James Dickey, the chairman of the Travis County GOP, has been elected chairman of the Republican Party of Texas by a razor-thin margin.
Dickey narrowly defeated Houston-area businessman Rick Figueroa on Saturday, winning the support of 32 members of the State Republican Executive Committee. Figueroa got 31 votes.
"I am humbled and honored by your trust and support," Dickey said after winning, adding that his "only regret" was that the party was not already unified enough to deliver a more decisive result.
Dickey will finish the term of Tom Mechler, who stepped down last month citing personal reasons. Delegates to the 2018 state party convention will pick a permanent replacement; Dickey is expected to seek that role.
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Figueroa, who unsuccessfully ran last year for Republican National Committee member, was believed to be Mechler's choice to succeed him.
Using the slogan "Experience Matters," Dickey had campaigned on his record as a longtime activist in one of the most challenging areas of the state for Republicans: solidly liberal Travis County. Figueroa, meanwhile, had emphasized "impact" over experience, touting the influence he has gained in state and national politics over a relatively short period of time.
The candidates' loyalty to President Donald Trump was an issue in the race. Figueroa allies had highlighted Dickey's involvement in Free the Delegates, an effort at the 2016 Republican National Convention to find a presidential nominee beside Trump. But Figueroa also had had disagreements with Trump, criticizing a controversial immigration speech he gave as the nominee.
Dickey had received national attention last year when he lost the Travis County race to conspiracy theorist Robert Morrow in a fluke election. But he reclaimed the job later in the year after Morrow was ousted, and as he campaigned for state party chair, he said it had been a learning experience.
Morrow had announced he was running for Texas GOP chair, but he was not nominated at the SREC's meeting Saturday. He still showed up, wearing his trademark jester's hat.