Canadian County GOP leadership put in question

Canadian County’s sheriff this week called for a change in leadership of the county’s Republican Party.

Chris West

Chris West, during the group’s monthly meeting, urged those attending to consider making a change in the party’s leadership. West’s remarks followed a letter that was sent to members of the state Legislature urging that lawmakers consider changing how education is funded in Oklahoma.

During Tuesday’s meeting, which was held at the Mustang Police Department, West, who said he was speaking as a citizen not the sheriff, questioned whether the current leadership had the best interest of the party in mind.

“I’ve always prided myself on trying to be the best I can be and most professional. Why can’t we have a robust group of Republicans who can get together, that can have differences of opinion without fear and intimidation factors,” West said.

More than 100 people turned out for the meeting, which also was billed as precinct meetings. However, the occupancy of the Mustang Police Department, where the meeting was held is less than 50.

Much of the meeting was held with participants standing in the lobby.

West said that was frustrating and said the leadership should have planned better.

“What if we were at the community center and we had precinct tables, and it was very organized and people could come together? I think this is the result of leadership who may not want that. They may have wanted it small so they could maintain control. That’s just my thoughts,” said West.

However, Andrew Lopez, who is chairman of the party, said that wasn’t the case or because of bad planning. It was because the panel planned for normal attendance.

Typically, about 35 people attend the monthly meeting. Instead, about 150 people attended Tuesday’s event.

West said it is time for a change that will allow for a robust Republican Party in Canadian County.

“I think it is time to come together and try to get a bigger, robust party. Let’s bring people in who have different opinions, instead of a very small group of people that have control and want to represent the rest of us with platforms and positions that, frankly, have not been my position at times,” West said.

One of those issues, he said, is a letter prepared by the county party’s leadership that urged the state Legislature to eliminate public funding for education.

That letter was sent to lawmakers in December and received national attention.

“That’s why I think we need new leadership. This is a free society. It is a democratic process. People, that is the beauty of our country. We all can be individuals and free-thinkers, and we should be able to come to a free and open society without fear of intimidation and being bullied or being in a hostile environment. We should come together as a group, a large group, for the betterment of this county,” West said.

Lopez said the letter was meant as a way of starting a conversation.

“Some of you are here because you agree with the letter. Some of you disagree with the letter. The point is to start a conversation. That’s what we’re here tonight starting. I am happy that you are here,” Lopez said. “I want to continue the discussion for better government. I want to continue the discussion for how we can improve the state’s operations. There is a better way to run the government so it respects the rights of the citizens and gets the job done.”

Lopez told the crowd that the Declaration of Independence says that governments are instituted to secure the public’s right, but that is not always the case.

“You are here, you have a voice. I am not here to shut it down, contrary to what some people think,” he said.

He also said that his goal is to have a robust Republican Party in Canadian County.

“That’s what we’ve been shooting for the last two years,” he said.

The Republican Party will choose its leadership during the county convention, which is set for Feb. 23 in El Reno.

There are about 48,000 Republicans registered in the county.

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