Sorry, no sex on picnic tables in this post. Clearly, the Harris County Republican Party isn’t as interesting as the Galveston County Republican Party. And yeah, I know, posting about a party chair primary race isn’t exactly click bait. But in the overall scheme of things, those few of you that do care have an inordinate amount of influence in these way, way, way down ballot elections. So I write about them. I’ve never been concerned about clicks, which is either good or bad, depending upon if you are my wife or not.
We need to set up a timeline of sorts to understand what is going on. As I mentioned here, a candidate for judge didn’t get enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. At least not enough according to the opponent in that race, Judge Sylvia Matthews, who filed a challenge to the petition that the potential candidate submitted. The candidate, Paul Coselli, then hired a specialist in these matters, attorney Jerard Najvar, to represent him. After losing his initial request, Mr. Coselli retained attorney Eric Dick, who took the case pro-bono and was able to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order telling the HCRP to put Coselli on the ballot.
The HCRP said, no, Mr. Coselli was never on the ballot so we cannot ‘put him back’. So Monday morning, Coselli (Dick) goes back to the same court and gets an amended TRO saying that if Coselli is not placed on the ballot, there will be severe sanctions against Paul Simpson. Click here to view a copy of the amended TRO. On Facebook, Dick highlighted bullet point 10:
10. This Court admonishes Paul Simpson and warns him that he can and may be imprisoned for up to 6 months in the event he continues to ignore this Court’s orders.
Interesting that Dick highlighted that passage on Chris Carmona for Texas’ Facebook page. But that is why we need to think about the timeline.
The Facebook post that Dick commented on was Carmona claiming that HCRP Chair Paul Simpson was…well, I’ll let you decide:
Sad state of affairs with the current HCRP Chairman. In the same breath he falsely takes credit for the diversity of the Republican primary ticket, he also removes a Hispanic female candidate (and pct chair) and threatens to remove a Black female candidate (and pct chair). The party chair shouldn’t be picking winners or losers, and it is unprecedented for the Republican party chair to remove candidates from a ballot without forcing the challenging candidate to get a court order. So much for an unbiased chair and diversity. This is the type of losing behavior that causes people to walk away from the Republican brand. The chairman should be ashamed of himself and should step down for this stunt he is pulling. It’s Time to Win Again!
I suppose that people can take that in several different ways. When I see “falsely takes credit for the diversity”, “removes a Hispanic female candidate” and “threatens to remove a Black female candidate”, I see a charge of racism and/or misogyny. I was taken aback by that and asked Chris about it. He said:
Wouldn’t say Racism…just ironic that in one hand you claim to have the most diverse ticket and then in the other hand you remove or try to remove that diversity….
So take that however you want to.
But remember, we are setting a sort of quasi timeline. So first we have Coselli/Dick trying to force the party to accept a petition that they have determined, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to be invalid after receiving a challenge from Judge Sylvia Matthews. Then on Friday, January 5th, Carmona puts his statement out charging Simpson with being against diversity in the party (at best). On Sunday afternoon, January 7th, Carmona supporter Gary Polland sends out an attack piece on Simpson about the same issue. Heck, Polland liked it so much that he resent it on Monday morning, January the 8th, at about the same time that Dick was back in court getting the only Democrat Judge in the County Civil Courts to threaten Simpson with jail time.
Since Polland liked his piece so much, I’ll include the intro:
TCR Comment: This article is quite extensive. It tells the disturbing story of the Harris County Republican Party under Paul Simpson in free fall. With a losing streak now over a year old and no wins to show, one would think it’s time for all men and women to work together for a successful 2018 ticket.
Instead, we have a party for the first time in modern history looking for ways to kick Republican candidates off the ballot. The first victim was Paul Coselli, but the party and Simpson wanted more and then came for Civil District Judge candidate Sharon Hemphill and Family District Judge candidate Melanie Flowers. With the same weak complaints about their petitions, they backed off so only Coselli is fighting for his rightful place on the ballot.
If you take the time to read the article it makes clear more than ever that we can’t win in November with the Simpson clan running the party into the ground.
Since I like to deal in facts and not sweeping innuendo and gossip, I contacted HCRP Executive Director Ben McPhaul to get the facts about the various challenges to these candidates. I also spoke to Paul Simpson for his perspective. Of course, I had already talked to Eric Dick and texted with Carmona. Here is a factual representation of the challenges this year.
- State law changed and the petition process was added back to the law, creating some confusion by all parties.
