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As the March 3 Republican primary approaches, voters in Montgomery County may receive a candidate slate with the misleading label of “Republican” on it.

The deceptively named Republican Voters of Texas PAC actually has no affiliation with the Republican Party. In fact, the organization has been formally condemned by the Montgomery County Republican Party for using the GOP brand to trick voters.

Calling themselves “a voice for the common-sense conservative,” the RVT PAC was formed in 2018 by several left-leaning members of Montgomery County’s political establishment. They were unhappy with new bylaws passed by the local Republican Party, which took power away from the establishment.

Before the bylaws were changed, the MCRP was highly centralized under County Chairman Wally Wilkerson and his clique of establishment favorites. But in June of 2018, reformers in the party passed the new bylaws to decentralize authority and create a system of checks and balances, requiring more people to have input in the party’s decisions rather than the chairman calling all the shots.

The loss of their power did not sit well with the old guard, and they soon developed a plan to regain control: create a PAC to target all of the Republican precinct chairs who supported the new bylaws, then use the Republican brand to make voters think the PAC’s candidates are supported by the Republican Party.

Maritza Ghiselle Fletcher, the wife of Shenandoah City Councilman Ted Fletcher, was made president of the PAC; Linda Stuckey, former campaign treasurer for County Commissioner Charlie Riley, was named PAC treasurer. Some of the RVT PAC’s notable board members include State Sen. Robert Nichols’ staffer Luinne Hancock, convicted felon Greg Long, former Precinct 5 Constable David Hill, and former Sheriff Tommy Gage.

The RVT PAC has already sent out a mailer endorsing a slate of candidates in the 2018 municipal elections. They endorsed candidates against three pro-bylaws precinct chairs who were running for local office, and many noted the RVT PAC list of endorsements looked similar to the list of candidates being promoted by the Democrats.

In response to the RVT PAC’s misleading use of the Republican name, the MCRP issued a resolution strongly censuring the group for “deceptive electioneering practices.”

“The Montgomery County Republican Party condemns and denounces the Republican Voters of Texas PAC and demands that they cease and desist their bad faith use of the word ‘Republican’ in the name of their PAC and that they immediately discontinue their deceptive electioneering practices,” the resolution read. “Specifically we call for their President, Ritzy Fletcher, Vice President John Webb, Treasurer Linda Stuckey to denounce this type of destructive, divisive, deceptive, spiteful activity within the Montgomery County Republican Party.”

The resolution, authored by Precinct 40 Chairman Henry Daniels, states that the RVT PAC “was formed just prior to the November 2018 election and worked to defeat any and all fellow Republicans who stand in support of the RPT Rules, Texas Election Code, and the newly adopted MCRP bylaws” and that they “endorsed some of the same candidates in the November 2018 election that Democrats were endorsing.”

The tactics of the RVT PAC are reminiscent of another deceptive group once used to influence Montgomery County elections. In 2014, several establishment candidates in the primary election runoff who were not endorsed by the county’s influential tea party group decided to start their own “tea party” in order to make voters think they had conservative support.

They created a slate appearing very similar to that of the real tea party—but endorsing the opposing candidates—and called it the “Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition,” checking off as many buzzwords as possible. They then hired people to wear shirts similar to the tea party to pass their slates out at the early voting locations.

The operation was mostly funded by the candidates’ own campaign accounts, county contractors, and real estate developers.

Some of the same people involved with the “fake tea party” PAC are also behind the RVT PAC. Riley’s campaign manager, Kristin Christ, and her husband Bryan, who is now running for county chairman, were both involved with the counterfeit tea party in 2014. Both are now involved with the RVT PAC, with the couple donating a combined $1,050 to the group, according to the most recent finance report.

“When voters go to the polls and are handed a voter slate that says ‘Republican’ on it, they should have confidence that it is actually a ‘Republican’ voter slate and not the product of some PAC that has simply commandeered the Republican name in an effort to deceive voters and exact revenge or further their own agenda,” said Jon Bouche, who is also running for county GOP chairman.

“If you receive a mailer from the Republican Voters of Texas PAC, I recommend you throw it in the trash,” said Bouche. “This group was established to fight against Republicans and has been condemned by the local Republican Party.”