He won a precinct chair election. Then the county Republican Party chair deemed him ineligible

dfwnewsa | March 20, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

He won a precinct chair election. Then the county Republican Party chair deemed him ineligible

Voters wait in line to cast their ballot at the White Settlement Public Library on Nov. 8, 2022. (Sandra Sadek | Fort Worth Report)
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Chris Rector won a Republican primary election to chair Tarrant County Precinct 4230 with 75% of the vote. A week later, the head of the Tarrant County Republican Party declared him ineligible.

Party Chairman Bo French sent Rector a letter, dated March 13, in which he accused Rector of pretending to be a Republican in order to dissolve the party and merge it with the Tarrant County Democratic Party. As a result, French wrote, he would not issue a certificate of election to Rector.

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“Under our governing parliamentary authority, the Republican Party of Tarrant County is not obligated to permit as members Democrats who are set on dissolving the Republican Party and disrupting our operations,” French wrote in a statement to the Fort Worth Report.

Rector disputes French’s allegations — and said he is considering filing complaints of voter suppression and election interference with the Tarrant County Election Integrity Unit. The unit was formed by County Judge Tim O’Hare, Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Criminal District Attorney Phil Sorrells in 2023 to investigate election fraud.

A political science expert told the Fort Worth Report he’d never seen a party chair declare someone ineligible after they’d won, and said it could result in a legal challenge in court. 

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The Texas Secretary of State’s election administration office advised Rector, he said, that French’s actions were improper. The Texas Secretary of State declined to comment to the Report.

“The fact is, he’s changed the outcome of the election because he didn’t like the results of it,” Rector said. 

Rector ran as a Democrat in 2022 during a primary election for Texas House District 97; public records show he also filed a statement of candidacy for Congress as a Democrat in June 2023, but withdrew from consideration and terminated his campaign committee in November 2023. He pointed toward his 2021 Fort Worth mayoral campaign, where he said he ran on a conservative platform.

“Even though it’s nonpartisan, people identify things and I identified as Republican and all my points were Republican,” he said.

Anger over Rector’s candidacy swirled throughout the Tarrant County Republican Party ahead of the primary election. Joe Allen, husband of Republican probate court Judge Brooke Allen, launched a write-in campaign against Rector after party members found out about his past campaign as a Democrat. Glynis McGinty, chief prosecutor of the county’s election integrity unit and then-judge candidate, endorsed Joe Allen. 

Joe Allen ultimately received 22% of the vote. He did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. After Rector won, Republican precinct chair Carlos Turcios posted on X and Facebook about his previous Democratic affiliation and posts criticizing local Republican elected officials. Turcios’ posts prompted questions about how Rector got on the ballot to begin with.

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🚨 BREAKING: A former Democrat candidate has won a republican precinct chair position (4230) for Tarrant GOP. Chris Rector ran as a Democrat candidate for the Texas House District 97 in 2022. pic.twitter.com/eglmbl4a61— Carlos Turcios (@Carlos__Turcios) March 7, 2024

Questions about Rector’s eligibility should’ve been handled by the party chair before his application for a place on the ballot was accepted, Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University, said.

“I would say shame on the county party chair, who couldn’t do his job in both recruiting and screening candidates for this,” he said.

Under the law, there are several reasons a nominee can be disqualified for the ballot. The two most prominent reasons are felony convictions or living outside of the district they’re seeking to represent, Stein said. As long as Rector signed the party oath, Stein said, his past political affiliations aren’t a legal justification to keep him out of office. French said his authority as chair allowed him to determine Rector is administratively ineligible.

In Texas, voters can change party affiliation calendar year to calendar year; just because they voted in a Democratic primary one year doesn’t mean they can’t vote in a Republican primary the next. That system is referred to as open primaries, and Stein said the same concept applies to candidates.

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“This guy sounds like he was a Democrat at one time and realized, ‘You know, I can’t win as a Democrat in Tarrant County, but I could win as a Republican, so I’ll become a Republican,’” Stein said.

The precinct chair position Rector won has been vacant for years. French said because he determined Rector is ineligible, the position will remain vacant.

“Any further action, including to fill the vacancy in Precinct 4230 will be up to the County Executive Committee,” French wrote in his statement.

French did not respond to a question about whether the executive committee has a candidate in mind.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

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