The county convention called by members of the county’s GOP Executive Committee at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters drew 30 delegates that morning. The other convention, convened that afternoon by County Republican Chairman Ken Ambrose at the Gilmer Civic Center, drew 52 delegates—well below the number he predicted.
In a surprise move, the state delegation elected at Ambrose’s gathering included three of the same delegates elected by the rival county convention, although all three are political foes of Ambrose.
They included Cynthia Ridgeway, who is one of Ambrose’s two opponents for reelection as county chairman (and who presided over the convention at the DAV); Upshur County Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden, who has endorsed her for chairman; and Madaline Barber, who has had an ongoing feud with Ambrose over whether she is the legitimately-elected county GOP secretary.
In addition, one of the alternate delegates elected at Ambrose’s meeting—Crittenden’s wife, Lanette Crittenden—was elected as a delegate to the state convention at the other county conclave.
“I can’t tell people that I want to be inclusive, and not be inclusive,” Ambrose said Sunday in explaining why his convention’s state delegation included some of his foes. “We continue to reach out to even people we disagree with. . . at the end of the day, I would suppose we’re all Republicans.”
Ambrose was elected to head the 22-member delegation (and 22 alternates) elected from his convention. The state convention is set June 7 to 9 in Ft. Worth.
Mrs. Ridgeway made it clear Monday that she was not pacified by the action at her opponents’ convention, which Ambrose had said was his responsibility to call as county chairman.
“Ken Ambrose was properly included and invited to all meetings by the county executive committee,” she added. “He chose to conduct the (county) convention that doesn’t follow the rules of the Republican Party of Texas, or the Texas Election Code. If the credentials committee follows the rule of law, the delegation chosen by the county executive committee that met at the DAV building (Saturday) will be recognized by the state convention.”
Asked if she would still serve as a delegate if Ambrose’s group was seated, she said, “I’ll have to reserve comment on that at this time.”
She also said that “in a way, I was surprised; in another way, I was not” that she and some others were named to both state delegations.
Also named as a delegate to the state convention at her meeting was the third candidate in the May 29 election for GOP county chairman, Chuck Mears, although he attended neither of Saturday’s meetings.
Besides those already named, state delegates chosen at Ambrose’s gathering included County Judge Dean Fowler; County Commissioners Cole Hefner, Lloyd Crabtree and Mike Spencer; Justices of the Peace Laura Norred and Lyle Potter; Barbara Vogl; Diana Crabtree; Teresa Huggins; Denice McDonald (who Ambrose contends is the county GOP secretary); Molly Cummings; Julie Chandler; Mike Chandler; H.D. Bailey; Douglas Edwards; Avon Bateman; Doug Fennell; and Tim Hudson.
Other than Mrs. Crittenden, alternates elected at Ambrose’s event included Linda Ambrose,Charles Crabtree, Nan Fowler, Debbie Spencer, Joey Lowe, William Stenger, Robin Crabtree, Teresa Holder, LeNeta Jeter, Barbara Philley, Andrew Nobles,Donnie Watts, Wayne Oney, Rhonda Pope,Edith Beisch, Deborah Hodge, Richard Hodge, Donald Willeford, Sharon Wise, Ross Wis, and Greg Mandreger.
Other than those already named, the state delegates elected by the group at the DAV include Brenda Patterson, Blanton Dawson, Jackie Oliver, Ken Patterso, Troy Jones, John Melvin Dodd, Frank Berka, Richard Ridgeway, Jesse Loffer, Michael Denton, Porter Click, Don McElvogue, Richard Lloyd, Gene Jones, Leslie Cathcart, Sandra Click;,and Belinda Berka.
The executive committee’s convention also elected nine alternates, although Mrs. Ridgeway said she discovered afterward two were ineligible because they hadn’t been elected as delegates to the county convention at recent precinct conventions.
The remaining alternates are Amelia Scott, Keith Barber, Sharon Dawson, Carrie Fulsom, Brenda Poole, Marilyn Loffer and Thomas Osborne.
The convention at the DAV passed 18 resolutions, while the meeting at the civic center approved eight entirely different ones (not all by unanimous vote.)
Four of the resolutions at the Ambrose meeting basically congratulated him and three county officials—Judge Fowler, Commissioner Crabtree, and Sheriff Anthony Betterton—on being cleared of misdemeanor criminal charges once lodged against them.
Fowler received a standing ovation when the resolution concerning him was presented. Crabtree and Betterton were not present.
Ambrose and Mrs. Ridgeway (who is recognized by several precinct chairmen, but not Ambrose, as the Upshur GOP vice-chairman) expressed satisfaction with the turnout for their respective conventions, although Ambrose had initially predicted a turnout of 300 to 500 for his gathering.
On Friday, he had forecast the turnout would well exceed 100, and said Sunday that the total number of attendees, counting non-delegates, was estimated at 75. He said several people could not attend for various reasons.
On Saturday, he had noted that his convention had a larger turnout than the other one. Mrs. Ridgeway’s group said the total number of attendees at its meetinging, counting non-delegates, was 40.
Several candidates in the upcoming May 29 GOP primary election also spoke to one or both conventions. Some touted their endorsement by the Upshur County Conservative Coalition while speaking to Mrs. Ridgeway’s gathering, but Oney, a candidate for Pct. 1 county commissioner who spoke to both conventions, said he was glad the coalition didn’t endorse him.
Those who mentioned their endorsement by the group at the DAV gathering included Larry Webb, candidate for sheriff (who also spoke at Ambrose’s convention); Pct. 1 Comm. Crittenden, seeking reelection; Frank Berka, candidate for Pct. 3 commissioner (who also spoke at Ambrose’s meeting); and Gene Dolle, candidate for Pct. 1 constable.
At his convention, Ambrose, whose tenure as chairman has been marked by controversy over his actions, told the audience, “I’m not as evil as I’ve been portrayed to be. I’m not a demon.” He said the party’s base has expanded under his leadership, and received applause when he noted that no Democrats are running for county office this year.
Mrs. Ridgeway, making a campaign address at her convention, said, “We need to have an end to the bickering that has been going on” within the Upshur GOP. She condemned those in the party who lack “respect for the rule of law.”
She cited her 15 years as a Republican precinct chairman as a qualification for becoming county chairman.
Besides those already named, candidates who spoke to Ambrose’s convention included State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), seeking reelection; Donald Willeford, candidate for sheriff; Paula Gentry and Mike Chandler, running for Pct. 1 county commissioner; H.D. Bailey, a Gilmer area attorney running for a judgeship on the 6th Court of Appeals (his wife, Gaye, addressed the other convention); and Tim Barnett, candidate for Pct. 1 constable. Kristi Bogle, a campaign spokeswoman for Simpson’s opponent, Tommy Merritt, also addressed the convention, saying he couldn’t be present.
Richard Hodge, a candidate for Pct. 1 commissioner, attended Ambrose’s convention as a delegate to it, but did not speak. He told The Mirror that he had already addressed virtually everyone from his precinct who was present.
Upshur County Democrats also held their county convention Saturday with 15 delegates attending at the Newsom Law Office in Gilmer, said Dan Miles, Jr., who is unopposed to succeed Joe Newsom as the party’s county chairman.
Miles said he and three others—Winifred Jackson, Yvonne Davis, and Jurel White—were elected as delegates to the upcoming state Democratic convention scheduled June 7 to 9 in Houston. Ann Glenn and Lois Alexander were named alternate delegates, said Miles.