Matt Mackowiak, a political strategist who vowed to reinvigorate the Travis County Republican Party, narrowly edged out former Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman in the race for chair of the county party.
Mackowiak, who had been serving as the party’s executive vice chair, won Tuesday night on a 46-38 vote over Zimmerman. Zimmerman had played up his experience in local politics, including his two years on the council.
Mackowiak succeeds James Dickey, the departing chair who stepped down this month after winning an election to chair the state GOP. Mackowiak told members Tuesday that he planned to help raise more money, elect more Republican candidates and advance the conservative agenda.
“For a kid that grew up in Austin in the ’80s, I assure you I never thought I’d be chairman of the Republican Party of Travis County,” Mackowiak said after his victory. “Honestly, it’s humbling. It’s very humbling. … I want to follow the great work that our Chairman James Dickey did.”
Ousted party chairman Robert Morrow, whose unexpected win in the 2016 Republican primary tossed the local party into a state of discombobulation after many became aware of his controversial tweets and conspiracy theories, had planned to run. But Morrow, who was forced out of the post last fall after filing to run as a write-in candidate for U.S. president, failed on Tuesday to garner a nomination for the party chairman seat.
Zimmerman, who lost his council re-election bid in November to Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, said after the meeting that he planned to continue campaigning against tax increases through the Travis County Taxpayers Union and serving in his role as a member of the Travis County Republican Party’s steering committee.
“They had two good choices,” Zimmerman said. “I wasn’t running against Matt Mackowiak; I was running for the grass roots and the local party.”
Only precinct chairs can nominate the chair candidates and vote in the election, which was held by secret ballot, according to party bylaws. On top of that, an amendment approved at the meeting — ostensibly an attempt to create another barrier to entry for Morrow — required a second to any candidate nomination from another precinct chair.
“I’m a political truth-teller. That does not always mean winning elections,” Morrow said after the election, before spouting another unfounded theory about President Donald Trump’s sexual activities.
The election for the new executive vice chair will take place at the party’s next meeting in September. Party officials said Tuesday that the position, as well as the steering committee over which he or she presides, was created during Morrow’s tenure to “safeguard resources and build trust in the party’s continued viability.”
Spokesman Andy Hogue said there are no plans to dissolve the executive vice chairman position or the steering committee at this time.
Meet Matt Mackowiak
Education: Bachelor’s of science in communications studies from the University of Texas in 2003.
Previous experience: Appointed Travis County GOP vice chairman in 2015 and was elected executive vice chairman in September 2016. Helped coordinate county party’s Reagan Day Gala in March, which raised $60,000. Served as press secretary for U.S. Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Also served as senior communications adviser for Gov. Sean Parnell, R-Alaska.
Occupation: Austin- and Washington, D.C.-based political and communications consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group LLC.