More than a third of the candidates for contested Upshur County elective offices in the May 29 Republican primary skipped the drawing here Monday night to determine the order in which contestants' names will appear on the ballot.
And for the first time in recent memory, no Upshur County Democrats have filed to run for a county elective office. The only one to file for any local office was Dan Miles, Jr., who is running for county chairman of the party, said current Chairman Joe Newsom.
Of the 22 candidates for contested county offices on the local GOP ballot (counting the three running for county GOP chairman), eight failed to appear for Monday night's drawing at Republican Headquarters in Gilmer. Various persons drew for them, and for the order of names on the ballot for almost all other races on it, ranging from President to the Texas Railroad Commission.
However, Tommy Merritt, who is opposing incumbent David Simpson in the race for District 7 state representative, participated in the drawing. His name will appear on the ballot before Simpson's, and Merritt said the same will be true in Gregg County, the only other county in Upshur's newly-redrawn state legislative district.
Monday night's no-shows included Sheriff Anthony Betterton, whose three opponents in his bid for reelection all participated; Pct. 3 County Comm. Lloyd Crabtree, whose challenger for reelection, Frank Berka, attended; two of the three candidates for Pct. 3 constable; two of the three running for Pct. 4 constable; and two of the three contestants for county GOP chairman.
Only two of the 24 total GOP candidates for county offices escaped opposition in the primary; they are incumbent appointed Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, seeking election in her own right; and Pct. 2 Constable Jason Weeks, seeking reelection.
The Upshur GOP also has several contested races for precinct chairmanships, but the election for those posts won't be held until July 31, and their names will be listed in the order they filed for the offices, said Upshur County Republican Chairman Ken Ambrose.
Asked Tuesday morning about the absence of several candidates from Monday night's drawing, Ambrose told The Mirror some figure the event is something "they don't need to attend. . .(and) some people have superstitions about it."
"(I thought it) was a good turnout. I was very pleased with the turnout, and I was very pleased with the demeanor...everyone got along and cooperated," said Ambrose, who conducted the drawing of rubber balls from a plastic bowl. Among the no-shows were his opponents in his bid for reelection, Cynthia S. Ridgeway and Chuck Mears.
The event, which lasted only 20 minutes, even featured joking by some candidates.
After Tim A. Barnett, candidate for Pct. 1 constable, drew a ball that showed his name would be listed second to that of his opponent, Gene Dolle, he told Dolle, "I'll trade you."
Replied Dolle, "I'll take that into consideration."
The number of order in which the candidates' names would appear—one, two, three, etc.—was being announced. Berka, whose name will be listed second to Crabtree's, quipped that the absent Crabtree would be listed as number "zero."
Ambrose introduced former 123rd State District Judge Steven Dowd of Tyler, now an attorney in private practice, who was on hand to act as parliamentarian. Also present to supervise the drawing were two other attorneys, Russell Soloway of Austin and Clyde M. Siebman of Sherman.
After the drawing concluded, Ambrose told the candidates and others present that the county GOP convention, scheduled for 1 p.m. April 21 at the Gilmer Civic Center, will be "better than any convention that we've ever had." He said he expects 300-500 to attend since representatives of all precincts would be present.
Because of a court battle over redistricting of legislative and Congressional districts, the two major parties' primaries were delayed from the originally scheduled March 6 date to May 29, meaning no precinct conventions will be held this time. Usually, delegates to the county convention are elected at the precinct conventions, which are normally held on the nights of the primary elections..
Other than those already listed, the order of candidates' names for contested Upshur GOP races as determined by Monday's drawing will be as follows (the letter "i" stands for an incumbent, seeking reelection):
Sheriff—Larry Webb, Donald Willeford, Greg Mandreger, Anthony Betterton (i)
Pct. 1 County Commissioner—Mike Chandler, Wayne Oney, James Crittenden (i), Richard (RB) Hodge, Paula Gentry
Pct. 3 Constable—John Cannon, Jr., Landon Burleson, Stanley Jenkins (only Cannon attended the drawing.)
Pct. 4 Constable—Wayne Henson, Dewayne LaGrone, Phillip M. Hill (i) (only LaGrone attended the drawing.)
County GOP Chairman—Ms. Ridgeway, Mears, Ambrose