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New GOP leader looks to reunite party

The new leader of the Canadian County Republican Party said Monday that her goal is to reunite the political party and focus on more than one or two issues.

Kathy Fowler, a local Realtor, was elected Saturday as the party chairman during the county Republican Party’s annual convention.

She received 68 percent of the vote.

“I am hoping to find areas where we all agree, and work on those areas first,” Fowler said. “I am hoping to expand to several areas of legislation.”

The previous leadership had focused mainly on a couple of issues, including education funding and abortion.

A letter mailed to state lawmakers in December called for the state to stop using tax dollars to fund public education.

Fowler said she does not stand behind that letter.

“I don’t stand behind that. I do think the education system needs a serious overhaul, but I don’t think we can cut off funding and expect the system not to crumble,” Fowler said.

She also said the previous leaders put a lot of emphasis on supporting Senate Bill 13, which would abolish abortion even when the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Fowler said the bill is too extreme.

“I think all parts of our county can agree that we are pro-life. But this bill is pretty extreme,” she said, pointing out that even some churches have announced their

opposition to the legislation.

Meanwhile, the previous leadership’s platform, which was considered controversial, was never heard during Saturday’s convention after dozens of delegates left before the platform could be considered.

There were 154 registered delegates at the event. Following the election of new leadership, more than two-thirds of those members exited, leaving the meeting without a quorum.

The platform had been considered controversial, in part, because of its proposal to reduce the number of school districts based on population.

The proposed platform called for school districts to be restructured to establish a minimum population for each district of 50,000 with a maximum population per district of  100,000 where it is feasible.

The platform was put together by a committee that had met two weeks earlier. However, even that meeting was questioned because it occurred during a time when many of the committee members could not attend.

Among other issues addressed by the platform were changes at the state level, including calling on the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to immediately pay off any existing bonds and to halt any new projects until current bonds are completely retired.

The turnpike authority currently is building an extension to the John Kilpatrick Turnpike through Canadian County that will link the toll road to Airport Road near Will Rogers World Airport.

In addition, a turnpike is being constructed in Eastern Oklahoma County that would link Interstate 40 and the Turner Turnpike.

Those projects are being funded with bonds that will be repaid through tolls charged to drivers taking any of the state’s toll roads.

The platform also called for several changes at the federal level, including securing the national border, enforcement of current immigration laws while promoting legal immigration, the elimination of government subsidies to private enterprises, and the defunding of the federal department of education, reforming entitlement programs and the withdrawal from the United Nations.

The convention, which was held at the El Reno Public Safety Building, was often heated with delegates often questioning the actions of Andrew Lopez, the previous chairman.

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West, less than a month ago, called for a change of leadership stating that the current board were not representing the best interest of the party.

West said Monday that he was pleased with the leadership that was elected over the weekend.

“Hopefully, we will now have an executive board that will be more inclusive and offer a friendlier environment at the meetings and will better represent the party,” he said.

West also pointed out that the number of people attending the convention was a reflection of the dissatisfaction with the leadership.

“Last year, there were 35 at the convention. This year, there were 154,” he said.

“I think what we saw Saturday was an indication of the dissatisfaction. This is the result of it.”

Lopez did not seek re-nomination.

Only two members from the previous board were re-elected. They were Terry Martin and Rachel Edward Lyon, both of whom will be county members for the state convention.

Joining Fowler on the leadership committee are Vice-Chair Karen Chapman, and State committee members Chris Martin, Rachel Edward Lyon, Jeramy Carnes, Terry Martin, Brian Grider and Paulette Statler.

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