Image: Members of the Davenport Ring gather in the Republican Party Headquarters in early December, 2017, left to right, Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace-Elect Jason Dunn, JP James Metts, soon-to-be-former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and Wilkerson who worked closely with County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport and her husband, the disgraced and corrupt political boss Marc Davenport.
Conroe, July 10 – After delivering a portion of a speech in which he made clear to a room full of Republicans that he would not share leadership with anyone in the Montgomery County Republican Party unless they genuflected towards him, County GOP Chairman Wally Wilkerson told the Montgomery County Executive Committee – comprised of the elected Precinct Chairs – the truth that he doesn’t care about the Republican Party Platform which is the very definition of what makes someone a Republican as opposed to a member of the other party. “I’ve toiled in these vineyards since 1964 and I’ve learned a few things about politics that some of you have never learned. We’ve operated under a big tent. When people say they’re Republican, we don’t say what kind of Republican they are. The small tent is a losing proposition, and you’re going to lead the Party to defeat. The smaller you get the tent the worse it will be,” Wilkerson told the roomful of Republican Precinct Chairs, at the June 26, 2018, meeting, most of whose jaws had dropped to the floor.
After Wilkerson’s comments in which he rejected the Republican Party Platform largely crafted by conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and his followers who have rejected the “big tent” concept for more than 30 years, the Montgomery County Precinct Chairs voted decisively, 39 to 31, to adopt new Party Bylaws that decentralized the Party’s authority away from the anti-Republican Wilkerson and gave that authority to individuals much closer to the voters who expect elected politicians to fulfill the Platform promises on which they ran for office. (One person who voted with Wilkerson had resigned her position as a Precinct Chair but Wilkerson deceptively allowed her to vote anyway.)
The reality is that Wilkerson has opposed the Republican Party Platform ever since the Reagan era when the Party strongly stood for lower government spending, lower government taxation, and efforts to end abortion on demand. Wilkerson has fought for the right of elected servants, who ran under the Republican banner, to do whatever they wanted to do upon entering office rather than to follow the promises they made in the Republican Platform on which they ran for office. During the 2018 Primary Election cycle, Wilkerson explicitly stated in a candidate forum, “The Party is not going to discipline our candidate.”
Political parties unite around a Platform. That’s what defines them. Through American history, that’s been particularly true for the Republican Party which rose up as the Party of abolition (abolish slavery, abolish racial discrimination, abolish big government, abolish abortion.) Wilkerson, however, has made clear that he doesn’t support the Republican Party’s Platform at least since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
In the 1990s, a group of grassroots conservatives tried to get Wilkerson and the Republican Headquarters Committee to put a copy of the GOP Platform on display in the Party Headquarters. Wilkerson refused.
During the 1990s and late 1980s, Wilkerson at first tried to define himself as a “fiscal conservative” as opposed to a “social conservative.” The reality soon became clear that Wilkerson was neither type of conservative. Both in the 1996 and 1998 GOP Senatorial Conventions in Montgomery County, Wilkerson voted against the Anti-Abortion Planks in the Republican Party Platform. Wilkerson often expressed that he didn’t want anti-abortion activists in Republican Party leadership positions. Wilkerson’s actions flew in the face of several Planks in the Republican Party Platform all of which were Pro-Life and Anti-Abortion.
In the early 2000s, however, it rapidly became clear that Wilkerson was not a “fiscal conservative” either. When the Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) began reducing the costs of its indigent medical care program, Wilkerson was furious that the MCHD Board voted to reduce the payment of full fee-for-service rates for oncology drugs to Sadler Clinic doctors who were making millions of dollars off of the taxpayers. After the MCHD Board voted to reduce the payments for oncology treatments to Medicaid rates, Wilkerson was furious and Sadler Clinic refused to treat indigent patients at all, because they wouldn’t make millions of dollars off of them. Ironically, Dr. Dean Sadler, the founder of Sadler Clinic, supported the MCHD’s Board’s decision to reduce the taxpayers’ burden.
Similarly, the Republican Party Platform makes clear that the Party opposes “illegal immigration magnets,” medical, social, and educational programs provided to illegal aliens for free. Wilkerson, however, had a major break with the MCHD Board and with many others when they wouldn’t follow his demands that illegal immigrants receive those free medical and social programs at taxpayers’ expense.
In 2017, Wilkerson opposed three major fiscally conservative resolutions that came before the Montgomery County GOP Executive Committee:
- Wilkerson opposed the censure of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus who single-handedly killed statewide property tax reform in the 2017 Texas Legislature, killed the bathroom privacy bill, and killed numerous other tax-saving Republican fiscal measures. Wilkerson told the Executive Committee that he knew Straus’ mother and that Straus was a “good person who deserves our support.” The County Executive Committee voted almost unanimously to censure Straus.
- Wilkerson opposed the County Executive Committee resolution calling for the Montgomery County government to adopt a 20% homestead exemption, lower government spending, and raise law enforcement spending. Wilkerson tried to kill the resolution procedurally but failed when the grassroots conservative outmaneuvered him with parliamentary procedure to bring the measure to a final vote as it passed by a 2/3rds margin.
