By Jim Malewitz
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has tapped a Texan who could shore up his bona fides in a key state for Republican presidential hopefuls.
Weighing a 2016 run, Paul, R-Ky., has added Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri as a senior adviser.
“Senator 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,” Munisteri said Thursday in a statement. "It has been the honor of my life to represent tens of millions of Texas Republicans."
Munisteri’s resignation is effective March 7, said the Republican Party of Texas, which will elect his replacement that day.
A retired attorney and businessman from Houston, Munisteri, 52, took the helm of the state party in 2010. He has been credited with helping the party build its finances and has played a key role as the state party made major election gains in the last few cycles.
Munisteri helped ramp up the party’s minority outreach effort, which he made a major priority in his tenure. In an interview with The Texas Tribune, he said an amalgam of factors drew him to Paul, with whom he has been close for decades. The “clincher,” however, was the senator's effort to speak to younger voters and to Hispanic, African-American and other communities Republicans have largely ignored.
“He’s the only one focused on reaching a new generation of voters,” Munisteri said.
“We are thrilled that Steve Munisteri will be joining our team,” said Sergio Gor, Paul’s communications director. "His experience in grassroots engagement will be in invaluable.”
Paul is one of several politicos floated as presidential contenders – including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz – with serious ties to Texas. Paul grew up in southeast Texas, a region his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, represented on and off from the 1970s until his retirement in 2013.
Munisteri, who backed Perry’s 2012 run, said his latest career move wasn’t a knock against any other Texan presidential hopefuls.
He is not the first GOP chairman from a pivotal state to head to the Paul camp. In early 2014, Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker left his post and became an adviser to Paul's PAC.
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.