The birth of the Texas Asian Republic Caucus (TARC) stemmed from Dr. Esther Lee’s first involvement in the National Republican Heritage Group Council (NRHGC) back to early 1979. The leadership of NRHGC under the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC first asked Esther to form a state chapter in Texas during the spring of 1979. Eventually, she founded the Texas Chapter of Asian American National Republican Federation (TAANRF) under the Asian American National Republican Federation (AANRF) in 1982. The AANRF was chaired by Ben John Chen of New York City. Esther was a leading community organizer in Texas with a track record, but never intended to head any group, preferring to play a supportive role. Thus, she invited Bill Ong, a native Houstonian Chinese, to serve as the first chairman while she served as program coordinator for the 500 plus guests inaugural banquet held at the Adams Mark Hotel, Houston, Texas on Sunday, October 24,1982. She invited all the 1982 GOP statewide candidates and office holders and Mrs. Anna Chennault of Washington, D. C. as a keynote speaker. Mrs. Chennault was well known among the Chinese Americans and was the chairman of the Chinese American group under the NRHGC. Esther delivered an opening speech. This was her first time to meet Mrs. Anna Chennault. Unfortunately, both AANRF and TAANRF did not function as expected under the leadership of Ben John Chen and Bill Ong (file:xtoNRHGC050489).
The incident at 1984 GOP National Convention in Dallas as outlined in the file/section of GOP 1984 Involvement was a disappointing challenge for AANRF. Esther witnessed the Asian/Pacific American “leaders” affiliated with the AANRF being misled and unable to enter the convention floor without proper credentials. After realizing the “wrong” path the enthusiastic Asian/Pacific American activists were heading, Esther was convinced that it was imperative to form an Asian/Pacific American Republican organization directly under the existing official GOP state party. That would be the only way for Asian/Pacific Americans to become delegates to the state and national conventions. Esther did not know that various ethnic groups under the National Republican Heritage Groups Council (NRHGC) could not enter the National Convention floor without properly earned credentials. Their members’ “empty” official titles and groups were not recognized by the individual GOP state party because they were not involved in the local party activities and campaigns. In other words, they were not integrated into the mainstream at the grassroots level. In fact, anyone could get involved and to become a delegate without any ethnic affiliation. This painful chapter of Asian/Pacific Americans’ (APAs) history of political involvement inspired Dr. Esther Lee to re-assess the path and direction of APA’s pollical endeavors.
Immediately after the 1984 GOP National Convention in Dallas, Dr. Lee began to form the Texas Asian-American Republican Caucus (TARC) directly under the state GOP. She consulted the GOP state chair, George Strake, Jr., who advised her to form an auxiliary organization like the Republican Women’s Club under the state party soon after the GOP 1984 convention.
It was a challenge to form an Asian/Pacific American GOP group due to its ethnic/cultural diversity. Dr. Esther Lee started contacting several ethnic community leaders and began to draft the By-Laws and Constitution with the expertise of a Korean American lawyer, Tim Seo. After many meetings and discussions, as shown in the files, for more than one year, the final version was adopted on March 2, 1986. At that meeting, Esther was elected as the temporary chairperson to convene the meeting. The Executive Committee was selected and formed. The By-Laws and Constitution were ratified, adopted and signed by all attendees. The details of the meeting can be found in the file of minutes (file:minutes020386).
Between March and December of 1986, Esther worked diligently to get five local chapters organized in addition to the membership at large: Bay Area Asian Republicans, Greater Houston Chinese American Republicans, Harris County Sikh American Republicans, North Texas Republican Asian Assembly and Vietnamese American Republican Party. All the membership lists are located in files: membership.
April 26, 1986 - held an Executive Committee meeting and its minutes could be found in the field as file: minutes260486.
June 1, 1986 - held election meeting for interim officers for the forthcoming state convention on June 27 and 28 and November election.
October 5, 1986 - held Executive Committee and chapter meetings in Dallas.
December 6, 1986 – held the first annual and organizational meeting after the local chapters were formed. Five vice chairs were elected by all attendees at this organizational and annual meeting. Their names were placed on the ballot for the chair election scheduled on December 27.
December 27, 1986 – held election/general meeting. According to the By-Laws, the chair and co-chair were selected by these vice chairs. Ballots were mailed to the Nomination Committee in advance. At the December 27, 1986 meeting, Esther was elected as the temporary chairperson to convene the meeting. The Executive Committee was selected and formed, and the By-Laws and Constitution were rectified, adopted and signed by all attendees. The details of the meeting could be found in the minutes (file:minutes020386). At the end, the Nomination Committee opened the ballots and tallied the votes. The results were that Nguyen Van Ngai was elected as the chair and Esther was the co-chair. During Mr. Ngai’s tenure as chair, Esther continued doing all the work while he carried the title as shown in all correspondences related to the following events.
