GOP Turmoil in Tulsa; Invalid Leadership?

Republican Party of Tulsa County 2.27.2021

Updated: In a series of interviews with local Republicans it is clear the Republican Party of Tulsa County is deeply fractured. Vice Chairman Rebecca Marks Jimerson has gone missing from party activities, other officials are nonresponsive. This writing is a call for accountability so the party may repair and respond successfully to local, state, and national challenges. Sadly, there are questions of legitimacy in the last Convention. Further, if there are leadership betrayals by party officials, should we dare elect the same officials to public office?

The first County Committee meeting since the Convention held Saturday July 30 was a stunning disappointment. Only 48 people attended. Have others decided to check out of party activity? The County Committee consists of precinct chairs and vice chairs and those elected to leadership at the last convention. “The County Committee of each county is the supreme Republican Party authority of the county, subject to these rules and the direction and control of County Conventions” according to the State Rules (Rule 6: B).

Ronda Vuillemont-Smith (Photo Tulsa Today)

Ronda V. Smith, Tulsa County Republican Chairman, in a recent interview declared, “The party is great.”

Many disagree.

The Tulsa County Republican Convention in 2021 was chaired by John Eagleton, who said, “The Convention could have been a wonderful vehicle to recruit maybe 500 new enthusiastic members into our ranks. Instead because of the delays and discombobulated nature of the Convention itself, I believe it was off-putting. I believe we hurt ourselves long-term.

“I was merely running the Convention from the agenda provided by Bob Jack, GOP Chairman. Having chaired numerous meetings and knowing Roberts Rules of Order helps, besides I have a bit louder voice than the average bear.”

John Eagleton

Eagleton continued, “The time frame for speakers running for office was established on the agenda provided. The agenda was set by then-County Chairman Bob Jack and the Rules of the Oklahoma Republican Party on how to have meetings. I don’t believe time frames are established for speakers.

“First time participants, who had not attended before, did not see a well-run machine or party apparatus hitting on all cylinders. They saw a discombobulated, slow moving, unorganized, what I call a ‘goat rope,’” Eagleton concluded.

 “My job was to handle the technical side of the event including the audio, video and to secure the wi-fi connection with the venue throughout the event,” said Joe Hart.

Republican Party of Tulsa County 2.27.2021

“As Chairman of the Party Bob Jack was the decision maker and ultimately responsible for the operation of the Convention. I dealt just with Bob Jack and the venue in terms of getting the tech stuff set up. During the event, Jack ran out of ballots for attendees to use so I hooked up my laptop so he could access his email and download the stuff he needed to print off additional ballots. I thought it was strange at the time, but there was so much chaos that it was hard to tell what was going on.

“It seemed that everyone was unprepared and everything ran long. You had the attendees who waited an exorbitant amount of time to get in. Everyone expected this to be over by noon to 1:00 pm at the latest. It ended up running past 5 pm which forced the event to end to keep the Party from having to pay additional rental.

“The balloting process was confused as to who was counting votes for what area. In my area, there was a lady who wanted to vote for someone who had left early. Voting was a complete mess. To be honest, it is hard to say if the votes were tabulated correctly or not,” Hart said.

“While the vote count was underway, the computer screen was being turned off and on by Michael Bates who [alone] was tabulating the votes and running the computer. When you are doing a screen mirror to a projector there is no need to shut the projection down as you are moving between tabs. For whatever reason, Bates must have felt he needed to hide what he was doing. I don’t know what that was all about, but he kept doing it.

“We were forced to leave that night without a final resolution of votes. They had this extremely complicated spreadsheet that weighted the votes based on representation by each precinct, so it had all these calculations and we had to take Bate’s word that it was all on the up-and-up,” Hart said.

Again, Rule 6:A2 of the Oklahoma Republican Party declares, “The County Chairman and Vice Chairman shall be elected by the regular biennial County Convention, by roll call vote or by secret ballot…” However, the vote was counted at the Tulsa County Republican Headquarters after the Convention ended and final tally provided to attendees by email contrary to all protocol.

Cherie Cook said, “Never ask registrants to leave and tell them you will email voting results. I was taught that is against the rules – everyone must be present and witness voting and results.”

Precinct Chair Larry Scott said, “The Convention was like 9th grade high school. There is off the shelf technology that could expedite the entire voting process. People expect things to be organized. I will still walk my neighborhood for candidates, but the Party Chairman should be a person that energizes people to be involved, but that is not what we have. We have become too hard line and without grace with each other, that makes it harder to recruit democrats to join us.”

