Texas GOP chief leaves role, joins Rand Paul political team

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday picked up the backing of the Republican Party of Texas' chairman, who is stepping down from his role to take a position as a national senior adviser to the Kentucky Republican's presidential campaign-in-waiting

In doing so, Steve Munisteri bypassed two Texans who are also likely to seek the Republican nomination: Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry. Munisteri has known Paul for 34 years, dating back to when Paul's father represented Texas in Congress, and counts Paul as a friend.

"I couldn't say no to him," said Munisteri, who will formally leave his post next month and will split his time between Texas and Washington.

Munisteri will be tasked with helping Paul fine-tune his communications strategy, as well as help guide Paul's ongoing effort to appeal to minority and youngers voters, who typically vote for Democrats.

"He's the only conservative candidate that I see who is reaching out to minority voters and young voters," the 57-year-old Munisteri said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't think we can win a national election unless we do a better job of getting new people into the party."

Munisteri, who was elected to a third term last year, helped the Texas GOP raise $22 million. He joked that his nickname during his tenure as chairman was "beggar in chief."

Munisteri said his roster of contacts will be available to help connect Paul with the deep-pocked donors who define Texas and Republican politics, but he did not plan to have fundraising as his main task. Instead, he planned to help Paul plan a broader strategy.

"I have some definite ideas how to lay out a presidential campaign," he said.

Munisteri has worked on White House campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — all states considered crucial to winning the nomination. And the Texas GOP is among the best in the nation at recruiting minority voters — a goal Paul has made for his expected campaign.

"I am very pleased Steve will be joining our team," said Doug Stafford, Paul's top aide. "As a party chair in Texas, he raised the bar for grassroots engagement and performance. His experience in multiple national campaigns will be invaluable to Sen. Paul."

Paul planned to visit Texas this weekend to headline party fundraisers in Dallas and Fort Worth, the latest example of the groundwork he is laying for what is an increasingly likely presidential campaign.

Paul has been lining up senior advisers in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He courted the billionaire Koch brothers last weekend in California while reaching out to party activists who volunteer and power campaigns.


Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip\_elliott

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