GOP fight is brewing in March primary

A number of new faces filed to run for precinct chairs. The ECRW membership luncheon was held this week at the Elegante. 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)

All local contested elected offices will be decided in the March GOP primary as no local Democrats filed for office and a fight amongst local Republicans for control of the local party continues to be the talk of the town for those interested in politics.

Longtime Odessan Donna Kelm is challenging current Ector County Republican Party (ECRP) Chair Tisha Crow. Kelm has said she wants to bring civility back to the local party and that she will make sure Odessans are informed on matters like who are the precinct chairs in Ector County. She also said she would keep the party’s official website updated so Odessans don’t have to search for information that is public.

Crow did not release the list of those who filed for office to the Odessa American despite repeated requests for the list. A list was supplied by Kelm.

For the last few months, a number of Odessans have sought a current list of precinct chairs and were often pointed to an outdated list on the Secretary of State’s website. It is the job of the local chair to update the site. The local GOP website likewise did not have a current list.

Kelm, like many who filed to run for precinct chair slots, has said she disagrees with what she described as the meanness and bullying coming out of the current local party administration.

Donna Kelm

Kelm has said she also is against endorsing one Republican over another in local races — such as city council positions, which have always been considered non-party affiliated positions — and the use of fake social media accounts to attack Odessans who question the local GOP. Kelm claims she was treated harshly at the ECRP headquarters after she refused to “block walk” for candidates she did not know. Kelm wants to create an environment where candidates feel free to run without being intimidated and will speak out against Executive Board members who lash out and bully candidates they oppose.

There are a number of current precinct chairs who have never faced an opponent and others who were appointed who will face challengers this year.

Ronnie Lewis, a longtime Odessa businessman and founder of Dos Amigos, said a number of the new faces are tired of the nastiness and the power grab that has happened since 2020.

“I was out talking to voters and they were unhappy and there is a tsunami coming in March,” Lewis said Wednesday.

Lewis has filed to run for the Precinct 203 chair against Carmen Wilhite, a recent appointee. He said even releasing the list of who has filed has traditionally happened quickly and always on the same day after the close of the filing deadline.

Lewis said Kris Crow, Tisha Crow’s husband, texted him Tuesday evening that the list would be released to a “Republican” newspaper, apparently referring to Odessa Headlines, a website and Facebook page run by Jeff Russell. Russell is an appointed precinct chair and treasurer of the local GOP.

Russell was also appointed to the Odessa Development Corporation along with Kris Crow. Both are political allies of Mayor Javier Joven and councilmembers Denise Swanner and Mark Matta. The trio of council members was endorsed by the current GOP leadership in their elections to City Council.

Lewis several weeks ago recorded Joven at the GOP headquarters giving incorrect directions to Lewis on where to file to run for precinct chair. Joven sits on the GOP board. He was appointed to the executive staff after he lost his bid for precinct chair four years ago to Richard Pierce. Joven has filed to run for the seat again.

Joven also told Lewis in the recording to visit the secretary of state’s website for the list. Lewis replied it was not accurate and Joven replied “take it up with the secretary of state.” The SOS website details it is not the responsibility of the SOS to update the list.

In the video several current precinct chairs don’t correct Joven on the misinformation he gave Lewis, who said Joven was particularly unpleasant to him that day and that is another aspect of the spirit of meanness coming out of the current GOP in Ector County.

Russell will face Billy Buckshot Dubose for a precinct chair position. Russell has sought office several times including the County Commissioner seat held by Don Stringer. Russell’s daughter-in-law is challenging Stringer for his seat in the primary.

Lewis said he felt shenanigans were going on after the filing deadline and even offered a $25,000 reward for anyone who would come forward who had been recruited to file after the deadline by the ECRP executive board. He said he believes that is why there was a delay in releasing the names of who had filed by Tisha Crow.

Lewis said he has faced numerous attacks by the current GOP and said he wants to grow the party and laughs at being called a Democratic operative by the Crows.

Other races

Many other officials will be able to rest easy in March.

Republicans Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis and District Attorney Dusty Gallivan didn’t draw any opponents and State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) is unopposed for his sixth term in the state legislature.

State reps serve two year terms and Landgraf won his last re-election by a whopping 80 percent.

Julie Prentice

A political newcomer, attorney Julie Prentice, is also unopposed in her bid to replace Lee McClendon as Ector County attorney. McClendon did not file by the Monday 6 p.m. deadline.

Prentice is a graduate of Texas A&M Kingsville and also a 2012 graduate of Texas A&M School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law).

She previously worked under both former District Attorney Bobby Bland and also as a prosecutor under Gallivan. She then sought out civil experience and currently works at the Jimenez Law Firm in Odessa, where she practices both family and criminal law. She has said she will be a full-time county attorney and will not have a private practice.

Others running unopposed:

  • District Judge Justin Low of the 161st.
  • District Judge Sara Kate Billingsley of the 446th.
  • County Tax assessor-collector Lindy Wright.
  • County Constable Precinct 2 Mike Patton.
  • County Constable Precinct 3 Carl Rodgers.
  • County Constable Precinct 4 Jonathan Campbell.

There are several other races that are opposed and will be decided by GOP voters in March.

Incumbent County Commissioner Precinct 1 Mike Gardner will face Larry Glenn Robinson, David Shaw and Linda Young Anglley.

In the race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, incumbent Carlos Chavez faces challengers Steven Brennan and Jennifer Mahan-Woodall. Chavez was appointed to the seat in the spring following the retirement of longtime JP Terry Lange.

Ector County Republican Party Chairman

  • Tisha Diana Crow
  • Donna Kelm

Republican Precinct Chairs

Precinct 101

  • Sylvia Rodriguez-Sanchez
  • Linda Hall

Precinct 102

  • William Kappauf

Precinct 103

  • Jesse Christesson

Precinct 104

  • Wina Garrett

Precinct 108

  • Kendra Skalenda
  • Gary Don McCain

Precinct 109

  • Jessica Fulton

Precinct 110

  • Timothy Harry
  • Dallas Kennedy

Precinct 111

  • Freda Daniels
  • Jason Pond

Precinct 201

  • Kellie Ard
  • Jill Miller

Precinct 202

  • Brandon K Pugh
  • Traci Gregston

Precinct 203

  • Carmen Wilhite
  • Ronnie Lewis

Precinct 204

  • Richard Pierce
  • Javier Joven

Precinct 205

  • Dale Barnes
  • Charles Pierce

Precinct 206

  • Denise Swanner
  • Brenda Worthen

Precinct 207

  • Ned Luscombe
  • Jet Brown

Precinct 208

  • Tiffany Meade
  • Christina (Chris) Bryson

Precinct 209

  • Claudette D Webb
  • Gary S Johnson

Precinct 302

  • Judy Williams

Precinct 303

  • Nate Navarrete

Precinct 304

  • Gracela Ponce

Precinct 305

  • Gabriela Aranda

Precinct 308

  • Nicholas Ybarra

Precinct 309

  • Mark Matta

Precinct 310

  • Jaime Mendoza
  • Randy Elam

Precinct 311

  • Luis Burrola Jr

Precinct 312

  • Jeff Russell
  • Billy Dubose, Jr.

Precinct 314

  • Jimmy Lee

Precinct 402

  • Arlo Chavira

Precinct 403

  • Noeme A Villalobos

Precinct 407

  • Katherine Pena

Precinct 409

  • Henry E Pettigrew
  • Luis Galvan

Precinct 412

  • Judy Barker