Weatherford Democrat

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April 25, 2011

Candidates out of the loop

WEATHERFORD — A phone call, an advertisement in the paper, a hand delivered invite found the night before — candidates for the Weatherford City Council said they were notified of Thursday’s forum in various ways.

A candidate forum was hosted by the Parker County Tea Party at the Texas Opry this past week for candidates running for Place 1 and Place 2 on the council. Four of the five candidates attended. Jeff Robinson, could not attend because of a prior engagement and on account of last minute notice, he said.

Robinson said he received no phone call or e-mail to notify him of the event. Rather, an invite was found on the welcome mat of his front door around 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“I don’t know when it was left there,” he said. “My wife was on the front porch the night before to get the mail and sweep and it wasn’t there.”

The same night as the forum, Robinson had a fundraising event to attend planned for 5 to 7 p.m. He said he planned the event six weeks in advance and sent out formal invitations in the mail two to three weeks prior, before the candidate forum was announced.

While the forum didn’t start until 7 p.m., Robinson said he still had people at his event until 8:30 p.m. and it was after 9 p.m. before he made it home.

Heidi Wilder’s story is much the same. She said she received no e-mail, phone call or letter through the mail to notify her of the forum. Instead, around 9 p.m. Wednesday night she said her dog started going “ballistic” and she noticed something in his mouth — it was the invitation to the forum.

“I’m lucky he didn’t chew it up,” she said. “I cancelled an awards banquet at Cook Children’s to go... I didn’t get anything until the night before at 9 o’clock under my fence on a step because you can’t get to the front door. The dog notified me.”

Darwin Yeary said he invited to the event three days prior.

“Eric Matthew’s wife brought me an invitation and put it on my door,” he said. “She had talked to me on the phone several different times. She had been real courteous to me.”

Jerry Clinton said he first read about the forum in an advertisement in the Weatherford Democrat.

“The Tea Party also notified me, as they did all the others,” he said. “Eric’s wife sent notices to all the candidates by e-mail, I think.”

In his political advertisement in the Democrat Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Eric Matthews invited the public to the forum. E-mails were also sent to community members to invite them to the event, he said, but not to candidates.

“We didn’t have their e-mail addresses, so we couldn’t communicate at that level,” Matthews said. “But we did send them notification through the mail and hand delivered invitations. They should have got at least two notifications of our forum.”

Robinson is also upset with the use of Dawn King, a member of the Parker County Tea Party, as the moderator of the forum. King and the Parker County Tea party are listed on www.voteforericmatthews.com as official endorsers for his re-election.

“Nothing negative about Dawn,” Robinson said. “I don’t know her. But to plan this at the last hour when I had something previously planned, dropping the invitation off the evening or day before and then to have one of your heavy endorses as the moderator — that doesn’t sound like the environment that’s equal to both parties.

“... A candidate forum held in the proper was could be a fine event, but to me it was a situation to try and say ‘Why won’t he show up?’”

Matthews defended King serving as moderator for the event.

“Dawn has been very involved in this community through the Tea Party,” he said. “She’s done a lot of good things with the Tea Party — rallies, spoke at different functions and promoting to get this country back to where it was originally founded. We’ve certainly got off track.

“I felt because of her extensive experience in the political arena and her involvement in the community, she would be a good person to have with a non-biased objectivity in the way that she would moderate our forum.

“I know she does a lot to support me, but I fell like that didn’t affect anything with her being able to be objective, fair and balanced in the way she conducted the forum and did her questions.”

King has hosted other forums in the past sponsored by the Tea Party, but insists she is no public speaker and not a politician.

“I’m just a girl worried about her country,” she said.

She said the idea for the forum came up at a general Tea Party meeting, but she didn’t have time to organize it herself so much of the planning was divided up among other members. She said she is unsure of how all the candidates were notified, but that Sid Johnson had called every one.

Johnson said he called numerous elected officials from Kay Granger to David Dewhurst to invite them to the event, but did not call Robinson or Wilder.

“[Robinson] and I have met one time,” Johnson said, “and I wasn’t rude to him, but in my normal way I told him what I thought about the situation. I didn’t try to call Heidi, but I did talk to Darwin.”

The forum was no secret and those who wanted to come were welcome, he said.

“I don’t see why anyone needed to go out of there way to beg the candidates to come to this thing,” Johnson said. “[As for how anyone was notified], where does it say we had to notify anybody.”

Johnson also pointed out Zan Prince and the Parker County Republican Party’s support of Robinson and said that is out of line with the city charter which states council seats are non-partisan. But when it comes to King and the Tea Party’s support for Matthews, he said that’s “tit for tat.”

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