GILMER — Two warring segments of the Republican Party of Upshur County will hold separate GOP county conventions here today — and each will choose a delegation to the party’s state convention, where a committee will decide which group to seat.
The convention called by members of the county Republican Executive Committee is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters on U.S. Highway 271. County GOP Chairman Ken Ambrose will convene a separate 1 p.m. convention he has called at the nearby Gilmer Civic Center.
The separate gatherings reflect the latest in a long-running series of disputes between Ambrose and several precinct chairmen on the county GOP Executive Committee. They differ on matters ranging from who is supposed to call committee meetings to who is the legitimately elected county Republican secretary.
The Republican Party of Texas’ website has listed the time and place of both of today’s assemblages, followed by a statement, which reads in part: “There are two competing groups in Upshur County who are both holding county conventions. State (Republican Party) Chairman Steve Munisteri has told both sides that the dispute as to which slate of delegates will be seated at the State Convention will be referred to the State Convention Credentials committee. As in every State Convention year — that committee will be charged with resolving the dispute at the State Convention in Fort Worth,” which is scheduled June 7 to 9.
Today’s separate gatherings sprang from a disagreement over whether Ambrose or the county executive committee is supposed to call the county convention, Cynthia Ridgeway, a precinct chairwoman, said.
Ambrose said this week “there is no disagreement” about who calls the county convention. Those who called the convention at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters are “just out of order,” he said.
According to Republican Party of Texas rules, he said, “I (as chairman) am the person that calls the convention. Absolutely, absolutely. No question about it.”
Mrs. Ridgeway responded that “by electing to hold a county convention that follows the normal precinct convention process, the Republican Party of Upshur County’s Executive Committee has protected the grassroots involvement” the state GOP sought to preserve.
“Mr. Ambrose continues to deny the fact that the elected executive committee has statutory duties to perform, just like the chairman does,” she added. “We have followed all the procedures. ... He continues to operate as a dictator. That’s not the way the law is written.”
Before the precinct conventions were held, Ambrose argued they were invalid.
While any Upshur County registered voter — other than those who participated in the Libertarian Party’s conventions earlier this year — can be a delegate to his own convention, Ambrose charged that “the only people that can go to their (his opponents’) convention is the people they’ve already pre-approved” as delegates.
Mrs. Ridgeway responded that her group’s convention is not “excluding people.” She said Ambrose had much less experience in the party than her 22 years’ involvement with it, and speculated that he ignored or is unaware of duties which precinct chairmen must perform.
Ambrose has been the focal point of controversy since shortly after his narrow election to the county chairmanship two years ago. At one time, he was indicted on charges of stealing and misusing party funds, but the state dropped the charges when he agreed to make payments to certain parties for election-related services.
In addition, several precinct chairmen have tried unsuccessfully to oust him from office.
Ambrose charges his opponents have “refused to recognize the election” to the county chairmanship of someone other than one of their allies. He ousted incumbent Brenda Patterson by 25 votes in a runoff in 2010.