As the Republican Party looks to maintain its hold on county government, a rift has emerged over how the party will select candidates for the next primary.
On one side, the head of the Galveston County GOP said the party is taking its existing process and expanding it to ensure that voters know as much about GOP candidates as possible.
On the other side are opponents who said the process will be used to weed out strong candidates who don’t fall in line with the party establishment.
Ironically, both sides said the roots of the dispute lie in the problems posed by two elected officials whose tenures have been marred by controversy.
The controversies involving former Galveston County District Clerk Jason Murray and suspended County Court-at-law Judge Christopher Dupuy left Republicans looking for a way to better screen candidates.
Murray pleaded no contest to allegations that he used a handgun to assault his wife in 2011. He avoided jail time in the plea deal that landed him eight years of deferred adjudication. He must also abide by a number of restrictions, such as wearing an ankle monitor for the next 30 months.
Dupuy is facing legal battles on charges of obstruction or retaliation, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.
“We need to somehow verify to voters that these candidates meet or exceed the qualifications,” said County GOP chair Barbara Meeks.
But some in the party aren’t sold on the process. Jason Delgado, the Precinct 343 chair, argued in an email sent to elected officials that behind the process is a way to weed out candidates that Meeks and party officials don’t like. The process will create a “seal of approval” for candidates that the party wants and will help raise funds for the always expensive campaigns, he said.
His email called on precinct chairs and elected officials to attend the next GOP Executive Committee Meeting on Tuesday.
“That will be hard for any (other) candidates to overcome,” Delgado said.
But Meeks adamantly denied Delgado’s claims, calling such a seal of approval “a complete fabrication.”
Meeks said the party was only looking for ways to better screen primary candidates through its candidate review committee and would disseminate that information to GOP voters throughout the county. The committee has evaluated candidates before, she said, but that information wasn’t easily available to voters.
“There was no way to get that essential information to people all across the county,” she said.
To do that, the party plans to publish the information in print form to be mailed to 40,000 voters countywide, similar to the way the League of Women Voters publishes a voters guide during each election season. She said the Fort Bend and Harris county Republican parties conduct similar processes and that she discussed the process on June 19 at the Galveston Area Republican Women’s meeting.
Meeks insists there’s nothing nefarious going on behind the scenes.
But Delgado isn’t buying that. He said Meeks aims to be the kingmaker in county GOP circles and that the end result will be “machine-style” politics.
“That’s cronyism,” he said. “That will be the downfall of the party.”
At a glance
WHAT: Galveston County GOP Executive Committee
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: 174 Calder Road in League City