Deception Enters House District 15 Race
by Julie Turner on February 28, 2014 at 5:30 PM
Last week in the Early Voting parking lot of the South County Community Center, Texas Patriots PAC volunteers began to see Bruce Tough’s supporters handing out the “Official Montgomery County GOP PAC Sample Ballot” (MCGP) as a means of countering the Voter’s Guide being distributed by Texas Patriots PAC (TPP). The name and images on this card appear to indicate that the document represents the Republican Party, a suggestion of impropriety that Republican Party Chairman Dr. Wally Wilkerson should certainly address.
The candidate recommendations on MCGP’s “sample ballot” differ from TPP’s Voter’s Guide as follows:
When the “sample ballot” first appeared at the polls, one of TPP’s officers spoke with Mr. Tough about the recommendation of Mr. Stover for 9th Court of Appeals. In previous discussions, Mr. Tough had made clear his strong support for Ms. Johnson. Mr. Tough was most surprised to learn about the Stover recommendation and said that he personally would not distribute the “sample ballot” because of it, but he declined to ask his supporters to discontinue its distribution. His refusal to do the right thing is very disturbing because it doesn’t matter who we elect to the legislature if we get the judges wrong and the courts start legislating from the bench. We find it unbelievably irresponsible for Mr. Tough to continue distributing a guide that suggests to the voters the acceptability of a judge Mr. Tough knows is the wrong choice. How can we expect Mr. Tough to act differently in Austin?
Based on our review of Texas Elections Commission records, MCGP appears to be a shell PAC, one of many formed for the larger counties in Texas. During February 2014, the following 10 individuals from Montgomery County contributed $6,500 to MCGP;
Holly Arbuckle, $1,000
Jennifer Gallup, $2,000
David Hall, $100
Jeremy Hall, $100
Dan Johnston, $1,000
Steve Leakey, $ 100
Richard Shapiro, $100
Kenny Speight, $1,000
Tim Welbes, $1,000
Joe Williams, $100
Six of the 10 donors are listed on Mr. Tough’s website as members of Mr. Tough’s campaign team and at least two of these individuals have been helping Mr. Tough at the polls. All indications are that the MCGP “sample ballot” is purposefully deceptive in that it is designed to hopefully give the casual observer the impression it is an official guide from the Montgomery County Republican Party. We find the fact that the Tough campaign is the only campaign using the “sample ballot” a persuasive indicator of its origins.
The members of TPP who vet candidates take very seriously our responsibility for doing this work carefully and thoroughly. The depth of our candidate analysis reflects the level of seriousness we give to this task. Unlike so many other groups, our vetting is not a popularity contest, it is an unemotional effort to apply our long-established vetting criteria to each candidate in an effort to identify the one who best can move our country in the right direction. Our vetting process requires serious individuals willing to take the significant time required to do this work properly. Our objective is to provide a tool to assist voters in making their individual decisions on how to vote. So we mailed our Voter’s Guide to likely voters before voting started and put almost 40 pages of analysis on our website explaining and justifying our recommendations so that voters could educate themselves about the candidates.
We find it disgraceful when someone demonstrates the level of contempt for the voters shown by the MCGP “sample ballot”. Here, there is no effort to educate the voters or even justify the choices. No vetting criteria have been articulated by MCGP, no website with analysis provided to educate. The sole objective is to win by confusing. And the drive to win is so strong that Mr. Tough allows the ballot to be distributed containing a critical judge race that has the wrong recommendation. This is deplorable.
But it gets worse. On January 27, 2014, a letter from Ms. Arbuckle was published in the Conroe Courier. She claimed that the Tea Party endorsing candidates in the primary was a “controversial practice” and challenged “anyone who depends on these groups to make decisions for them” to attend “just one” Tea Party meeting and see if “the local leaders … are people you want to follow. See if their beliefs and … methods are in line with your beliefs and values.” TPP was intrigued by Ms. Arbuckle’s letter when it was published since, to the best of our knowledge, she has never attended one of our meetings. However, we welcomed her suggestion that voters attend one of our weekly meetings as those meetings are open to the public and we are proud of the serious efforts we make to educate the citizens who take time to attend.
But we find it hypocritical for Ms. Arbuckle, less than a month after publishing this letter, to contribute to a group that intends to do exactly what she accused the Tea Party of doing, and worse. MCGP is a group that conceals its true identity, has no public meetings, and makes no effort to educate the voters by providing an explanation of the criteria used to vet candidates and analysis of how each candidate meets those criteria.
The race for HD15 will come to its conclusion Tuesday with a winner and a loser. Politics should raise awareness of important issues. Politics should not diminish the process, to put winning above the interests of the people you are running to serve. That is what this MCGP caper represents on a broad scale. This kind of behavior sends a bad message to the voters and doesn’t reflect back well on the candidate