LEAGUE CITY — The owner of a gun range claims the executive assistant for Galveston County Judge Mark Henry called and suggested she would lose business if she went ahead with a Thursday meet-and-greet with Michelle Hatmaker, Henry’s opponent in the Republican primary.
The judge’s assistant, Roxanne Lewis, denies she made any sort of threat, while Henry said any conversation between his assistant and Arms Room co-owner Brandy Liss was done on Lewis’ own time and without Henry’s knowledge.
Liss said she got a call from Lewis on the latter’s personal phone at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
“She asked me if we were hosting a meet-and-greet with Michelle Hatmaker, and I said yes,” Liss said. “She then said that she was the program chair(woman) of the Clear Creek Republican Women, and that many of those members were supporters of Mark Henry and that I should think twice about having an event for (Hatmaker).”
Lewis, who confirmed making a call while she was off from work on Wednesday, denied she made or implied a threat. She did say she mentioned to Liss that some people who support Henry “that would not support backers of Michelle Hatmaker,” Lewis said.
Liss said the Hatmaker camp contacted her asking to hold the meet-and-greet after she and Hatmaker meet at a chamber dinner.
“We got to talking about how she was a member of the NRA and how she supported the Second Amendment,” Liss said. “(Hatmaker’s campaign) called and asked about hosting an event, and I said sure. I would have done the same for Mark Henry is he asked me.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to promote my business.”
Liss said Lewis warned her that other businesses that had supported Henry’s opponents four years ago and this year “lost a lot of business because of it,” Liss said.
She said Lewis even threatened to mail letters to members of her women’s political group calling for them not to support the Arms Room, a charge that Lewis denies.
The phone call from Lewis worried Liss. She called her sister, who is a partner of the business, and suggested they consider canceling the event.
She called Hatmaker’s camp and suggested the same thing.
“I didn’t want to get in the middle of any political fight,” Liss said. “Mark Henry could come down here and we could have a debate. I don’t mind any candidate who supports the Second Amendment hosting an event here.”
Liss even joked the opponents could have a shootout.
Liss at first went to her company’s Facebook page and asked her customers for advice. Most told her to go ahead and let the event happen.
“At first, I was worried, but then I just got angry,” Liss said. “How dare someone threaten my business just because someone wanted to hold an event here?”
Lewis said the phone call was “blown out of proportion,” and that she never made a direct threat or suggested that she was making the call on behalf of Judge Henry.
“I made it clear I was calling on my own behalf,” she said.
Henry himself was at the Arms Room on Thursday, but not for Hatmaker’s event. He and his wife, Amy, decided they wanted to get some target practice.
“We had it on our calendar to go and shoot,” Henry said.
“We’re far from trying to hurt the Arms Room business. I am trying to bring them business.”
Henry said he was unaware of his assistant’s call until Hatmaker’s supporters launched a mass email campaign.
“Anything Roxanne did was on her own and possibly as a member of the Clear Creek Republican Women,” Henry said.
Hatmaker called Lewis’ phone call, “highly inappropriate,” and called on the judge’s assistant to resign or be fired. Either move is unlikely as Henry voiced his support for Lewis.
“I was appalled,” Hatmaker said after her event. “I thought it was highly unprofessional and completely unnecessary. This is a form of oppression. This is not Russia or China. This is not supposed to happen.”
Early voting nears 10K
What had been a sluggish early voting period picked up the pace as we enter the final days of the 2014 primary season. Galveston County election officials said as of Thursday night when the polls closed, more than 9,800 people had cast ballots during the early voting period of the party primary elections.
At that pace, early turnout for the election will easily top 10,000 voters when the polls close at 7 p.m. today, the last day of early voting.
On Thursday, 305 voters cast ballots at the County’s Calder Annex in League City, 286 at Friendswood City Hall, 216 at the West County Building in Santa Fe and 166 at the Nessler Center in Texas City.
Primary election day is Tuesday.