Have I mentioned lately that 2008 is going to be a very interesting year around here? Yes, I think I have. And it's stuff like this that keeps fueling such statements.
In a surprise announcement before an audience of elected Republican officials on Thursday, Fort Bend County GOP Chairman Gary Gillen said he and a slate of top party officers have quit.
Citing untenable political differences with what he termed "a number of fringe elements in the party," Gillen said he, party Treasurer Richard McCarter, Secretary Nancy Porter and Parliamentarian Dick Hudgins have resigned effective immediately.
"We have a problem in Fort Bend County that I'd like to bring to your attention," Gillen told an audience at a luncheon meeting of the West Fort Bend Republican Women, at Katy's Falcon Point Country Club. "We're facing nother less than a hostile takeover" of the county Republican Party.
Gillen did not identify members of a group he said gradually drove him to Thursday's decision, but at one point in an interview after his announcement said, "if the executive committee of the party are not interested in helping all of our candidates equally, I am not interested in working with them."
Gillen has clashed with members of the party's executive committee repeatedly in the 18 months or so since he took office. In fact, on Jan. 3, 2007, the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, in the person of the executive committee, filed a lawsuit against Gillen, saying he diverted money from the party by attempting to operate the party's Lincoln Day fund-raiser through another organization.
More recently, Attorney and Precinct Chairman David Stone sent an email to Gillen, McCarter and the GOP General Counsel Farha Ahmed, in which he detailed instances where he said party officials failed to comply with election law.
In the email, Stone alleges, among other things, that Gillen has used party funds for in-kind contributions to local and federal candidates but failed to report it as required by law.
Gillen discounted the accusations on Tuesday, saying "We don't think Mr. Stone has his facts together." Before an audience of judges, law enforcement officers and elected officials on Thursday, Gillen said, without mentioning him by name, that as a Republican, Stone "could not work in a better way as a Democrat than he has done."
Procedurally, the move by Gillen and other top party officials leaves the Fort Bend County Republican Party Executive Committee at least temporarily unable to meet - just days after several committee members said they intended to call a special meeting over issues raised in Stone's email.
According to the Texas Election Code, if the county party chairman's position becomes vacant, the party secretary is to call a meeting "for the purpose of filling it." But with no party secretary either, it's up to the Texas Republican Party chair, "on written request of a member of the county executive committee," to call a meeting to fill the county chairman vacancy.