Fireworks highlighted the Van Buren County Republican meeting recently when 12 locally-elected officials exited early—frustrated by Committee’s stonewalling their renewal membership requests.

Refused nomination were: County Judge Dale James, County Clerk Pam Bradford, Sheriff Lucas Emberton, Justices of the Peace John Bradford, Sarah Brown, Virgil Lemings and Mary Philips, County Treasurer Mistie Wilson, County Assessor Emma Smiley, County Collector Laura Shannon, Circuit Clerk Debbie Gray and Constable Calton Mitchell.

The July general meeting was held at Courthouse Square and well-attended. After the meeting’s formal opening (Prayer and Pledge), the Chair directed the reading of core member names. He instructed all others not to speak during the general session and allowed questions only during the information session presented by The Reverend Iverson Jackson, Little Rock pastor of a racially-mixed church, on Critical Race Theory. In addition to CRT, Pastor Iverson challenged attendees on the subject of “unity.”

In 2020, as a result of Committee disunity, the Republican Party of Arkansas disbanded the Van Buren County group. Subsequently, with RPA guidance, a few Republican locals began reorganization, limiting their core group. Actions were “close hold” and out of view of its own former general membership including all the Republican office holders. It established a revised membership list, policies and procedures. The “Core” allowed no public announcements to former members or interested prospects until early this month. RPA officials involved were Executive Director Mary Jo Reynolds and 2nd Congressional District Chair Melonaie Gullick. The two state officials joined in admitting to the “word of mouth” method of coordination. They both took an active part in the July open meeting.

The Chairman’s prohibition of speech applied only to non-core—which included those registered as Republican, had been County Committee members prior to its disbanding, had been certified to run for office by the former Committee, campaigned for the Republican Party , won election and desired to return to its active rolls without question. The prohibition then led to the evening’s fireworks display: Prospects for membership must be “nominated” and, if nominated, then jump the hurdle of election.

Nomination proved impossible.

Steadfastly, the current Committee refused to invite the elected officials and others to membership. Several made eloquent—even tearful—requests to “Will anyone nominate me?” however all met silence.

A Point-of-Order finally cut off their pleas.

With that action, Command Sergeant Major Calton Mitchell, a Bronze Star and Purple-Heart recipient, expressed his strong displeasure at the proceedings. Constable Mitchell and former Arkansas Republican State Committeeman/now-Arkansas Veterans Commissioner Ingram Philips and others soon followed.

Col. (Retired) Ingram Philips

Fairfield Bay (and newly-registered as an independent Other.)

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