Meet Texas Sen. Bob Hall.
Hall is a first term Republican senator who defeated incumbent Bob Deuell of Greenville in a 2014 run-off election by around 300 votes. It was one of the biggest upsets of the campaign cycle.
Before the run-off, Hall was a relative unknown. Just eight days before the March primary according to campaign finance records, the Canton Area Tea Party leader’s campaign spent $1,514.94 and received $16,005.10 in contributions. Expenditures included graphics and push cards.
After forcing Deuell into a run-off, which occurs if no one candidate receives at least 50 percent of votes in the primary, Hall’s campaign was curiously replete with cash, staffers and all the mechanisms necessary to guarantee his victory.
Between Feb. 23 and May 17, 2014, Hall’s campaign reported $298,029.78 in contributions and $160,710.42 in expenditures. The political novice suddenly got a political consultant and campaign staff. Key contributors include the Tim Dunn-funded Empower Texans PAC ($49,990.50), Accountability First PAC ($3,000 in-kind), North Texas Conservative Coalition ($190,000) and Midland oil and gas mogul Kyle Stallings ($10,000).
Hall’s victory shows how a fringe candidate can become a victor with a little help from new friends.
Target on his back
In the 2013 legislative session Deuell, a physician, authored SB 303, which would allow doctors and families to make personal, critical decisions about end-of-life care. It was endorsed by a wide variety of groups and bipartisan coalition of legislators. The Texas Catholic Conference conference endorsed it. So did Texas Alliance for Life.
But Texas Right to Life, a staunchly conservative affiliate of National Right to Life and common ally of Empower Texans and others, went on the attack. They yelled and screamed and got coverage in the New York Times. The Deuell v. Hall run-off was a perfect place to exact revenge. Deuell already had a target on his back from Empower Texans; since 2007, the group has released its Fiscal Responsibility Index, which grades legislators like high school students on an A to F scale. Deuell failed every session despite being seen as one of the most conservative legislators in recent memory.
The incumbent who was first elected in 1989 ultimately lost for being a perceived “moderate.”
In right-wing Texas-speak that means Tim Dunn couldn’t control the arch-conservative, anti-LGBT Deuell.
Thankfully Dunn and his ilk can control Hall. The freshman senator recently filed SB 445, which would make sure Texas doesn’t implement Agenda 21. That’s the non-binding agreement passed by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development calling for sustainability and responsible usage of resources. Its detractors believe policies linked to the Document of the Illuminati will cripple American freedom and liberty by taking away our golf courses.
Thusly Agenda 21, like the United Nations, FEMA camps, gay marriage, Muslims and President Obama, is another right-wing boogeyman used to fuel rampant conspiracy theories promoting paranoia and racism that ensures conservative political consultants will rake in cash, meaning it’s another piece of great fodder in a Republican Primary.
Hall isn’t the only one who fears foreign control. Perhaps unsurprisingly, another conservative firebrand beat him to filing an equally paranoid bill.
Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed the Protect the Alamo Act to ensure that the Alamo, which is in her district, could not be taken over by the United Nations. According to the Texas Tribune, she filed the legislation after learning the Alamo was nominated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site.
Campbell is no friend to the LGBT community. For a second time, she filed SJR 10, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Texans to discriminate based on their religious convictions. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed the companion HJR 55 in the House.
But like Hall, Campbell’s an expert in besting incumbents with backing from conservative big money groups. In 2012, she ran to the right of and defeated longtime Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, in a contentious and expensive run-off. Wentworth, like Deuell, had a target on his back for being too moderate. Also like Deuell, Empower Texans’ Index failed Wentworth all three sessions.
I can’t say if Empower Texans and others are actually concerned with the threat of a United Nations takeover of golf courses or the Alamo. I highly doubt it. I also doubt that Hall’s and Campbell’s donors are frankly at all concerned with a foreign takeover of Texas.
However, as I’ve previously pointed out, one thing is clear: who cares about the issues or mental state of your sock puppet? When you’re rich, wealthy and white and looking to oust an insufficiently conservative incumbent, just unwrap the tin foil on the red meat and feed it to the grassroots Republican voter. Then make a nice new tin foil hat for the new hand-picked legislator. They’ll need it to avoid reality as much as they’ll need it to make sure they only hear voices from folks like Dunn in their head.