Texas GOP chairman sides with Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, speaks at the Texas GOP convention in June 2014.

Story highlights

  • Rand Paul's team is adding the Texas GOP chairman as an adviser
  • It's a notable move for Paul as he gears up to face a number of rivals with Texas ties in the 2016 Republican presidential race

(CNN)Rand Paul kicks off his Texas swing this weekend with a top endorsement and a key addition to his political operation, announcing that Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri will become an adviser to Paul's team.

As campaigns start taking shape ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential race, Paul's alliance with Munisteri is notable given the throng of other potential contenders with ties to Texas, a state rich in campaign cash.
    Munisteri will resign his role with the state party on Friday to join Team Rand, he said in a statement issued on Thursday. The Wall Street Journal first reported the story on Thursday evening.
    As chairman since 2010, Munisteri will bring with him a sizable rolodex and intricate knowledge of the reliably red state.Texas is expected to hold its primary on March 1, 2016, and given the crowded field of potential candidates, it could play an influential role in the contest for the Republican nomination.
    Munisteri said he's supporting Paul, whom he' known for 33 years, in part because of the Kentucky Republican's strategy to court nontraditional GOP voters, like African-Americans and young people, according to The Wall Street Journal.
    "Paul shares my vision of promoting the conservative values of individual freedom, limited government, a strong national defense and defense of the Constitution in each and every community in our country," the chairman said.
    Munisteri gained a reputation for being fair and inclusive, said Dallas County GOP Wade Emmert, who's running to replace the chairman.
    "This is a real coup for Rand Paul," Emmert said, noting that Munisteri brings "instant credibility" in Texas.
    While Paul was raised in Texas and attended Baylor University -- his father, ex-Rep. Ron Paul, represented a district near of Houston for 23 years -- a number of his potential contenders also have deep roots in the Lone Star State.
    Rick Perry, for example, just stepped down as the state's longest serving governor. Munisteri backed Perry's presidential bid in 2012.
    Sen. Ted Cruz won a longshot victory in a heated Texas primary battle nearly three years ago and has since become a conservative firebrand in Congress. (Paul's campaign recently nabbed Cruz's digital strategist, Vincent Harris.)
    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was also raised in Texas, and his son, George P. Bush, recently won statewide office as Texas Land Commissioner, while his brother, former President George W. Bush, served as governor of the state before Perry.
    Even Chris Christie has slipped into the Texas mix, with his now famous adoration for the Dallas Cowboys and cozy friendship with owner Jerry Jones. Christie also recently hired Ray Washburne, a Texas local and former national finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, for his own political action committee.
    And renowned retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson recently hired attorney Terry Giles from Houston.
    Paul, however, has signaled that he'll be vying for as much attention as he can get in Texas. He's set to open an office in Austin, and he's returning to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area this weekend to speak at a Dallas County GOP event on Friday, followed by a Tarrant County GOP event on Saturday.
    He spoke at the Texas GOP convention last June, and earlier in 2014 he challenged Lone State Republicans to push for expanding the party's base.
    "Texas will be a Democratic state within 10 years if you don't change," he said.