Mrs. Barber, a precinct chairman who is opposed by Denice McDonald in her bid for reelection, is recognized by the State Republican Executive Committee, but not Upshur GOP Chairman Ken Ambrose, as the Upshur Republican party secretary. He considers Mrs. McDonald the party secretary.
Speaking at the home of Mrs. Barber and her husband, Keith Barber, in the Bethlehem Community were District 7 State Rep. David Simpson of Longview, who is opposed for reelection by Tommy Merritt; Larry Webb, one of four GOP candidates for Upshur County sheriff; and Upshur County Pct. 1 Commissioner James Crittenden, who has four opponents in his bid for reelection.
Also speaking were Gene Dolle, one of three candidates for Pct. 1 constable; Cynthia Ridgeway, who is one of Ambrose’s two opponents for re-election; and Mrs. Barber herself.
About 25 persons, including the candidates, attended.
Simpson hailed the Texas Legislature’s passage of the “voter ID bill,” which requires someone produce photo identification in order to vote. He said Merritt voted against such a bill in 2007.
(Merritt has said he voted against a version which would have allowed someone to be identified by a library card.).
Simpson also said the state needs “to end benefits to illegal immigrants.” He charged Merritt supported such benefits.
The incumbent additionally said he opposed the state budget due to “misplaced priorities.” Simpson said it gave $21 million to a computer firm, thus subsidizing a company worth $100 million with no debt.
While that created some jobs, “I think it’s (granting the money to Apple) legalized theft,” the legislator argued.
Simpson, who ousted Merritt in 2010, is on the ballot in Upshur and Gregg Counties under redistricting which occurred since their prior race.
Webb, a Longview police officer, touted his 22 years of law enforcement experience in his race for sheriff.
In his 17 years with the Longview Police Department, he said, he has been involved in every role “you can imagine except chief of police,” ranging from narcotics and criminal investigation to his current role of heading the community policing program.
Webb said he wanted to mend the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office’s relationships with other county elected officials, such as the district attorney. He said the office is not now working with other agencies in the county.
“Except for some task forces and stuff like that, they’ve (the current Sheriff’s Office) shut themselves in, and that’s not good,” Webb charged.
He also proposed instituting a “rural community safety program,” and said the county jail’s food budget could probably be reduced.
Commissioner Crittenden said he wanted to stay in office at least one more term to clear up uncertainty over how much of the mineral rights the county owns on its “school land” in two West Texas counties.
Revenue from the property in Baylor and Throckmorton Counties is distributed among nine school districts lying partly or wholly in Upshur County, and Crittenden said such revenue can help hold down school taxes.
He also said he is the only individual on the 5-member Upshur County Commissioners Court who has visited the land and asked, “Why should we as taxpayers hire” someone to oversee it? He said he would do that if re-elected.
In addition, the Pct. 1 commissioner said he “can’t justify raising anybody’s taxes,” and that commissioners “take the hit” on county road conditions although they no longer have authority over roads.” (Upshur Countians have thrice voted in the last decade to convert to a unit road system supervised by a county engineer, who is appointed by the commissioners court,)
The constable candidate, Dolle, said he had more than 20 years of full-time law enforcement experience in Gregg County, where he is still a “full-time working reserve” after retiring from its sheriff’s department in 2007.
He said someone had made the statement that “I’m old, and I won’t work,” but “Let me assure you. . .I will be a full-time working constable.”
Dolle also said he believed he could bring enough revenue into the county treasury from serving the justice of the peace court to make his job “self-sufficient” financially.
Mrs. Ridgeway said Mrs. Barber was the “only reason I am here” (running for county chairman), and “I realized God has prepared me for this.”
Mrs. Ridgeway said she was a “big veterans’ supporter” and that she was instrumental in starting the Upshur Conservative Coalition to “vet” candidates for elective office.
Citing her experience as a current precinct chairman in the Upshur GOP, she also noted the ongoing “turmoil” in the local party and declared that “this election is of utmost importance.”
Mrs. Barber said county GOP Chairman Ambrose had declared that the local party couldn’t hold precinct conventions, but the “state (party) said we could.”
She said far more persons had attended meetings of the precinct chairs on the county GOP Executive Committee than attended Ambrose’s called meetings of the committee. (Upshur Republican officials disagree on whether Ambrose, or Mrs. Barber, calls such meetings, and neither group has recognized the other’s meetings as legitimate.)
Mrs. Barber told the group at her home that she and other precinct chairs opposed to Ambrose are “not a faction. We are the party.”