GOP Party Chairman Files Legal Challenge After Loss
By PHILLIP WILLIAMS
GILMER -- Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Ken Ambrose has filed a legal challenge to the outcome of the May 29 GOP primary in which he lost his bid for reelection, alleging "material irregularities" in conducting the election.
Ambrose filed the challenge against his two opponents who landed in a runoff, Cynthia Ridgeway and Charles (Chuck) Mears, in 115th District Court on Monday.
In a petition for a temporary restraining order and injunction, filed by Gladewater attorney Steven M. Dowd, Ambrose said he learned after the election that an unspecified number of voters were "denied the right to vote in the appropriate precincts ... because of miscoding of voter registration cards."
"In some instances, these voters were turned away at the polls, though duly registered to vote, because of improperly miscoded voter registration cards showing residence and voting boxes outside of their precincts of residence," Ambrose alleged. His petition named 11 people who purportedly have "personal knowledge of said events."
"Because of these material irregularities, and because Plaintiff Ambrose failed to make the runoff election by a mere 61 votes, such material irregularities could lead to a completely different outcome of said election," the petition contended, adding that the chairman "challenges the outcome of said election."
Attached to the petition were affidavits from several people, saying their voter cards were miscoded, showing they lived in a precinct other than where they reside. These voters said election officials didn't allow them to vote in the correct precinct, and that they voted in an incorrect precinct, preventing them from voting for precinct candidates in the precinct where they lived.
The petition also cites a woman's affidavit that purports to show that "one of the early voting boxes was unsecured by virtue of a broken computer seal."
Mrs. Ridgeway topped the field in the chairman race with 2,365 votes in complete, unofficial returns, while Mears received 1,254 and Ambrose drew 1,194. The top two finishers would meet in a July 31 runoff if the election results stand.
Ambrose requested a temporary restraining order stopping Mrs. Ridgeway and Mears "from directly or indirectly interfering with or attempting to replace" Ambrose and "the elected slate of delegates for Upshur County" from representation at the state Republican convention today in Fort Worth.
The document also asks the co-defendants be prevented from the same action concerning Ambrose's rights to canvass votes from the May 29 primary. It asks that the court schedule a temporary injunction hearing on the matter.
Ambrose and Mrs. Ridgeway conducted separate, competing county conventions of the Upshur GOP on April 21, with each gathering electing its own delegation to the state convention. The state convention's Credentials Committee is scheduled to decide this afternoon which delegation will be seated -- the one headed by Ambrose or the one headed by Mrs. Ridgeway.
Ironically, Mrs. Ridgeway was elected as a member of Ambrose's delegation in what he termed an effort to be "inclusive." She has said that if the delegation she is heading is not seated, she will serve with Ambrose's delegation.
On Tuesday, she said she had not seen Ambrose's petition nor been notified of any legal ruling on it. But she called the document "stupid" and added, "In his capacity as chairman, it's his responsibility to train ... election judges and the workers on what to do if someone comes to the wrong place to vote."
"I have to laugh," Mrs. Ridgeway told The Tyler Paper. "My first reaction is Ken Ambrose is a sore loser" who "has proved he will go to desperate measures" to retain power he thinks he possesses as chairman, she said.
Mears was unavailable for comment when the newspaper attempted to contact him Tuesday night.