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For 54 years, Dr. Walter D. Wilkerson has chaired the Montgomery County Republican Party of Texas. He was there when Texas, like most of the south, was “blue” and he was there when much of the south, along with Texas, turned “red”.

While the demographics of the country and even our beloved Texas continue to shift, Dr. Wilkerson has remained steady with what he calls his “big tent” philosophy. The fact is, his tent is so big that you won’t find a copy of the Republican Party of Texas platform displayed in the MCRP headquarters nor does he distribute it to prospective candidates, as he views it as being far too rigid. As he likes to say, “If someone says they are a Republican, I don’t ask what kind of Republican they are.”

Near as anyone can tell, Chairman Wilkerson has always been this way and it’s clear that he just doesn’t seem to like change at all. As he likes to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that philosophy is clearly visible in the way that the MCRP operates. Stepping into the MCRP headquarters is really like stepping back in time. It feels more like museum than it does an energized campaign headquarters but times have changed even though the MCRP has not. In fact, the MCRP has adopted the same set of bylaws at the County Executive Committee biennial meetings for at least the last 25 years. But on June 26, 2018, all of that changed.

On that night, the CEC adopted a new set of bylaws which would help modernize and unify the party, and put the party in a better position to deal with the growing Democrat threat in Montgomery County. As one might imagine, the bylaw change did not go over well with Chairman Wilkerson and the “old guard” and they have been fighting the change with one specious argument after another ever since the new bylaws were adopted. So why was it so important to adopt new bylaws? Why the sense of urgency?

In 2016, about 46,000 Democrats turned out to vote in Montgomery County for Hillary Clinton and that number is growing every day. Meanwhile, in the Montgomery County Republican Primary election in early 2018, there was a highly energized and sustained effort to get out the vote in the hotly contested race for County Judge. The total number of votes in that race was also about 46,000. It should also be mentioned that in December 2017, nine Democrats filed to run in the 2018 General Election in Montgomery County. They obviously see the opportunity to compete and the MCRP should have taken notice of that but seemingly, they were oblivious.

So how did Chairman Wilkerson and the MCRP adjust to address this growing threat from Democrats? You guessed it: they did absolutely nothing different. And whenever Chairman Wilkerson was asked about this he would simply reply, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But since Republicans were now losing some races in Montgomery County, the Democrats’ numbers were increasing and the Republican voter turnout was low, many people within the county felt that the M.C.R.P. was, in fact, broke and needed to be fixed before it was too late. It was very obvious that the Democrats saw this as well.

While this debate was raging, during the last election cycle in early 2018, the balance of power on the CEC tipped to the grassroots conservatives as they gained several more seats. In consideration of the current and ever changing political landscape of the county, their first order of business was to write new bylaws which would decentralize the power from the Chairman so that the party could be more unified. The new bylaws would also allow some different people to be involved in leadership as leaders would now be elected by the CEC and not just simply appointed by the Chairman.

These new bylaws would also allow the committees to be staffed by people who actually wanted to get things done as opposed to people who just happened to be in the good graces of the Chairman and enjoyed having titles affixed to their names. As a result of this diversification of the committees, new technologies could be implemented and the MCRP would get a much needed facelift to their dismal and almost nonexistent social media program. Yes, things were looking up for the MCRP after those new bylaws were adopted on June 26, 2018 but then, something unexpected happened when 17 days later, on July 13, Chairman Wilkerson declared that the new bylaws had NOT been adopted. That’s right. The Chairman had convinced himself that he had the power to nullify the vote of the CEC by a simple decree sent out via email and mailed to the homes of Republican voters in Montgomery County.

In his decree, Chairman Wilkerson made the erroneous claim that to adopt bylaws at the CEC Organizational Meeting, it required a 2/3 vote of those in attendance and voting. This was simply not the case, and when the newly elected Steering Committee attempted to discuss the matter with Chairman Wilkerson, he just insisted that the old bylaws had been reinstated and refused to listen to reason.

Due to the intransigence of Chairman Wilkerson, MCRP Vice Chairman Reagan Reed [East Texas Correspondent for Empower Texans] referred this matter to the Republican Party of Texas for a ruling. State Chairman James Dickey gave the following ruling:

Vice Chairman Reed,

Thank you for your email. RPT Rule 1f provides the Republican state Chair the authority to clarify rules where ambiguity exists subject to final clarification by the SREC.
I read your question as “What is the threshold needed to adopt bylaws for a County Executive Committee?”

There is no ambiguity in the RPT Rules for me to clarify on this. Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised specifies on page 559 lines 21-24 – “Adoption of bylaws through which a society is brought into being requires only a majority vote.”

In the fight to defeat Democrats this November it is critical that each of us fulfill our unique roles and work together toward victory. I pray for wisdom and grace for all.

Please do not hesitate to email or call if there is any way I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

James Dickey
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas

Despite RPT Chairman Dickey’s clear response regarding the voting threshold of a simple majority to adopt bylaws at an Organizational Meeting, Chairman Wilkerson refused to comply. He would later change his position and claim that the MCRP bylaws never expire, so that claim was also referred to Chairman Dickey for clarification. At the request of Senate District 4 State Republican Executive Committee representatives Allison Winter and Walter West, Chairman Dickey then sent yet another email which stated:

Committeewoman Winter and Committeeman West,

Thank you for your email. RPT Rule 1f provides the Republican State Chair the authority to clarify rules where ambiguity exists subject to final clarification by the SREC. I read your question as “What does the phrase ‘Organizational Meeting for a County Executive Committee’ mean in Rule 8e?”

RPT Rule 8e uses the term “organizational meeting” in the same sense that is used in Robert’s Rules of Order. RONR page 555 lines 6-11 reads:

“Such a resolution, it should be noted, is only a declaration of intention; its adoption does not bring the organization into being, which is accomplished by the adoption of bylaws and the signing of the membership roll by those who initially join the society, as described below [emphasis added].”

So, with respect to a County Executive Committee, an Organizational Meeting is the first CEC meeting each biennium, called in accordance with Rule 8e, at which bylaws are adopted, and at which members (precinct chairs and county chair) are sworn in (placed on the membership roll).

In the fight to defeat Democrats this November it is critical that each of us fulfill our unique roles and work together toward victory. I pray for wisdom and grace for all.

Please do not hesitate to email or call if there is any way I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

James Dickey
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas

Despite yet another very clear ruling from the RPT Chairman, Wilkerson still refuses to accept the results of the CEC vote and has secreted the books and changed the locks on the MCRP headquarters. He has even hired an attorney and has threatened legal action against the Steering Committee and all of the precinct chairs who voted for the new bylaws. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated that Chairman Wilkerson’s rapacious hunger for power would have gone this far but, here we are.

As for the Steering Committee and the new leadership of the MCRP, they have reached out to all members of the party and have sought to involve everyone who wants to participate in the leadership team and the general election effort to help the Republican candidates. While this is going on, Chairman Wilkerson has given media interviews and sent out mailers and emails in which he insults those involved with drafting and passing the new bylaws. He and his few supporters have even contacted those participating in the newly formed committees and sought to intimidate them into withdrawing from helping with the MCRP general election effort.

Even so, the Steering Committee and the majority of the CEC continue to march forward because they understand what is at stake in the November elections. As usual, Chairman Wilkerson and his ever dwindling number of followers will, once again, in all likelihood just sit home and do little or nothing to help the Republican candidates. The good news is that to most everyone else involved in the MCRP, it is very clear that things were broken and we needed to fix them.

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