A February 21, 2017 story by Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard has ignited a media scrap between three chairs of the Harris County Republican Party. Former Harris County GOP Chairs, Gary Polland and Jared Woodfill, ripped into the current Chairman, Paul Simpson. The 2016 general election cycle in Houston was a GOP catastrophe.
The Barnes article in the Weekly Standard rightly points out the election results from November 8, 2016. While Republicans around the nation and Texas were in an election night state of euphoria with the election of Donald Trump as president, in Houston GOP voters looked like the attendees of Hillary Clinton’s victory party in New York City when Trump went over 270 Electoral College votes.
Woodfill, the longest serving GOP Chair in Harris County history before his defeat in 2014 by Simpson, was quoted in the Barnes article, “”This is the worst defeat for Republicans in the 71-year history of Republican party of Harris County.”
Trump only won Texas by nine points. It’s been a long time since any GOP candidate’s victory on the top of the statewide ballot was single digits. But, Hillary Clinton won Harris County by 13 points.
Clinton’s massive smashing of Trump in Houston meant a massacre down ballot. All the way down the ballot. Every GOP countywide candidate was vanquished.
Gary Polland, who preceded Woodfill as Harris County GOP Chair, was quoted in the article, “It could be back to the 60’s.”
In the Weekly Standard article “Houston, Republicans Have a Problem”, the point of view of current chairman, Paul Simpson, wasn’t taken into account. Via an HCRP press release and email blast, Simpson put up a defense and shot back with allegations of a “fake news” conspiratorial collaboration between Polland, Woodfill, and Barnes.
The first rebuttal made by Simpson was that the above Woodfill quote came directly from an article published on Polland’s Texas Conservative Review in November of 2016. The post was written by Marc Coward, a former assistant executive director for HCRP under Woodfill.
Then Simpson took direct aim at Polland’s ever-present Achilles heel. “Weekly Standard columnist Fred Barnes was apparently tricked again, because the article seems to interview former Harris County GOP Chair Gary Polland – the same Gary Polland who now publishes a for-profit candidate ‘slate’ and once wrote a glowing editorial endorsement that helped elect former liberal Mayor Annise Parker. The same liberal mayor who attempted to force her radical bathroom policy into law without voter approval.”
The Simpson-HCRP press release then points out a second “plagiarism”? The Fred Barnes article in the Weekly Standard contained another quote from a previous Polland post on his Texas Conservative Review.
Simpson’s direct statement within the press release did some name calling. “Mr. Barnes never contacted me or anyone who works with or for the Party before publishing this hit piece. It cited only two alleged direct sources: two former disgruntled county chairs who have seen their days as king-making profiteers coming to a close.”
This is more than a very public battle between political personalities in the third-largest county in the country. It’s a battle in the shadows of Houston politics of some very powerful factions. That’s the real scrap.
More to come.
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