GOP candidates have Tuesday event

Register to vote and meet local Republicans

Army Veteran Dallas Kennedy is shown with his family. Kennedy is a first time candidate seeking a Precinct Chair seat in Precinct 110. He says he believes in civility and is a strong conservative. (Courtesy Photo)

The battle for control of the Ector County Republican Party leadership continues with a candidate event scheduled Tuesday in Odessa featuring mostly political newcomers who say they want change.

The free “Party to Restore the Party” is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Jimbo’s Garage, 1541 JBS Parkway, and precinct chair candidate Ronnie Lewis, who has often been the subject of social media attacks by sitting GOP Party Chair Tisha Crow and her supporters, said the event is for Republican candidates who want to move forward in Ector County in a positive and up front manner.

Lewis said the event will be attended by Crow’s opponent, Odessan Donna Kelm. He said this event is the first of several for candidates who want a positive and honest GOP locally. “This event will have some light snacks and lots of conversation…it’s not for the sitting precinct chairs or Crow. We will have other events where everyone can come. We want the public to come to this event and meet a lot of candidates as the campaign kicks off.”

He said an important aspect of the party is the chance to register to vote as well as meet the candidates.

Lewis has long been a critic of Crow’s hold on the local GOP. He cites Texas legislation requiring 10 percent of precinct chairs to sign for anyone to run for party chair. Under Crow, he said, the local GOP has weaponized the legislation meant to keep Democrats out of Republican party chair seats. Local GOP’s under a certain population size can opt out of the 10 percent rule, which Midland has but Ector County has not.

Kelm faced a battle to get the required three signatures despite being a Republican her whole life. She is the president of the Ector County Republican Women’s Club. Lewis and others said Crow and her supporters conspired to keep Kelm off the ballot so Crow would not face a challenge from a strong candidate.

“You are either for the right to vote and for Ector County Republicans to take part in the process or you are for a tiny group of Republicans who are just trying to control the party…that is what we are going to change in this election,” Lewis said. “This is a feel good gathering for people who are ready and will vote for change.”

Lewis said Odessa businessman Jeff Russell, who sits on the Odessa Development Council and also runs the website Odessa Headlines, has sought office several times and was always turned down by voters. Crow appointed Russell as a precinct chair following Mark Matta’s move to a different precinct recently.

Lewis said this year is historic with the number of those who filed to run for precinct chair slots. He said the large number of contested races has brought some current chairs “out of hiding” and they are sending out letters (some using official GOP letterhead) with misleading information.

Ned Luscombe, a current chair who faces Jet Brown in the primary, has asked voters to “re-elect” him but Lewis points out he has never faced an opponent. Brown, Lewis said, is a former precinct chair who has experience and believes in the right to vote.

One aspect of the letters being sent out by current precinct chairs is a note at the bottom signed by Crow. In the note, Crow writes “Trans Republicans want to evict conservatives in Odessa.” Lewis called that outrageous and said the attacks are typical of the current group.

“Such a catch word …,” Lewis said of the term Trans Republicans. “Voters I have talked to are appalled…I mean can Tish (Crow) get a real elected Republican to come to anything or to support her? She resorts, as always, to name calling and trying to use slurs and slander to further her agenda.”

Crow did not respond by press time to a Thursday email asking what she meant by Trans Republicans.

Crow has also put signs up at her home and near the GOP headquarters (right beside it) urging people to visit a website about Lewis calling him a liar and a Democrat operative.

He has laughed off those attacks saying it is par for the course and shows the desperation of Crow and her allies.

Precinct Chair candidate Brenda Worthen is also bothered by the Trans Republican note from Crow. “It just sounds offensive…what do you mean by that? It sure doesn’t seem friendly,” Worthen said.

Worthen is also a first time candidate and will face City Councilwoman Denise Swanner in Precinct 206. The seat is held by Odessa businessman Dick Saulsbury, who is not running.

Worthen said, like others, she found it difficult to get information out of the local GOP. “I had a hard time finding out who my chair was.”

She said she considers Swanner a friend and respects what Saulsbury has done for Odessa.

“I think it is better to have more voices and not the same people in multiple offices,” she said of facing Swanner.

She doesn’t like how difficult it is to get information and, like Lewis, doesn’t care for bullying.

“I’m not for bullying … I personally have not been bullied but I did get a call from Crow asking me if I knew who my opponent was,” Worthen said. “It was before Dick Saulsbury decided not to run … I don’t know her motive about calling me … I said (to Crow) I still wanted to run after she told me who I was running against. I respect him and what he has done here in Odessa and I even go to the same church.”

