TALLADEGA COUNTY -- Talladega County Board of Education District 3 member Johnny Ponder on Monday voiced his concerns in a public Facebook post about the state of the county’s Republican Party and its leadership headed by Chairwoman Gina Grant.
“Did you notice that Doug Jones, a democrat, won Talladega County? That was no accident! If something is not done with the Talladega County Republican Party, it won’t be the last race that will be lost,” Ponder’s post from March 5 reads.
Ponder has served on the county school board for four terms and recently qualified to run as a Republican in the 2018 election for his fifth.
The school board member alleges the Talladega County GOP is being run by a group mostly out of the southern part of the county, headed by Grant.
Ponder said in a phone interview with The Daily Home on Wednesday that Grant first contacted him around four or five months ago.
“Gina first called to tell me that if I qualified to rerun for office, I would be disqualified,” he said.“Naturally, I asked her why. Her only response was that I interfered with the election of Buddy Milam.”
Milam stepped down in January 2015 after being elected in 2014 to the District 4 seat on the county BOE.
“Buddy was elected by the people,” Ponder said. “I didn’t do anything to stop it. He resigned after it was discovered that he resided in the wrong district.”
Ponder added that Grant contacted him again just a few weeks ago to let him know that his position for school board had been challenged.
“I asked by who, and she told me she couldn’t say and wasn’t allowed to discuss it any further,” he said.
Ponder later found out that Republican Robert White has also qualified to run for the District 3 position.
Ponder noted other county officials have been experiencing similar problems with Grant and attempted to run for positions on the party’s Executive Committee to better represent the north and central portions of the county.
“She is a self appointed dictator of our GOP. We tried to get candidates to replace some of those committee members from the central and north part of the county, but Ms. Grant would not allow it by disqualifying most of them on a technicality which could have been fixed very easy but no attempt was made to do so,” Ponder’s Facebook post states. “They were disqualified, not because of their qualification but because they were not paid members of the county GOP. Why didn’t she just ask them to join? That would have been the only sensible thing to do. The real reason she didn’t is because she is scared they will replace her which they will just as soon as they can.”
Ponder said that to run for office in Talladega County as a Republican, such as Board of Education and City Council, “candidates do not have to be paid members of the local party. However, to serve on Talladega County GOP’s Executive Committee, they must be an official paid and card-carrying member.”
When asked about Ponder’s Facebook post, the qualification process and who serves on the committee, Grant responded, “We do not comment on internal party policies.”
Sylacauga District 5 Councilman Dallas Davenport also voiced his concerns over the leadership of the Talladega County GOP.
“Amen she is a raisin (reason) that I'm not in the Republican party now. I am a Republican and always will be but she don't want good people in her party -- just ones she can control but there is our payday someday,” Davenport’s Facebook reply to Johnny Ponder reads.
“She has created and changed different bylaws to suit her interests,” Davenport said in a phone interview.
Ponder stated in his Facebook post that he would be issuing a complaint to the state committee, and he encouraged concerned residents to call the state GOP office and ask for Republican Party Chief of Staff Harold Sachs at 205-212-5900.
“If the county party is gonna survive she has got to GO! I would like to see a county committee made up of representatives from all across the county rather than just the Sylacauga area,” Ponder’s Facebook post reads.
Neither Ponder nor Davenport could confirm when Grant was officially appointed as chairwoman, but they noted she succeeded former Chairman Danny Hubbard.
Efforts to obtain a list of Talladega County Republican Party Committee members have been unsuccessful. Efforts to reach Sachs were also unsuccessful Wednesday.