Precinct chairman primary races heat up

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More and more people are jumping into political waters for the upcoming March primary election.

And while there are a number of candidates and contested races for the Denton County Republican Party, officials say the most-sought-after position of the party is precinct chairman.

“I think most people see it as a chance to get in and make a difference,” said Dianne Edmondson, chairwoman of the county Republican Party. “The Republican Party is a grassroots party. Everything starts at the precinct level. They are making a difference in their own neighborhood.”

The job as precinct chairman is strictly voluntary. The individual serves as a member of the governing body of the county GOP and is elected by the Republican voters in their respective voter precincts.

There are 145 voter precincts, but eight of them have no voters, so candidates will be vying for 137 positions. Edmondson said more than 100 candidates have filed to become chairman of their precinct.

The majority of them are sitting chairmen who have refiled for their positions. In eight of those precincts there are two candidates voters will have to choose from.

Additionally, four precincts will have write-in candidates for the chairman’s position, as the candidates for those precincts did not meet the filing deadline of 6 p.m. Dec. 9 for filing their applications.

Edmondson is also being challenged by a write-in candidate for county chairman, Labib Basta, a former local GOP precinct chairman, whose application also was received after filing deadline and subsequently filed as a write-in candidate.

“It’s an interesting experience,” Edmondson said. “For a lot of people, it’s their first exposure to how the political machinery operates, how the party is structured and how people get elected.”

Edmondson said she is prohibited from endorsing a candidate in a contested primary, but precinct chairmen are not and can help candidates get their messages out.

“It really opens up a whole new world to these people and they like it,” she said.

Phyllis Wolper, chairwoman of the Denton County Democratic Party, said she has also noticed an increased interest in the precinct chairman position heading into the primary.

“Everyone got energized early,” she said. “We picked up a number of precinct chair applicants and we still have them coming in. It’s quite refreshing to see such a high interest, especially in an off-year election. It’s very unusual.”

Wolper said three new precinct chairmen were sworn in at the December executive meeting and more were set for next week’s meeting. Candidates who are unopposed do not need to be listed on the ballot.

“There seems to be a greater emphasis on patriotism and service right now,” Wolper said. “I just think we’re going into a new era of when people are much more interested in the political process.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.


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