Previously, I discussed the Precinct and State Senatorial District Convention. We now turn to the State Convention itself.
The State Convention has a different look and feel than the lower level conventions, yet its purpose is the same; to ratify the state party platform, present speeches by people who are running for various offices, and select delegates to the National Party Convention (during presidential election years only). In Texas, there are actually two conventions. The first, lasting two days, takes care of business at the State level. In this convention, you will be representing the members of your party living in your Senatorial District (SD). This convention occurs every two years. The second convention, lasting one day, takes care of business at the National level. In this convention, you will be representing the members of your party living in your U.S. Congressional District (CD). This convention occurs every four years during the presidential election cycle. In Texas, it is held in conjunction with the SD convention, making the entire convention three days long during presidential election years.
When you are selected as a delegate from your Senatorial District, during a presidential election year, you are being selected as a representative for both conventions.
In the SD meetings, you will be seated by Senatorial District. SD meetings initially occur in isolation; you and your fellow delegates will meet in an area separate from the other SD delegates, and you will conduct your affairs in "private". I enclose private in quotes, because in actuality, at the last convention I attended (which was my first State convention, incidentally), we were separated from another SD meeting by a curtain hung across the room. While this did afford us a measure of privacy, it was sometimes difficult to hear what was going on in our meeting over the loudspeaker and applause from the other. I can only assume the other SD meeting experienced similar problems from us. Later on, you will go down to the convention floor where you will be seated by delegation, to vote on the state party platform, slate of delegates to the National Convention, etc.
In the CD portion of the convention, you will meet as a Congressional District, instead of a Senatorial District. Since the boundaries of the two are not congruent, you may find yourself sitting with a different group of people, or you may find new people sitting with your "old" group, depending on where geographically you fall. The format for the meeting is similar to that of the SD convention. You first meet separately as a Congressional District, and later you are seated on the convention floor. CD business includes selecting an elector to represent your CD in the electoral college, and voting on the two state-wide electors who will represent your state.
All these activities occur during the daytime. At night, there are various parties, dinners, and receptions one can attend, where you can meet and speak with the various players in Texas politics. Ever want to meet your state party chairperson, or your state representative or senator personally, shake their hand, and tell them what you really think? Well, you can. And there are many interesting people to talk to.
Of course, all the same committees and such that were at your local SD convention back home are present at these conventions too; rules committee, accreditation, resolutions, etc. Typically, these meet several days before the actual convention. It is possible for you to become involved in these as well. In addition there are many booths where you can pick up free literature on various candidates, or purchase political items ranging from buttons and bumper stickers, to pictures, ties, and complete outfits if you so desire. Many people really get into it, and dress up in colorful attire festooned with buttons, complete with "Uncle Sam" hats and other assorted folderol.
All in all, it is an interesting experience. And it is something you as an ordinary citizen can do. You don't have to be someone "important" to attend. Although, in a real sense, by attending you are somebody important. You are a concerned citizen who has made the choice to get involved, and let their voice be heard.
As this is an off-year election period, attendance at the state convention, which will be held in Dallas this year, will probably be down. At our recent senatorial district convention, we were unable to fill a full slate of delegates to attend, much less an alternate list. Based on my experience from last convention, where all alternates who showed up were seated, I would expect our district's delegate count to be woefully short of where it should be. Bottom line is this: if you want to be involved, you can be.
The senatorial district convention we had in April is a case in point. Our precinct (1083) had a voting strength of 15 delegates. We had 6 attend. The total voting strength of the convention as a whole was around 2200 delegates, if memory serves. Those in attendance were significantly less than that. Even in such areas as committee membership, there was less than full representation. I was asked to be on the resolutions committee for SD 26, my first time on a committee of any sort. The resolutions committee is the group that takes all the resolutions submitted by all the precincts, collates them, and presents them to the convention to be voted on. This is a fairly powerful committee, as it has the ability to kill any resolutions it doesn't like and not even allow them to be voted on. It can also submit its own resolutions, modify submitted resolutions, and pretty well do as it likes with regard to resolutions. Those resolutions passed by the SD convention make their way to the state resolutions committee, which in turn does the same thing with the resolutions from each of the 31 senatorial districts of Texas. The output from that committee comprises the changes to the state party platform that will be voted on at the State convention. Our committee for the 26th SD was supposed to have had seven members. Only four ever showed up.
This is not something you need a degree to do. It doesn't require "connections". My wife and I are pretty much as "unconnected" as you can be. You don't need to be related to someone high up in the political food chain. All you have to do is show up at the precinct convention. That will typically get you to the senatorial convention, at least. To go to state, you may have to attend several senatorial conventions. Or you may not. This year, due to large scale apathy, if you had shown up, and wanted to go, you could have done so your first time out of the box. We had 180 some slots and only filled 177 or so. That doesn't include 40 or so alternate slots, which are usually seated (those that show up, that is).
Actually, you don't even really need to go to the precinct convention either, to go to the senatorial convention. As long as you voted in the primary, you can have someone at the meeting nominate you as a delegate. That way, if for some reason you can't make the meeting, you can still be a delegate. I myself was unable to make the precinct meeting this year, as I had to work a swing shift. My wife put my name in as a delegate to the senatorial convention, which I attended. In June, we both will be attending the state convention in Dallas. Perhaps we will see you there, or at the next convention in two years!