"It has been one of my goals as Chairman to find ways to increase Texas' influence in the Republican Presidential primary process. I have long been frustrated that the voices of Texas Republicans have been minimized by the current primary calendar. The decision by a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio to twice delay our primary until May 29th only increases the importance of trying to find ways to maximize Texas' influence. I believe that a May debate before the Texas & California Primaries (the largest delegate blocs in the country with 155 and 172, respectively), will maximize the attention paid to our state. Consequently, I have been working hard to arrange for such a debate to occur here in Texas."
Munisteri continued, "Today, I am happy to report that I have a commitment of a major television outlet to televise such a debate, if all the candidates show up. There is a significant chance that they will televise the debate even if we are lacking only one candidate. We already have commitments from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and Senator Rick Santorum to participate in such a debate. Both my staff and myself have reached out to the campaign of Governor Mitt Romney and have been told that they are considering attending the debate."
"I am disappointed that Governor Romney has not yet committed to attending an official Republican Party of Texas event," said Chairman Munisteri. "This debate will not only benefit the State Party (and in turn, help our entire ticket) but it will also allow the RPT to showcase to the entire nation how Texas is a great Republican state. I believe it is important that whoever heads our national ticket pay attention to our state. We are the largest Republican state in the nation. Texas Republicans have contributed over $40 million to the Republican National Committee over the last eight years and have given millions of dollars to numerous national candidates including Governor Romney. I think it would be disrespectful to all Texas Republicans for a candidate not to attend. Our national candidates need to know that Texas Republicans have long felt ignored by the Republican Presidential primary process as the Presidential races in recent past have been substantially over before our Texas Primary. Attendance at this debate will be seen as a recognition of Texas' importance to the Republican Party, and in some small measure - it will help make up for the past lack of attention paid to our state. I believe that failure to show up at this debate will be viewed by many Texas Republicans as a lack of interest in our state and our State Party. I am hopeful that Governor Romney will show that Texas is important to him by accepting our invitation, and this weekend, I am asking the State Republican Executive Committee to pass a resolution during the Spring Quarterly SREC meeting which requests Governor Romney to accept our debate invitation. I would urge all Texas Republicans to let Governor Romney know how important it is that he accept our invitation by using social media, emailing or calling his campaign."
Senator Rick Santorum responded to the debate invitation by saying, "I am delighted to come to Texas to debate the other candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination. I believe that my conservative values of faith, family and freedom are reflective of the vast majority of Texas Republicans. I look forward to coming to Texas to demonstrate that as the Republican Presidential nominee, I will offer a bold contrast to President Obama. I would hope that all the candidates would see this as a critical opportunity to talk directly to the voters of Texas, and attend."
Jesse Benton, national campaign chairman for Congressman Ron Paul, issued the following statement on behalf of the Paul campaign. "This year's Presidential election is critically important, and Texas deserves to have a fair say. Dr. Paul is committed to the Texas GOP debate and hopes his fellow candidates will join him and show our state the proper respect."
Tentative dates and locations have been discussed with the three candidates who have already accepted. The Republican Party of Texas has suggested a date and location to the three candidates, but will hold off on naming a final date and location until we hear from Governor Romney and get feedback from all the candidates.
Chairman Munisteri stressed the importance of the Texas primary vote in the nomination of a Republican candidate. He challenged all Republicans to contact the Romney campaign and insist that Governor Romney accept the invitation and confirm his participation.