On January 10, 1987 -the Exe. Committee met to form various standing committees.
On October 25, 1987 - the Exe. Committee met in Dallas and adopted a special resolution that an election for Chairperson will be conducted by mail ballot during the first week of November 1987. The letter from Esther to Nguyen Ngai dated October 29, 1987 detailed the issues involved and can be found under file: xtochair291087.
November 7, 1987 - The annual election of new officers was scheduled to process the mailed in ballots by November 7. However, on November 2, 1987, Mr. Nguyen Van Ngai, the chair, suddenly resigned from the chairmanship on the eve of the election. He sent out a memo and a letter to the Executive Committee Members and GOP State Chair, George Strake respectively. The correspondence can be found in the files.
The ballot for electing new chairmanship also listed candidates for five vice chairs. November 7, 1987 was the deadline to send in the ballots from five voting candidates to the general secretary of the TARC; each one was entitled to two votes – one for the chair and one for the co-chair. The results were that Esther was elected as the chair and Y. T. Huang the co-chair.
Following the election, Dr. Lee sent out a memo to Executive Committee members and Chapter chairmen on November 24, 1987 to outline the goals and tasks for the upcoming 1988 presidential election year that included revitalizing all local chapters. In Esther’s memo on December 13, 1987, she declared a commitment to reactivate TARC and lead it back to the right direction/track after a year of zero accomplishment under the previous chairman.
In the memo on January 5, 1988, Esther formulated the agenda for the January 13 general meeting. In the memo on January 14 to the Executive Committee and chapter chairmen, she announced that Dr. Y. T. Huang would chair and organize the credential and membership committee to assess the status and organization of each affiliated chapters. Two chapters were updated as mentioned in her memo on February 4, 1988.
On February 23, 1988, TARC sponsored a public meeting for people to meet with state elected officials and was aired by Houston TV Channel 11.
The following section outlines the major events and meetings held from Feb. 27, 1988 to Feb. 11, 1989 with scanned files.
February 27 1988; the first Ex. Committee meeting held under the new officers (files:xtoExCommittee231287)
March 5, 1988; the Bay Area Asian Republicans (BAAR) held a meeting for members to meet with their precinct chairmen (file:xinvitationfromBAAR290288)
March 26, 1988; Esther was invited to speak at the GOP State EX Committee as chair of TARC, an auxiliary organization of state GOP. (file: speechtoTXGOPEXCom260388p1 and p2)
April 2, 1988; the Ex Committee meeting was held. (see file:AgendaExCommittee020488)
May 22, 1988; the Vietnamese Republican Chapter of Houston was reactivated (file:xfrVietChair220588)
June 9, 1988; Held both Exe. Committee and General Meetings at the 1988 State GOP Convention. The State GOP Convention was held from June 9-11, 1988. This gave TARC members an opportunity to interact with the mainstream Republican activists. (file:xTARCmembers250588) During the meeting, the Constitution of TARC was amended and signed by the committee members.
To recruit members, the P.O. Box address, P.O. Box 590144, Houston, TX 77059-0144, was set up and paid by Esther.
On November 11,1988; Esther sent out a memo for the election of new officers on December 3, 1988. (File:xExCommitteeChapterchairs111188)
On December 3, 1988; Election of new officers and Mrs. Pauline Van Tho became the new chair. After the election, there was a presentation, “How to Obtain Political Appointments” by Mrs. Molly Pryor, Chair of the Appointment Committee of Harris County GOP and she was also the state director for Senator John Tower.
On December 10, 1988, Esther was invited to speak at the State GOP Executive Committee meeting but had a schedule conflict. She gave the proxy to Pauline Van Tho, who delivered Esther’s speech at the meeting. (files:proxyauthorization301188 and SpeechtoTxGOPExCom101288p1 and p2)
On February 11, 1989; TARC held a Lunar New Year Party at Dr. Lee’s residence on February 11, 1989. File:invitationLunarNewYrParty110289
Esther attended the TX State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) on behalf of Mrs. Pauline Van Tho who was the TRAC Chair in Austin on March 11, 1989. She recognized people/members’ involvement in TARC and their contribution to various campaigns. Meanwhile, she tried to seek appointments for them at both state and federal levels. Files: AppointmentslistTX180888 and AppointmentFormTX88 and other correspondences. Outside Texas, Esther was involved in several Asian political organizations, such as attending the National Republican Asian Assembly on June 25-26, 1989.