BUDA, Texas (STPNS) -- The in-house rivalry between Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may be the talk of the nation, but a schism in the Texas Republican party could yield even more dramatic political theater.

The fight for dominance in the state GOP is playing out in small battles county by county, as supporters of Congressman Ron Paul wage war against the party establishment.

A group of Paul supporters in Hays County filed a complaint this week with state party leaders, alleging that delegates to the state convention were selected in a secret meeting in violation of party rules prior to the county conventions on March 29.



Griffin T. Spell, a political science major at Texas State University and a Pct. 334 delegate to the county convention, spearheaded the challenge.

"Basically, the rules of the Republican Party state that all nominations committee meetings must be public and open," Spell said. "The meeting was not a public meeting. It was a private meeting in a residence in the remote part of the county."

Spell added, "We felt we were disenfranchised by the process."

Linda Kinney, the former party chair who was knocked out of office by a Paul supporter at the March 4 GOP primaries, said the letter of complaint was full of "bogus information."

"These people are so out of line with reality," Kinney said. "It just falls in line to what they're trying to do. They try at every chance they can to be disruptive of whatever process is in place."

The meeting took place a week before the county convention at the home of Mary Joe Roddie, an 83-year-old precinct captain from Wimberley, Kinney said.

Kinney said GOP nominations meetings are not required to be posted, but the information about the meeting was available to anyone who asked.

"Craig Young and Paul Velte were both there," Kinney said, referring to two prominent Ron Paul supporters. "It obviously wasn't secret."

Officials from the state party say they are aware of the challenge, but declined to comment on its merit. ти"The Republican Party of Texas will now send on the delegates and alternates selected at the county and senatorial district conventions to the Credentials Committee of the 2008 Republican State Convention," said Hans Klingler, Texas G.O.P. Spokesperson in a written statement. "The 2008 State Republican Convention Credentials Committee is the only authority who decides who will be seated as both delegates and alternates in June at the G.O.P. State Convention."

Spell noted that Paul supporters in Nueces, Galveston and Brazoria counties were filing similar complaints.

"They're probably swamped with challenges," Spell said. "There's a lot of corruption in the party."

Christie Pogue, Vice Chair of the county party and member of the Nominations Committee, said the party establishment went out of their way to give the Paul supporters several delegates, despite having enough votes to knock them out of the water.

"We were trying to extend an olive branch," Pogue said. "There's pretty strict parameters on who gets chosen as a delegate. We allowed them to submit names of people we have never even heard of."

Paul supporters constitute a vocal minority of Hays County Republicans.

In Hays County GOP primary on March 4, Paul took 16.37 percent of the 8,001 votes cast, trailing behind John McCain, who took 44.91 percent, and Mike Huckabee, who garnered 34.77 percent.

However, Ron Paul supporter Craig Young beat out incumbent Linda Kinney for the Hays County GOP chair by a margin of 82 votes out of 5,844 cast, edging her out with 50.70 percent of the ballots. Several other Paul supporters won control of their precinct.

"They told us at that meeting that the Ron Paul people had been sitting in meetings and training for months on end, learning how to infiltrate and take over the party," Pogue said. "These are their words. They have a very methodical process that they are to follow to take over the party."

Staunch Republicans of the old guard say Ron Paul Libertarians are trying to hijack the GOP, while Paul supporters say McCain republicans have strayed from the true platform of the Grand Old Party.

"They're supposed to be open to everybody but they met in secrecy," said Sean Bollock, a Pct. 330 delegate who signed onto the letter challenging the state nominees. "The good old boys that are giving you Purina Puppy Chow for dinner, that's who's running the show."

Though the chance of Paul sitting in the oval office next January are widely regarded as infinitesimal, Paul supporters continue working the system to gain traction in the party hierarchy.

"They want to take over the state convention the way they did in Nevada," Kinney said. "They want to take the national convention. God help us if that happens."