, each caucus can elect a fourth delegate to be considered by the National Nominations Committee for an at-large position. Those ‘fourth delegates’ receive consideration by the committee, but are not required to be seated as delegates.
So now that I’ve covered the 108 caucus delegates, what about the other 44 that are open for the at-large delegate slots? Those are all decided by the National Nominations Committee as well. Each caucus elects a member to serve on that committee. Most of the people serving on the National Nominations Committee intend to be National delegates as well. What usually happens is that the committee members agree by acclamation to make themselves delegates. Then they consider the hundreds of applications they receive for the remaining slots.
The odds are far better for a delegate to be elected in their caucus than to be selected by the National Nominations Committee. So what can a person do to increase their chances of being elected from within their caucus? Campaign, of course. People wanting to be chosen as delegates need to convince the majority of a few hundred others in their caucus to vote for them. The hard part is that some congressional districts are so large, or so spread out, or so divided among senate districts and counties, that it becomes difficult to know all the people who will be voting.
You might also find that someone has prepared a list of ‘recommended delegates’ for your district, in which they’ve chosen their picks for all the slots. Just be aware that ‘slates’ are out there, and that you don’t have to vote for all of them. Or any of them, if you don’t want to. You can make up your own mind, and can support anyone you like.
Some delegates find it useful to print up short political bios to let others know more about them, and hand them out during the caucuses. Others ask friends that are respected in their districts to nominate or speak for them, hoping that their endorsement will sway votes of people who don’t know them personally. Some find that their own speaking ability is their best tool to convince the caucus to vote for them. In any case, it usually takes a bit more than showing up and putting up your own name for the nomination. Successful national delegates usually work out a strategy and elicit help from friends and allies in order to secure a slot.
So if you’re considering a run for a national delegate spot this year, prepare your strategy, lobby the people you know will be there, and polish your public speaking. You’ll be glad you did.
Watch RNC Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell explain the delegate process for National Convention: