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State officials: Attempt to oust Upshur County's GOP chair illegal

By Christina Lane
Nov. 14, 2011 at 10 p.m.

The rift in the Upshur County Republican Party grew deeper Monday when a faction of the local party announced they have removed the chairman from office. However, the state Republican Party said it is not legal.

"There is no legal mechanism for removing a county chair," said Chris Elam, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas. "The state party has not taken sides, but we are aware of what is going on in Upshur County. We have a primary election coming, and we know the county will have this issue resolved soon."

Cynthia Ridgeway with the Upshur County Republican Party said Monday that a majority of the county's executive committee voted to remove Chairman Ken Ambrose from his position because of profane language, views toward women and misdirection of the local party.

"We want the citizens of Upshur County and the State of Texas to know that the profane language and the demeaning views toward women so frequently expressed by Ken Ambrose are not representative of the values of the Republican Party Upshur County Executive Committee," Ridgeway said. "The misdirected way he has tried to run the local party has been a continuing embarrassment for our entire county, and a stumbling block to the growth of our party."

Ambrose reaffirmed that the attempt to remove him from office was not legal.

"I want to thank the state Republican party for their wisdom in this matter," Ambrose said. "It is, as I have always believed, a matter for the voters to decide."

Ridgeway is among a group of Republicans who represent a faction of the party that does not attend meetings called by Ambrose. Instead, the group has held meetings called by Madaline Barber, whom the group recognizes as the party's secretary. Ambrose does not acknowledge Barber as the party secretary and does not attend the meetings.

The party has been divided since Ambrose first called an organizational meeting in June 2010. Barber and Ridgeway were among Republicans who sued Ambrose at the first of the year when he replaced them as precinct chairs because they did not attend his meetings. A judge reaffirmed their elected positions.

The party division grew deeper with the start of the primary election season when Ambrose and Barber each said people should file for office with them. Ambrose and Barber each have filed complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission regarding each other.

"The Republican Party of Texas Platform's primary principles express our belief in personal accountability and responsibility," Ridgeway said.

Among things in the platform preamble are values of family as a strength and a duty to develop responsible citizens, she said.

"While we recognize that our decision to remove Mr. Ambrose from his position is used in rare circumstances, it is our expectation that our state party leadership will uphold these valued Republican principles by affirming our decision," Ridgeway said.

However, Elam reaffirmed there is no mechanism at this time for removing a chairman. He said an attempt was made in the past to provide a way to remove someone from office, but that item did not pass. Elam said the March primary will decide a new chairman, and until that time Ambrose will be in the position.

"I promised the voters of Upshur County that I would clean up the mess that has been the Republican Party in Upshur County in the past and it appears we are getting very close to accomplishing that goal," Ambrose said. "We have 14 precinct chairs running for 15 places and we are looking for one more to make it a clean sweep. We want to bring the party to a level of respectability that it has never been seen before."



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