The November 2018 midterm elections delivered some shocking blows to several Hays County Republican candidates. While many were surprised with the key losses in several important races, the results weren’t a shock to conservative activists who had, for quite some time, been paying attention to local voting trends and the lackluster performance of the Hays County GOP.

To the casual observer, perhaps one of the most surprising upsets was seen in the race for Hays County judge between favored Republican candidate, Will Conley, and his Democrat challenger (the perceived underdog) Ruben Becerra. Despite the fact that Conley outspent his opponent by more than half a million dollars, the former Hays County commissioner narrowly lost by just 2,677 votes.

To those familiar with the Hays GOP’s track record of supporting tax-and-spend candidates while systematically excluding those who advocate conservative principles, this result was long expected.

For years now, Hays GOP leadership has garnered a reputation of abandoning conservative principles while also excluding newcomers and grassroots volunteers. From cutting out duly elected Republican county precinct chairs to shunning anyone they can’t completely control, the Hays County GOP has been anything but a place of acceptance for true conservatives.

Craig Young and Shawn Blakeley are two prime examples of solid conservatives that were elected as county chair, but eventually resigned because Linda and Wally Kinney (who deem themselves local party “leaders”) made life so miserable for them.

In fact, the Kinneys and County Chair Russell Hayter have gone out of their way in recent elections to strategically recruit opponents for well-involved, conservative precinct chair candidates. Many of their recruits never attended a single county executive committee, even after being elected.

Even worse, Hayter went so far as to refuse committee appointments to two elected precinct chairs but then appointed their defeated opponents as vice chairmen. Those concerned about ballooning budgets and debt are not welcome. Those who believe in the Constitution are not welcome. Those who embrace an inclusive process are not welcome.

Now, after years of cutting people out, the result is a giant rift in the local party — a rift which has cost the party the county judgeship and a race for state representative.

Not only does the local GOP have a long track record of ignoring and alienating volunteers who espouse conservative principles, but Republican-led Hays County is nearly half a billion dollars in debt. The county is also among the top in debt per capita in Texas, has billions more in local school district debt, and is rapidly piling on alarming levels of municipal debt as well.

Dangerous debt levels go hand-in-hand with skyrocketing property taxes. What’s conservative about that? Hardworking, principled, fiscally conservative activists and volunteers aren’t going to get excited about campaigning and fighting for more government, more debt, and more taxes.

Because of the county GOP’s behavior and the poor public policy decisions of their elected officials, the regular folks who have been shunned have not only refused to campaign for local Republican candidates this cycle, but many chose to vote for local Democrats. Their reasoning was: Why continue to vote for Republicans that personally insult you, particularly if liberal policies will be the result anyway?

The Hays County establishment Republicans can no longer continue to abandon our party principles while excluding and alienating the Republican base of devout conservatives and hardworking activists. Our loyal base is too valuable a resource to cut out and, going forward, our base will be a vital component needed to win elections in the battleground areas.

The recent midterm results are a reminder that the days of alienating principled conservatives and still expecting to cruise to victory are long gone.

This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to the Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to

Ashley Whittenberger

Ashley is a mixed-media artist, native Texan, and local political activist in Dripping Springs.


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