Sparks says no endorsement in local GOP race

Texas State Senator for the 31st District Kevin Sparks speaks at Parent Empowerment Night March 23, 2023, at First Odessa Christian Academy. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

Ector County GOP Party Chair Tisha Crow this week said State Sen. Kevin Sparks had endorsed her candidacy as she faces local Ector County Republican Women’s President Donna Kelm in the March primary for control of the local GOP.

Crow shared text message screenshots where she asked Sparks for an email to include in her announcement so she could forward it to the Saulsburys and wrote, “I need to insert your endorsement first” and later thanked him for his effort on her behalf.

In the text message screenshots he replied his staff was typing it up and that he would check on what happened with the email. He never used the word endorsement in his response to Crow.

On the Odessa American Facebook page Crow posted screenshots of their text messages and said “don’t you think any reasonable and prudent person would assume ENDORSEMENT.”

Apparently that is not the case. Sparks’ office this week said he was not endorsing in this or any other local race. Crow posted her screenshots after his office detailed their no endorsement policy to the OA.

On Wednesday, Sparks reiterated his non-endorsement policy to the OA.

He texted “both candidates have been very active in Ector County for many years. The community needs to make their election without undue influence.”

He said he is not endorsing either candidate and does not intend to endorse in local races. He said he has spoken with both Kelm and Crow on the matter.

When contacted by the OA following Kelm’s announcement of her candidacy, Sparks praised her work.

“I have known Donna Kelm for several years as a committed member of the Ector County GOP. As the current president of the Ector County Republican Women, she has proven to be an effective leader for Republicans in our community. Donna is a voice of reason and very qualified for the position of Ector County GOP chairperson.”

Kelm has said her hope is to get the Ector County GOP back on track. She said that means an end to Crow’s time as the head of the Party.

Kelm said she is against some of the current tactics being used including endorsing one Republican over another in local races and the use of fake social media accounts to attack Odessans who question the local GOP. Kelm herself was treated harshly at the ECRP Headquarters after she refused to “block walk” for candidates that 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.

Kelm worked for more than a month to secure three signatures from current Ector County Precinct Chairs so she could get a spot on the ballot to challenge longtime leader Crow.

The signatures were required under Texas legislation that originally passed to keep Democrats from grabbing powerful seats by running for local party chair spots. Crow and her supporters have long said it is “the law” and challengers must get 10 percent of the local party chairs to sign to even get on the ballot.

However, the statute also details that counties under a certain population may opt out of the required 10 percent in signatures. Midland County has done just that, but Crow and her precinct chairs have not. Many of the current precinct chairs were appointed by Crow or have never faced an opponent.

That changes this March as local businessman Ronnie Lewis gathered a number of Odessans to challenge the sitting precinct chairs for control of the party. Crow and her people have sought to paint him as a “Democratic operative,” but Lewis said he is a Republican and just wants civility back and for the bullying of Odessans by top leadership of the local GOP to stop.

He cites how fake Facebook accounts are used to intimidate and bully anyone who doesn’t agree with everything they are doing. Earlier this year several fake profiles were used to disparage Lewis and his wife.

The fake profiles Finnigan Lane, Josiah Vargas, Mitt Harvey, Joshua Benjamin, and others routinely denigrate Lewis and others.

Lewis will face Carmen Wilhite in the primary. She was appointed to her precinct chair several weeks ago.