She said she told Crow some change is needed. “She just said OK, I just wanted you to know … and then she sent me an email with all of her allegations against Ronnie Lewis.”

Change should include more information in a timely manner, Worthen said.

A number of new faces have filed to run for precinct chairs. From left, precinct chair candidates Jill Miller, Gabriela Aranda (unopposed), Ronnie Lewis, Jet Brown, Brenda Worthen, County Chair candidate Donna Kelm, and precinct chair candidates Jimmy Lee (unopposed) and Traci Gregston. (Courtesy Photo)

She said she knew the precinct chair list posted online was incorrect about a year ago. Crow has been criticized for not updating the online list or responding when asked who the precinct chairs are.

Worthen said she didn’t like when Precinct Chair Richard Pierce tried to run for party chair last election and wasn’t allowed to because the other precinct chairs (under the 10 percent rule) wouldn’t sign for him. Worthen said she doesn’t support Crow or Kelm but thinks it is for voters, not precinct chairs, to decide who should lead the local GOP. “It is about getting to vote instead of not having a choice and whoever wins, wins.”

Worthen is a lifelong Republican and retired mortgage officer. She said she plans to attend the Tuesday event and looks forward to meeting voters and working for a positive future for the local GOP.

Like others, Worthen did not like the local GOP endorsing one Republican over another in municipal races. “I support the Republican platform and chairs should inform about the Republican candidates and then let voters decide. I should not tell people in my precinct who to vote for.”

Swanner, Matta and Mayor Javier Joven were all endorsed for their city council seats by the executive board of the local GOP. That move seemed to be the beginning of the rift locally as it has come up repeatedly in the last several years. That paired with numerous fake social media accounts attacking those who disagree with current leadership have been bones of contention.

Odessa Army Veteran Dallas Kennedy is also running for office for the first time. He seeks to unseat Tim Harry in Precinct 110 for the precinct chair.

Kennedy, an ECISD special ed teacher, is a longtime Odessa Republican caught between the two sides as he feels he has strong friendships with both sides and wants to see healing a sense of cooperation and kindness in Ector County.

He said he doesn’t agree with fake social media profiles and doesn’t need one. “I just tell it like it is and don’t need a fake one … I speak my mind on issues.”

The fake profiles Finnigan Lane, Josiah Vargas, Mitt Harvey, Joshua Benjamin, and others routinely denigrate Lewis and others. Last year Swanner came under fire for posting that she had just met Josiah Vargas and he had bought her lunch. When questioned about it she said she claimed she didn’t know it was fake while others declared that Josiah Vargas “was all of us.”

Kennedy said he wants what is best for all Odessans.

“I am a strong believer in civics. A large part of civics is civility. We should fight like crazy inside the city hall chamber, school board chambers and commissioners court and the Capital in Austin for issues we are passionate about. We should then be able to go out and have a cup of coffee together,” Kennedy wrote in a candidate questionnaire. “I will fight your ideas and policies, but I will not fight you as a person. We need to learn to fight fair without making it so personal. I have disagreed with many of our local officials at times. I told them I disagreed, I stood at the podium and sometimes passionately disagreed publicly with them. I let my voice be heard. After the meeting, I gave them a handshake or a hug and wished them a good week. In the real world we will never have unity of thought (thank goodness), but we can still have civility.

I am also a strong believer in voter education. As a precinct chair, I will do my best to get voters registered and keep them informed about the goings on in our community.”

Worthen also wants civility and to inform and listen to community members. “The discord within the local Republican Party is the issue. I feel that we can accomplish more by encouraging voters to get involved as opposed to telling them how to vote. I believe in term limits and I think it’s time for a change in the local office,” Worthen wrote in her candidate questionnaire.

If you go

“The Party to Restore the Party” is a campaign kickoff scheduled 4 p .m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at Jimbo’s Garage, 1541 JBS Parkway.

The event will be attended by some of those seeking local office including precinct chairs in a number of precincts. Donna Kelm, who is seeking to unseat current Ector County GOP Chair Tisha Crow, will also attend.

Organizer Ronnie Lewis, also a precinct chair candidate, said voter registration forms will be available.

A number of new faces filed to seek office with many citing bullying tactics through fake social media accounts being used by current precinct chairs as part of the reason they decided to run.

Visit the Ector County Politics page at