More than 60 persons attended the meeting at the Walking ‘S’ Steak House near Gilmer. Besides the candidates in the March 4 GOP primary, the audience also heard a representative of gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s campaign.
Since no Democrats filed to run for county office for the first time in recent memory, and the only two elected Democratic officeholders in the county government aren’t seeking reelection in 2014, the GOP will take over all county offices in 2015 if its unopposed nominee for County Clerk, Terri Ross, defeats her Libertarian opponent, Peggy LaGrone.
“I think we all need to give ourselves a round of applause” for the Republicans’ progress in the county, Upshur GOP Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway told the audience.
Among the speakers were three of incumbent U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall’s opponents in the GOP primary—Lou Gigliotti, John Stacy and Tony Arterburn. (Hall represents part of Upshur County. Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler, who represents the rest, is unpposed for reelection in the party’s primary.)
Gigliotto focused on criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency, saying EPA stands for “Employment Prevention Agency,” and that it should be abolished because it “will shut down anything with a smokestack.”
Texas has lost 80 percent of its manufacturing capacity, mainly due to the EPA, he said, and gives grants to “save the whale, save the earth—save everything but the humans.”
Stacy, a onetime city councilman who is an investment adviser in the insurance business, pledged to “never raise taxes” nor vote against business. He said he had fought Obamacare since 2009 and had fought the EPA in Austin for four months, but that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst would not let legislation involving the EPA onto the floor of the Texas Senate, and that “Dewhurst looked me in the eye and told me ‘go to hell’ because he was never going to pass anything I wanted to pass.”
Arterburn, who drew applause several times, called for repealing the Patriot Act, which he said is “being abused,” said the military has been “broken” by sending the same veterans over and over again to the same war zones, said “the income tax is destroying America,” and that he favored a revenue-neutral “fair tax,” and advocated repealing the Immigration Act of 1965.
Abbott’s representative, Saul Mendoza, said the state is “already number one in everything” but education, and that Abbott wanted children to have access to software and digital equipment.
Wayne Christian, a candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, cited his record as a member of the Texas House for 14 years and said he had been endorsed by Texas Right to Life after “we defunded 22 Planned Parenthood clinics.”
The Railroad Commission no longer has anything to do with railroads, but regulates oil, gas and lignite, and those things are in danger if the Obama administration takes Texas “green” since “clean green energy” means everything but those, Christian warned.
Ralph Burgess, unopposed in the GOP primary for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals, noted he has been a State District Judge the past 11 years in Bowie County, and said he wanted to meet people in the district covered by the Appeals Court.
David Watts Jr., an Upshur Countian who is among opponents of George P. Bush for state Land Commissioner, said “We keep hearing the same thing around the state—We’re not voting for any more Bushes.” Watts also opposed San Antonio citizens trying to get the Alamo designatd as a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations, which he said has impacted commercial development around the historic battle site because the U.N. doesn’t like that.
Ronnica Ridgeway, candidate for Upshur County Judge, said the county could get new ideas from officials and that politics should be “accountable, conservative and transparent.” She cited her past as a private professional guardian for incapacitated adults, and said the Upshur County Judge deals with appointing them.
Karen Bunn, candidate for District Clerk, cited her nearly eight years as a current deputy in the office, and said she is knowledgeable of all duties it performs. She also said she has a “good working relationship” with attorneys.
The two candidates for County Treasurer, Brandy Vick and Todd Quinn, also spoke.
Mrs. Vick said she has worked the past 8 1/2 years in the Treasurer’s Office, including as chief deputy the past two years, and that she is experienced in all areas it handles. Quinn, a Cowboy Church preacher and Etex Telephone employee who formerly was a businessman, said “government is a business. Government must be run like a business.”
Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and his opponent for reelection, Don Gross, also spoke.
Hefner said the county had come from a “very large” budget deficit to a projected surplus, that commissioners had reduced the countywide work force by about 10 percent, and that they had reduced their own salaries by “a little over 25 percent.” He said the county needed to build its reserves, plan infrastructure improvements, and work on its computer system.
Gross, a school resource officer for the county Sheriff’s Office, cited his past background as a schoolteacher and principal and his current membership on the New Diana School Board. Saying “I have no political aspirations past County Commissioner,” he called on the county government to “intensify our efforts” to attract industry, thus creating a larger tax base.
Cheryl Taylor, a candidate for Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace, said she did not have the experience her two opponents have in working in JP offices, “but I have the confidence I can do the job.” She cited her background as a licensed nurse who has worked in Gilmer for more than 20 years, and said she had been involved in construction safety.
Becky Skinner, a candidate for Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace, cited her background as Gilmer Municipal Judge since 2004 after serving as associate judge and court clerk. She said she holds court once weekly, and that JP courts “have much in common” with city courts, since both hear misdemeanors, act as magistrates, issue warrants, and set bail. She also said her court disposed of 2,322 cases in one year and collected more than $319,000.
After the candidates spoke, Chairman Ridgeway, who is unopposed for reelection to her post, announced the GOP county convention will be held March 22 at a time and location to be announced. The Executive Committee will next meet at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Gilmer Country Club, she announced.