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. 271, across from Walmart. At 1 p.m., county GOP Chairman Ken Ambrose will convene a separate convention at the nearby Gilmer Civic Center.
As of Tuesday, the Republican Party of Texas's website (www.texasgop.org) listed the time and place of both gatherings, followed by this statement:
"Important Note from the Republican Party of Texas for Upshur County Republicans. 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" (scheduled June 7-9.)
The dueling conventions reflect the latest in a long-running series of disputes between Ambrose and several precinct chairmen on the county GOP Executive Committee. They disagree on matters ranging from who is supposed to call committee meetings to who is the county Republican secretary, and who is its parliamentarian.
The separate conventions sprang from a disagreement over whether Ambrose or the county Executive Committee is supposed to call the county convention, said Cynthia Ridgeway, a precinct chairman.
Mrs. Ridgeway, who is recognized by many of her fellow precinct chairmen (but not Ambrose) as the county GOP vice-chairman, is one of Ambrose's two opponents in his May 29 bid for reeelection as county chairman. Chuck Mears, an Upshur County TEA Party activist who initially endorsed Mrs. Ridgeway, is the other.
Ambrose said Tuesday "there is no disagreement" about who calls the county convention. Those who called the convention at the DAV) are "just out of order," he argued.
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 grass roots 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."
Members of the party holding the 10 a.m. convention this Saturday held April 7 precinct conventions at which 62 delegates to their county convention were chosen by the 37 persons attending the precinct conventions, according to Mrs. Ridgeway. She said she expects to preside over the Saturday morning conclave in her capacity as vice-chairman (since Ambrose does not plan to attend her gathering.)
Before the precinct conventions were held, Ambrose said they were invalid.
The group holding the 10 a.m. convention this Saturday took out a paid advertisement in last Saturday's Gilmer Mirror advertising its convention. It listed Ambrose as party chairman and his wife, Linda, as party treasurer, although he called the competing convention and said Tuesday he and his wife will not attend the other gathering.
"The only reason they're putting an ad in the newspaper is just to harass us (he and his supporters). . .They're just trying to confuse the voters about where they can go to a convention," Ambrose charged Monday.
"This is their last desperate attempt to derail the Republican Party. . .," he alleged.
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 convention is the people they've already pre-approved" as delegates.
He labeled his foes' action as "insane," charging they refused to recognize his election as chairman by the county's voters two years ago. He labeled Mrs. Ridgeway "just a pretender."
Mrs. Ridgeway said her 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.