Posted by: reddiva | March 1, 2010

East Texas Going Conservative? Oh Yeah!

The Texas Tribune’s Abby Rapoport wrote an interesting article on February 22 about our District 7 Texas House race.  Personally, I think it is very well written by Ms. Rapoport.  The idea it leaves the reader about Tommy Merritt and the job he has done in Austin is not as correct as I would like it to be.  That is probably the reason she writes for a major Texas outlet while I write a blog.

Be that as it may, from a conservative viewpoint, it speaks too highly of Tommy Merritt.  Actually, although it sounds as though I am, I don’t mean to be critical of Ms. Rapoport’s writing.  It really is very well written.  It isn’t her fault that Tommy Merritt and his family walk so softly and carry such a big stick in East Texas.

It’s hard to find anyone in Longview who doesn’t know the Merritts. The family only recently sold Merritt Tool, one of the biggest employers in town. “The Merritt brand is very, very strong here,” says Mike Childress, one of Merritt’s friends and supporters. Childress says it’s not just Tommy; his siblings and his parents are pillars of the community. “Whoever’s running for office, they’re darn sure going to go through [his brother] A.P.”


At another regular breakfast club — the nook at the Valero gas station — about 10 or so men drink coffee and listen to Simpson give his pitch before asking whom he’s running against. When it turns out to be Merritt, one of them turns away. “We all know Tommy,” he says, shaking his head at Simpson. “Yeah, we know him very well.” But the others kept listening and asking about his platform.

I am one of those East Texans who does not know the Merritt family.  I have no doubt they are a fine upstanding family and are as proud to live in East Texas as I am.  I will not speak for the rest of District 7, but when I go to vote on March 2, I will not be voting for a candidate’s family – I will be voting for the candidate who shares my conservative viewpoints.

As state Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, was stirring things at one end of the table, his challenger in the March 2 primary, David Simpson, appeared at the other end. That sent the regulars into orbit as they rushed to explain the differences between the candidates. “It’s nomad versus no-brain!” shouted Merritt (“no-brain”) supporter Ron McCutcheon, seizing on Simpson’s multiple re-locations. “They both need a haircut,” cackled Gene Robertson, a.k.a. Boss Hawg. Merritt kept up the teasing and joking until he left, while Simpson earnestly tried to discuss his campaign and hand out literature.

This sounds just like the Tommy Merritt I picture.  He thinks he is such a “nice guy” that everyone will vote for him because he’s likable.  Silly Tommy!  There are times for jokes and there are times for business.  If you want the voters of East Texas to like you, that’s fine, but if you expect to be re-elected to do your usual job of mis-representing us because you have a good sense of humor, you can forget it.

I also have just a quick message for Mr. Ron McCutcheon.  It took me a while to get here as well, but I finally did.  Aren’t you lucky?

Merritt has never fit anyone’s definition of conventional. In his 13 years in the Legislature, he’s worked both sides of the aisle, drawing ire from many within his own party. While he’s always been known back home for catering to the individual needs of his constituents, his independent voting streak hasn’t always sat well with Republican traditionalists — which is why he’s drawn a primary opponent in every cycle except one since 2000. This year, Tea Party backers and other conservative activists in Longview drafted Simpson, a devout Christian who’s only been in Longview a little more than nine years and talks a lot about the 10th Amendment and the importance of small government. He’s betting that his sincere appeal for states’ rights can dislodge a longtime incumbent with a knack for retail politics.

He hasn’t “always been known back home” as being the devoted servant Ms. Rapoport portrays.  I think it would be safe to say that he is not exactly respected by his Republican peers in the Texas House.  On February 2, I wrote a short piece which I have inadvertently removed.  It is reprinted here, thanks to “Save As…” on my Word program.

Earth to Tommy…

On Tommy Merritt’s website, and a slick website it is, under the issues tab when you click on the issues for the 81st Session this is what you see:

Highlights of the

ADODB.Field error ‘800a0bcd’

Either BOF or EOF is True, or the current record has been deleted. Requested operation requires a current record.

/sessionsdetail.asp, line 145

Now, that can mean a couple of things.  Either he hasn’t updated his website to reflect the 81st Session of the Texas Congress which ended in June, 2009.  There was a special session called by Governor Rick Perry on July 1, 2009, lasting for 10 days adjourning on July 10, 2009.  Maybe he hasn’t had time since it’s only February 2010.  There is still almost a whole year before the legislature meets again.

Or maybe it means that he didn’t accomplish anything in the 81st Session of the Texas Legislature.  In all honesty, this choice may be closer to the truth.  Still, let’s give him the benefit of the same doubt he gives his constituents when we tell him we want him to vote “AYE” yet he chooses to vote “NAY.”

Perhaps it isn’t only his constituents who are ready to vote him out.  How does the Republican Caucus in the Texas House feel about it when he opens his mouth to speak?

East Texans, we deserve better than this.

This is one of the reasons David Simpson may very well win this primary.

“Tommy Merritt’s going to be hard to beat anywhere because he has such a loyal following,” explains Karen Wilkerson, the primary administrator for the Democratic Party in Smith County. “I mean, there are people who show up just to vote for Tommy.” According to Wilkerson, Democrats in the district have been known to vote in Republican primaries to ensure well-known candidates like Merritt get elected.

Ms. Wilkerson is right.  This may be the crux of the problem.  Too many Democrats support Tommy Merritt.  He is not the conservative voice in Austin that he wants East Texas to think he is.  That should be obvious by the support of so many liberal Democrats.  It is time for that to change.  If they want a liberal candidate, I am afraid they may have to look elsewhere in future.  The conservatives have sat by far too long and allowed the liberal Democrats to infiltrate the Republican Party.  We are no longer willing to do that.

We have a seriously conservative candidate of our own to support, and we are working hard toward having a conservative voice in Austin.

Merritt has always drawn opposition from his fellow Republicans, but the complaints are different now. Last session, he was part of the 11-member Republican bloc that toppled Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and all but installed Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. His vote to let illegal immigrants attend Texas colleges at in-state tuition rates didn’t win him many conservative friends. And while Merritt adamantly argues that he supports voter ID, Simpson and Fleming, among other Republicans, believe he hasn’t done enough to advocate for the issue.

In Ms. Rapoport’s article, our Gregg County Republican Chair, Keith Rothra, said it very well, “The Republican Party is in a process of looking back at conservative roots. We must stay with conservatism unashamedly, unapologetically.”

It seems that even Tommy Merritt recognizes this push back to conservative roots.  It also seems that he knows he is not what we are pushing for.

Merritt says the race is his to lose, but as the Tea Party movement sweeps through Texas, it remains to be seen if old-style local politics can beat ideological fervor. “If David Simpson wins the election, then there is a new base in Texas,” Merritt says.

The most telling quote in Ms. Rapoport’s entire article is this one by the illustrious Tommy Merritt, “I just want to tell y’all this is not about the Constitution — it’s about what I can do for you!”

That, Mr. Merritt, is why you will lose this election.  It IS about the Constitution!



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