- Wilkerson also opposed the GOP resolution passed on August 17, 2017, in which the County Executive Committee called for a referendum to allow voters to say whether or not tollroad funding should proceed without getting voter approval in a referendum first. Wilkerson tried to adjourn the meeting but his own Parliamentarian overruled him and wouldn’t allow that to happen. The measure passed by a unanimous vote of the Precinct Chairs.
After voters in the March 6 referendum, Proposition 2, voted 91% Countywide to require voter approval before tollroad funding occurred, in a nonbinding referendum, Wilkerson’s opposition to the measure revealed how out of touch Wilkerson is with the principles and beliefs of Republican Party voters.
If Wilkerson is that out of touch with Republican voters, then why did Wilkerson win re-election as County Republican Chairman in 2018? Wilkerson had a very weak opponent, because the focus of that Primary Election was to elect a slate of reform candidates to the County government. Wilkerson’s opponent had just moved to Montgomery County a few weeks before the election. Nevertheless, the opponent still received 43% of the vote against Wilkerson. Voters have had enough of a Republican Party Chairman, Wilkerson, who has merely ridden the wave of suburban voters who moved to Montgomery County to drive elections towards the Republican column, without ever building the Republican Party into an organization to support Republican candidates. But, of course, electing someone with no organizational experience and no knowledge of fundraising in this community would be replacing one ineffective Republican leader with another.
Voters have had enough of a Republican Party Chairman, Wilkerson, who has merely ridden the wave of suburban voters who moved to Montgomery County to drive elections towards the Republican column, without ever building the Republican Party into an organization to support Republican candidates.
Wilkerson’s anti-conservatism came out in spades during the March 6 Republican Primary Election. Despite claiming that he was “neutral” in contested Republican Primary Elections, Wilkerson served as the Chairman of the Vetting Committee of a liberal group called the “Association Republicans of Texas,” closely aligned with Speaker Straus. Wilkerson chose to support Jackie Waters, a Straus ally, over conservative firebrand Steve Toth for State Representative, District 15. Additionally, Wilkerson arranged for the Associated Republicans to spend almost $100,000 for Waters and against Toth in the contested Republican Primary. Waters received 21.62% of the vote while Toth garnered 78.38%, a further reflection on Wilkerson’s lack of knowledge of how to organize a political campaign. (In fact, the last seriously contested political campaign that an incumbent Montgomery County Republican faced against a democrat was in 1998 when State Senator Michael Galloway lost re-election to a liberal democrat, because Wilkerson abjectly failed to provide any Republican organizational support to the incumbent Senator.)
In reality, Wilkerson’s “big tent” has failed on two major fronts. First, by refusing to impose any discipline on Republican candidates who win to become elected officials, Wilkerson bears the responsibility for the corrupt freespending Montgomery County Commissioners Court that defies the Republican Party Platform every time it meets. Second, Wilkerson has failed to raise turnout substantially to support candidates statewide in contested General Elections.
To make matters worse, Wilkerson began working directly with the Davenports and the Davenport Ring during the 2018 election cycle until the Davenport’s precipitous fall from respect. Wilkerson appeared so out of touch with Montgomery County voters that he failed to see what a liability the Davenport name had become.
From anti-Platform to childish
Since the County Executive Committee responded to Wilkerson’s bizarre speech on June 26 by decentralizing the Party’s authority, Wilkerson’s response has been even more strange. It’s a shame, because the newly-elected officers and Steering Committee members have wanted to work with Wilkerson to unify the Republican Party, as Steering Committee Jon Bouche has explained, “We have gone out of our way to be inclusive in building the leadership team for the MCRP under the new bylaws. Getting more people involved who are truly invested in the party is one of the main reasons we drafted these new bylaws in the first place. Unfortunately, it has become very obvious that there is an element within the party that is intent on spreading misinformation, fomenting anger amongst Republican voters and obstructing our efforts to unify the party. It’s very disappointing but also very telling. The good news is, many people who were initially confused or misled by all of the misinformation that was thrown out there have now come to realize what is really going on. We are focused on the task ahead and remain resolute that we will not be dragged into some senseless, ‘us vs them’ debate. There is just too much at stake and the people of Montgomery County deserve so much better than that.”
Last week, Wilkerson changed the locks on the Republican Party Headquarters so that other Party officers, including the Vice Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer, were unable to access the Party’s office.
On Saturday, July 7, 2018, the Montgomery County Republican Party Steering Committee held its first meeting. Wilkerson is a member of that Committee yet he chose to skip the meeting. Worse yet, Wilkerson refused to allow the Steering Committee to post the date, time, and place of the meeting on the County Republican Party’s website in order to give Republicans notice of the meeting and its location. Wilkerson ally Charlie Parada criticized the Steering Committee for failing to post the notice of the meeting in accordance with the Party’s Bylaws, but, in actuality, Parada was criticizing Wilkerson who was entirely at fault for the problem.
Wilkerson has canceled numerous meetings with Party officers and Steering Committee members. Wilkerson has refused to discuss or meet to discuss the plans for the General Election campaign. Wilkerson’s behavior has begun to raise the question: on whose side is Wilkerson – the Republicans or the other party? His political views seem to fit the other party quite well.
Wilkerson is erecting a rather “small tent” around himself.