After failing to adopt bylaws or select officers at the biannual organizational meeting, members of the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee (CEC) held an emergency meeting in an attempt to resolve issues created by the early adjournment of the organizational meeting. However, the emergency meeting proved to be even more tumultuous and rampageous than the last meeting. Chaplain Billy Graff’s exhortations to unity and civility largely fell on deaf ears.
Since two separate calls for an emergency meeting at the same time and place had been submitted by the party’s two factions, the CEC, composed of the county chairman and precinct chairs, could not even agree on which emergency meeting they were at. After completely loosing control over the unruly room, County Chairman Bryan Christ walked out of the meeting.
The primary disagreement hinges on whether or not the organizational meeting was properly adjourned, which Christ maintains it was. Under Republican Party of Texas Rule 8e, if the CEC fails to adopt bylaws at the organizational meeting, then they simply revert back to the previous biennium’s bylaws. The precinct chairs opposed to Christ, who call themselves the “Freedom Caucus”, argue that the organizational meeting was not properly adjourned, and wanted the CEC to vote on a new set of bylaws at the emergency meeting. Thus, one emergency meeting agenda, authored by Precinct Chair Robert Walker (not to be confused with a county commissioner by the same name), contains an item calling for new bylaws to be adopted. The other emergency meeting agenda, authored by Precinct Chair James Byers, assumed that the party is now operating under the previous biennium’s bylaws and so did not contain an item to vote on bylaws.
At the beginning of the emergency meeting, Christ asked the CEC to vote on which agenda they would use. However, Walker and other Freedom Caucus members objected, and asked Christ to state which agenda they were using. Christ declined to answer, insisting that the issue be put to a vote. Another point of contention was Christ’s decision to allow electronic voting for precinct chairs watching the meeting online. Christ had his laptop set up to allow precinct chairs unable to attend in person to participate virtually, however, the Freedom Caucus protested against allowing electronic voting.
Walker essentially threatened that since he had called the meeting and arranged for the use of the building and AV system, he could deny the chairman a microphone or even have him thrown out if Christ did not agree to preside over “his meeting”.
The meeting then descended into a shouting match until Christ’s microphone was silenced. The CEC was in the process of removing Christ as chairman of the meeting when he stepped off the dais and walked out of the meeting. Most of the precinct chairs supportive of Christ followed him out of the meeting room, where they congregated in the hallway before eventually dispersing and leaving the premises.
The remaining precinct chairs now declared that the chair had been vacated, and selected Precinct Chair Dale Inman to chair the meeting instead of Christ. With mostly Freedom Caucus aligned precinct chairs now the only ones remaining, the remainder of the meeting progressed fairly smoothly. Using Walker’s agenda, the CEC voted without discussion to adopt the new bylaws proposed by the Freedom Caucus.
Elections were then held for party officers. Bouche was re-elected as party vice chair, Staci Earnest (mother of Konner Earnest) was elected secretary, and Charles Shirley was elected treasurer. Five members were elected to serve on the Steering Committee: Walker, Quentin Smith, D.J. Fike, Kenneth Earnest (father of Konner Earnest), and George Hyde. Allison Winter was chosen to chair the Vacancy Committee, and John Wertz was chosen to chair the Victory Committee (the committee responsible for running the party’s general election campaign).
Christ, who spoke to the Texas Citizen Journal out in the hallway, does not recognize the new Freedom Caucus bylaws, and said the party will continue to operate under the previous bylaws. He does not recognize the validity of any business conducted at Saturday’s emergency meeting. Walker, who also spoke to the Texas Citizen Journal after the meeting, maintains that his meeting was completely in order, asserting that they were simply returning to unfinished business from the organizational meeting.
Another emergency meeting has been called for Monday, July 25, by yet another group of precinct chairs. The agenda for Monday’s meeting contains an item for electing officers. After Saturday’s emergency meeting was adjourned, Bouche and Wertz stated that the meeting called for Monday is out of order, and urged their allies to attend in order to shut it down.
The party appears to be at an impasse, much as it was in 2018, with separate factions each recognizing their own separate sets of bylaws. The dysfunction is almost completely hampering the party’s efforts to run a general election campaign supporting the Republican ticket this November. If GOP internecine warfare continues, it could give the Democratic Party a lucky break in what is expected to be a favorable midterm for Republicans. Although Montgomery County is still heavily Republican, Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs has allowed the Democrats to make inroads. If the GOP remains incapacitated, Republican candidates will be left to fend for themselves, and Democrats will have free reign to continue cutting into Republican margins.
Clarification: The initial version of this article stated that MCRP Vice Chair Jon Bouche closed Chairman Bryan Christ’s laptop, which is what Bouche and others told the Texas Citizen Journal at the meeting. After the article was published, Bouche denied closing the laptop. The article has also been updated to reflect a clarification from precinct chair Alex Chandel. Chandel says that he did not approach the dais until after Christ had left the room, at which point he and precinct chair Anna Greathouse attempted to turn down the volume on the laptop which was hosting the zoom meeting after receiving complaints that the audio was distracting. Chandel said that he only approached the dais after being asked by Greathouse.
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