Former Chairs, David McLain and Bob Jack

Cook said, “I offered to help with credentialing, but Bob Jack would not let me do the work.  He only had two people checking in.  No one else was allowed.  It was a Bob Jack decision.”

On the matter of “grace with each other” one candidate for Chairman Darren Gantz was heckled during his campaign speech. Even more outrageous is that his opponent and later declared victor of the election, Ronda V. Smith, was the primary heckler joined by then County Chairman Bob Jack, now a State Committeeman, and the vote tabulator Michael Bates both were on the stage positioned behind Gantz.

Hart said of that portion of the Convention, “as Gantz was running for chair and while he was giving his speech, he was heckled by Michael Bates, Bob Jack and Ronda V. Smith at the same time. Ronda started it then Bates and Jack chimed in. When Jack joined, I had been talking with him and I point blank told him that I had known Darren a long time and I knew what they were saying was not true. I asked him, do you have proof? Jack said he did and knew it to be true and that he would send that proof. Here we are over a year later and Jack never sent me proof.

Darren Gantz and Markwayne Mullin

“The event that they were talking about was a debate when Darren was President of the Tulsa Republican Men’s Club when both sides of the National Popular Vote issue debated. That was common for both sides on any issue to debate at the club when Darren was President – it didn’t mean he took one side or the other. I thought Republicans supported the First Amendment and welcomed serious debate on issues,” Hart continued. “For some reason, Darren’s critics thought that was a bad idea. I found that very dishonest and improper to do that at a convention. I thought Republicans held themselves to a higher standard. I guess not all do.”

Janice Ponds said, “When the Convention convened, I was pumped. I had never been to anything like that in my life, I was absolutely fascinated. Darren Gantz was there with Dr. Paula Price, Idris Shelby, Jon McGrath, and hundreds of amazing people. Then there was another specific group of people that were going around saying not to vote for Darren. They were discrediting him. They were slandering Darren claiming he supported the National Popular Vote position, so I went to him and asked, and he said it was not true. Still these people slandering Darren came to me and people who trusted me trying to turn our votes.

“When the candidates for party office spoke, many were outstanding. Dr. Price was stellar. But when Darren got up to speak there were people sitting behind him [on stage] that interrupted his presentation. I saw it. They started accusing him of falsehoods. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what is going on.’ Darren declared from the stage that the accusations were untrue. Some people were being antagonistic while he was trying to give a speech. It was rude and obnoxious – it was vicious. It was like an orchestrated character assignation in front of the entire assembly.

“I was like, Okay welcome to the GOP. Wow, just wow,” Ponds added.

Photo from Facebook, Tulsa County GOP Executive Committee

Prior to the Convention, this writer also filed for the office of Chairman. I was not a part of the two slates of proposed officers. I was provided no detailed agenda nor any opportunity for consultation with leadership. Further, Bob Jack shut down online registration several hours before the previously announced cutoff time and I called him to object. Jack said he was running the convention and it was his decision and there was nothing to talk about. At the event, candidates were only allowed two minutes to speak for a leadership position lasting two years and the order of speakers was set by Bob Jack. Nomination speeches were not allowed. No compromise to any objection was considered by Jack, but when Jack, Bates and Smith (candidate for the same office) attacked Gantz it was the most outrageous behavior I have ever seen within the party – county, district or state – in my lifetime.

Dan Hicks said, “Though I am 100% Pro-Life, for limited government lower taxes, real school choice (where the money follows the student) and was endorsed by the NRA in my 2018 run for Oklahoma House District 79, I did not attend the Tulsa County Republican Convention last year.

“I believe the Tulsa County Republican Party has been hijacked by a group of ideologues that are more akin to Libertarians than Republicans. The Tulsa GOP leadership is not only out of step with most conservative Republicans, but they are also now meddling in local Republican primary elections to select candidates, rather than allowing the voters to choose their leaders. This must stop,” Hicks emphasized.

Hart said, “There would have to be a whole sea-change in organization before I would ever attend again. Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me. I don’t go to the various club meetings. The convention turned me off and I don’t want to have anything to do with party leadership.”

