Turns out the Dallas Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly isn't the only organization minimizing the mayoral candidacy of Edward Okpa. As we reported Friday, local RNHA chair Jason Villalba originally excluded Okpa from tonight's debate at Thomas Jefferson High School. He later reconsidered after receiving phone calls from candidate David Kunkle and several ticked off RNHA members.
The Dallas County Chapter of the Texas Council of Engineering Companies won't have the same opportunity to change its mind, as we just discovered Okpa wasn't a part of this afternoon's forum at Cityplace. Whilst tracking down a list of upcoming debates, we noticed Okpa's name missing from the organization's invite, so we contacted him shortly after the event to see if he was there.
In a text to Unfair Park, Okpa said he wasn't aware of the forum.
Vicki Reece, executive director for the Dallas & Tarrant County Chapters of the TCEC, said via email there were only three candidates when the meeting was planned in February.
So why not extend an invitation when they realized he was in the race?
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"When he announced his candidacy for Mayor, our program had already been scheduled, announced and marketing of the program was underway," she said in an email. "We did not have sufficient time to reorganize the program and announce changes to our membership."
Okpa filed his campaign treasurer on February 11 -- one day after candidate Mike Rawlings. Okpa submitted his petition signatures on March 8 -- two days before Rawlings.
We asked Kunkle why he expressed concern about tonight and not this afternoon, and he says his schedule is so busy he doesn't have time to pay attention to who's been invited to what among the other candidates. The only reason he made a stink about tonight's debate is because someone called his attention to our story.
"I didn't know that he wasn't going to be at the meeting today until I walked in the room," he says. "I can barely keep track of where I'm going, much less who else is going to be there."