- The party consulted with the Secretary of State’s office on the petition challenges. The reason for their strict adherence to the SOS’s advice was that when Simpson took office in 2014, the party was in the middle of a lawsuit by Democrat JP George Risner to keep Leonila Olivares off the ballot. That lawsuit ultimately cost the party $50,000 because former Chair Jared Woodfill did not consult with the Secretary of State and the SOS refused to reimburse the party. Lesson learned.
- In the 281st District Court race, Judge Sylvia Matthews challenged the petitions of Paul Coselli. Gary Polland was one of six people to gather petitions for Coselli. After reviewing the signatures and ‘technical’ aspects of the petitions in consultation with the SOS, Coselli was deemed to not have enough valid signatures. A Temporary Restraining Order was obtained ordering the HCRP to put Mr. Coselli back on the ballot. The HCRP claimed that since he was never on the ballot, they could not put him back. An Amended TRO was obtained with threats of jail time for Chairman Simpson. A hearing on the matter has been set for Tuesday, January 16th. As of the afternoon of Monday, January 8th, the HCRP has appealed the granting of the Amended TRO and Mr. Coselli has not been placed on the ballot.
- In the County Probate Court 2 race, Ray Black challenged the petitions of Will Archer. Mr. Archer conceded that his petitions were short.
- In the 184th District Court race, Renee Magee challenged the petitions of Antonio Benavedes. Mr. Benavedes conceded that his petitions were short.
- In the 189th District Court race, Erin Lunceford challenged the petitions of Sharon Hemphill. The HCRP concluded, after consulting with the Secretary of State’s office, that while there were some invalid signatures and deficiencies, Ms. Hemphill had enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.
- In the 257th District Court Race, Alyssa Lemkuil challenged the petitions of Melanie Flowers. The HCRP concluded, after consulting with the Secretary of State’s office, that while there were some invalid signatures and deficiencies, Ms. Flowers had enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.
- In the race for County Clerk, Stan Stanart challenged the timing of the application to be on the ballot submitted by Noemi Valdez, claiming that her application was submitted after 6:00 pm and had video to prove it. The Primary Director at the time consulted with the Secretary of State’s office and was told that the 6:00 pm deadline was a hard deadline and that being in the building was not enough to overrule that, unlike being in line to vote. Thus, her application was rejected.
- In the race for State Rep, District 127, Dan Huberty has challenged the residency of Reginald Grant. Huberty tried to get the HCRP to disqualify Grant but was told that residency requirements are not part of their purview. Huberty then filed suit to disqualify Grant, case #201784457-7 in Judge Bill Burke’s 189th Court. Huberty first sued Simpson, State GOP Chair James Dickey and Grant. It appears that only Grant is now included. Grant is represented by longtime GOP activist Tom Zakes, Huberty by former Harris County Attorney Mike Stafford. The case is ongoing and the most recent motions were filed on Friday, January 5th.
Those are the facts. In none of these cases do we see Paul Simpson initiating the rejection of a candidate. What is baffling to me is why Carmona, Polland, Dick, et. al., say that Simpson is blocking people from the ballot. It simply makes no sense – where is the benefit to Simpson? The only answer that I’ve received is from Dick, who thinks that Simpson is doing this to improve his chances of reelection because in Dick’s mind, less activity helps Simpson. I don’t buy that line but to each their own. At least Dick has a theory.
Beyond the baffling part, the idea that this is a worthy campaign issue strikes me as very far-fetched. Obviously I’m not a professional and don’t make money off the primaries like Polland but still, does anyone truly believe that Paul Simpson of all people would try to keep candidates off the ballot to protect incumbents that were in office long before he became chair? Seriously?
This strikes me as less of an issue and more of a character smear, trying to throw enough mud around that they hope something sticks and voters get a negative impression of Simpson. Frankly, it reminds of the way the party was run before Simpson took office, when smearing people’s reputations was the modus operandi of the party leaders (including the defacto leaders, aka slate mailers).
My advice to Carmona would be to stick to the ideas you championed when we talked back in December. Focus on the ‘plan’ you bullet pointed but haven’t developed – right now it is more like a list of platitudes than it is a working plan. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.
And while I don’t expect Simpson to start throwing mud back (that has never been his modus operandi), I would expect that at some point his camp will start developing some type of contrast narrative. No one likes to be smeared without responding, even if they don’t respond in kind.
As the HCRP turns….