Bob Jack is currently running for Tulsa County Commissioner District 3 with mailers proclaiming, “Bob Jack is… not a politician.” It is true Jack has never won public office having come in fourth out of five in his last primary and next to last in his current primary. He refuses to concede and faces frontrunner businessman Kelly Dunkerley August 23. How Jack can claim he is not a politician when he spent two years as Treasurer then two years as Chairman and currently is listed as a State Committee person for the Republican Party of Tulsa County is beyond understanding. Tulsa Today has covered this race with multiple stories most recently in the article, https://www.tulsatoday.com/2022/07/03/tulsa-republican-chairman-lies-for-bob-jack/ in which current Republican Chairperson Ronda V. Smith falsely claimed on a local radio show Bob Jack was endorsed by the third place runner up Margie Alfonso.

Chairperson Ronda V. Smith’s behavior after the convention is also problematic. In the formal interview Smith was asked: How have you built the structure of the County Party? Have you developed new precinct chairs and grown precinct participation?

Smith said, “Many people have asked to be precinct chairs, but when they are asked to get out and work their precinct – they really don’t want to do that. We held training classes. Claudia Streetman is out there and doing a wonderful job teaching how to work the precincts. I take advantage of Claudia being out there and doing that, but as far as any other methods, we haven’t done anything…”

Streetman held a training session with this writer’s precinct and with another precinct chair then all went to canvas the precinct. As a precinct chair, I appreciate her effort. She has, at her own expense, printed materials and distributed them at that meeting but when called for comment after Smith’s interview she said, “I haven’t gone out recently but did some training. I did my own thing and Ronda did support that.” She was asked what her plan going forward would be, but she said she would call Ronda and get back on that.  She has not called back and messages to her have not been returned since.

Janice Ponds said, “I got elected as a Precinct Chair and I haven’t got any direction to what I am supposed to be doing from the GOP Office. The helpful direction I gathered was from Dr. Price’s efforts. I have worked with Dr. Price helping in a campaign and to get people registered to vote and I loved it. I want to do that in my precinct, but I would like to get someone to go with me door-to-door. I knew Darren had a specific program to focus on precinct chairs to help them, but he didn’t win leadership of the county party. I went to one program that claimed to be training that Ronda was spearheading, but it focused on a phone application, called Voter Gravity I believe, but I found out later that it didn’t work and fell by the wayside. No one has contacted me from the Republican Party of Tulsa County.

“I am on social media and influential in my community. I will likely participate in the next GOP Convention because we have a country to save. But I am so tired of spineless RINOS and I am not giving a dime to the national party until they show me they will stand for America.”

Ponds spoke on her transition to Republican saying, “I grew up in the South as a died-in-the-wool Democrat with a black twist. I was always told that I was to vote a straight Democrat ticket. Finally, I asked why? My daddy’s answer was, “because you are black.” That arrested me. I wanted to know why I was supposed to do anything because I was a Black American. I dove into politics and did my own research. I dove into original documents including the Civil War. When I found out my great grandmother was a slave; I became even more interested. As a result, I was blown away by what I found on the two main political parties in America. I found out I had been lied to – absolutely lied to in terms of history I had been taught. I learned so much that I wrote a book, “Stealing the Minds of America – A Must for All True Seekers Who Vote.” https://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Minds-America-Must-Truth-Seekers/dp/0881443182

“I found out my mind had been effectively and strategically stolen. I left the Democrat Party and became a Republican not even understanding what that meant. Learning how to think for myself politically is what drew me to the Republican Party. As a Black Democrat, you didn’t ask questions. You did what they said do. That’s just how it was. When my eyes opened to history that was accurately told and God put it on my heart to write a book about it my life went to another level, and I have never been the same since. I deal with social, political and spiritual issues affecting us as Americans. I embrace truth.

Edit Note: This writer is looking forward to reviewing Ms. Ponds book and interviewing her further for publication soon.

There are many talented, skilled, and dedicated Republicans in Tulsa County, but they are not being drawn into the party organization and that may be good news given all.

The best news, regardless, is that elections have consequences and votes count (assuming legitimate votes counted honestly). Many who never voted Republican are seeing the Biden Administration as the most incompetent, corrupt, ideologically Marxist if not hatefully anti-American in history. Everyone should feel the deep damage of single party rule on inflation and recession, threats to public safety, open borders, and dangers to children. To save the country, we must first save our community.

As Larry Scott said earlier, we need “grace with each other” and while some will object to this writing, without critical examination of operational difficulties, future success is impossible.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published by the author on Substack, click here for more.

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