November 10, 2007

Fort Bend GOP Crack-Up

Among the many reasons that I hate Ron Paul's presidential candidacy is the fact that it has resulted in the demise of Fort Bend County's only significant GOP political blog, Texas Safety Forum as its owner works for the Paul campaign. That's too bad, because we could really use Chris' insights into the current mess in the Fort Bend County GOP.

What am I talking about?
The resignation of all of the party's officers. This decapitation of the Fort Bend Republicans, a violation of the fiduciary duty of these officers, may mean that there can be NO Republican candidates at all for any office in the overwhelmingly Republican county!

In a surprise announcement before an audience of elected Republican officials on Thursday, Fort Bend County GOP Chairman Gary Gillen said he and a slate of top party officers have quit.

Citing untenable political differences with what he termed “a number of fringe elements in the party,” Gillen said he, party Treasurer Richard McCarter, Secretary Nancy Porter and Parliamentarian Dick Hudgins have resigned effective immediately.

“We have a problem in Fort Bend County that I’d like to bring to your attention,” Gillen told an audience at a luncheon meeting of the West Fort Bend Republican Women, at Katy’s Falcon Point Country Club. “We’re facing nother less than a hostile takeover” of the county Republican Party.

Gillen did not identify members of a group he said gradually drove him to Thursday’s decision, but at one point in an interview after his announcement said, “if the executive committee of the party are not interested in helping all of our candidates equally, I am not interested in working with them.”

He said continuing friction with his political opponents has taken a toll on his family.

“I’m tired of seeing that hurt look in my wife’s eyes,” he added.

The problem, of course, is that Gillen came into the office of chairman as the result of a divisive primary in which he received only a minority of the votes in a three-way race. Not only that, he immediately found himself in conflict with a powerful faction of Executive Committee, made up of precinct chairs who had been elected by majorities in their own precincts and who were much more in contact with the desires of the GOP base in Fort Bend County. As the precinct chairs sought to exert their authority over the business of the party, Gillen chose not to work with them. Not only did he seek to impose the results of a rigged survey regarding Tom DeLay's successor on the party, he also made sought to divert Fort bend GOP funding into the coffers of a private PAC that he set up to eliminate accountability to the Executive Committee. And despite regularly being out-voted by the precinct chairs on policy matters, argued that the problem was the actions of an "extreme fringe group" among the precinct chairs, despite the fact that this faction included both religious conservatives and moderates. More recently, there have been issues over the mailing of the party newsletter and accusations of election law violations by Gillen.

This situation leaves the Fort Bend GOP, and the Republican Party of Texas, with a serious problem.

Another shoe dropped for local Republican Party officials on Friday, when they learned that the Fort Bend County GOP has been procedurally frozen in place by the sudden resignations of its chairman and top officers.

County GOP Chairman Gary Gillen stunned political officials and activists Thursday when he announced that he and party Treasurer Richard McCarter, Secretary Nancy Porter and Parliamentarian Dick Hudgins had resigned over continuing political differences with what Gillen called “fringe elements” within the party.

Then on Friday, members of the local GOP Executive Committee learned that they are at least temporarily unable to appoint even an interim chairman to replace Gillen.

According to the Texas Election Code, if the county party chairman’s position becomes vacant, the party secretary is to call a meeting “for the purpose of filling it.” But with no party secretary either, it’s up to the Texas Republican Party chair, “on written request of a member of the county executive committee,” to call a meeting to fill the county chairman vacancy.

Unfortunately for the party, no written resignations have been received and Porter won't take any phone calls -- so there is no way to determine if she has, in fact, resigned. It is therefore impossible for the state party to call a meeting, because it is not clear that the office is vacant.

And until the position of Party Chair has been filled, there can be no filings for county offices. After all, petitions for the primary ballot for such offices must be filed with the party chairman, starting in less than a month. No chairman, no filing for office, no Republican candidates in a county that has been a brilliant scarlet for years. In effect, the guy who claims he wants to help all candidates equally has acted to screw them all (and every Republican in the county) equally by creating a situation in which Republican voices cannot be heard at all.

And a couple of questions to ask about the decision by Gillen and his appointees to resign.

1) How successful were Gillen's efforts to raise funds for a reelection campaign -- and to pay of debts from the very expensive 2006 race?

2) What other candidates were on the horizon to challenge Gillen -- and which mainstream Republicans were supporting these other potential candidates?

Democrat political blogs are having a field day with this one.

OPEN TRACKBACKING AT Outside the Beltway, Stop the ACLU, The Virtuous Republic, Blog @, Perri Nelson's Website, 123beta, Adam's Blog, Stix Blog, Right Truth, The Populist, Shadowscope, Grizzly Groundswell, The Bullwinkle Blog, Leaning Straight Up, Cao's Blog, Big Dog's Weblog, Adeline and Hazel, Nuke's, Diary of the Mad Pigeon, third world county, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, The Uncooperative Radio Show!, The World According to Carl, Blue Star Chronicles, Pirate's Cove, The Pink Flamingo, Wolf Pangloss, CommonSenseAmerica, Gone Hollywood, The Yankee Sailor, and Church and State, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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