I went to the Chip Roy-Matt McCall debate, and then the debate came to me.

 

Good day Austin:

Sunday night I went to a Hill Country Democratic CD 21 forum/debate at a winery in Johnson City.

Last night, I went to a Hill Country Tea Party Patriots Republican CD 21 forum/debate in a room at a senior citizen center in New Braunfels.

And then, as you will see, the debate came to me.

The tenor of the two debates was quite different.  (I’m going to call them debates even though they might not, strictly speaking, debates, because there was some opportunity for the candidates to answer questions and mix it up.)

 

Kopser and Wilson had some disagreements in tone and substance.

But, by and large it was a cordial affair in front of an up-beat crowd.

Yes, they booed and hissed at the mention of Lamar Smith, the retiring Republican incumbent whose seat Kopser and Wilson want to fill, and, of course, Sen. Ted Cruz. But they did it more in the good-natured spirit of a silent film audience watching an old movie melodrama.

On a beautiful Hill Country evening at a winery that looked like it could have been somewhere in Northern California, there wasn’t much venom in the air.

The Monday night tea party crowd, however, seemed to be, as tea party crowds tend to be, a bit more vexed, and maybe a wee bit sullen.

But don’t get me wrong, I far preferred the Monday event because rivals Chip Roy and Matt McCall, coaxed by some loaded audience questions, really did get into it and go at each other more than Wilson and Kopser did.

Conflict is news and I am a reporter.

I got video of some of the better moments.

This first clip came in response to a question from Tonya Benson of Fredericksburg, calling Roy out for a push poll his campaign conducted that she said was making misleading assertions about McCall.

(Interestingly, Kopser also drew controversy for a push poll. Kopser and Roy, unlike Wilson and McCall, have lots of money to spend and consultants to help them spend it, which, I think, leads them to spend money on things best avoided, like push polls.)

My review here is that McCall is an adept counterpuncher.

Roy, a cerebral type, may appeal to the tea party head, but McCall appeals to the tea party heart, or gut, or innards more generally.

However, McCall was less ready when asked about how he would, if elected to Congress, handle the conflict of interest inherent in his business as a government contractor, providing human tissue, mostly to U.S. military hospitals in Europe and Asia.

McCall said it was a good question, that he intended to keep his business, put it in the hands of a caretaker and return to it after six years in Congress. In the meantime, he said that he hadn’t quite figured out how to avoid the appearance of a conflict, but that he would figure out some ethical arrangement like Trump did with his business holdings – perhaps the first time Trump has been held out as an example for avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest. Or maybe a blind trust, which might make sense with a stock portfolio but wouldn’t be terribly blinding when, of course, he would still know what his business was and how it would be affected by decisions he would make in Congress.

The question here was to Roy, asking why it would be a good idea to send a lawyer “knee-deep in politics” to D.C.

I thought McCall’s response that you shouldn’t have to be someone steeped in the ins and outs of  Washington politics, and that he represented the model of the smart and inquisitive citizen-amateur, started strong.

I think it’s a bunch of rubbish and I think it’s an unAmerican idea. It’s an unAmerican idea that we need a ruling class. I can hire staffers like you, Chip. He’s taking credit for all the things his bosses have ever done. Now I’m really irritated. He is saying that we the people aren’t smart enough to do it ourselves.

But then, around the 3:26 mark, he got a little carried away

I can figure things out. I went in six weeks from knowing absolutely nothing about medicine to teaching accomplished surgeons how to do different techniques for hernia repair in the most complicated area of the anatomy. 

I believe Roy’s eyes widened at this point, as did mine.

McCall also said he had traveled to 45 countries on business and out of personal interest, was a better negotiator than Roy would have ever encountered, and had 2 million frequent flier miles on American Airlines.

But he didn’t mention anything about piloting the planes.

As the time for questions came to an end, John Beacom, the president of the Hill Country Tea Party Patriots, asked the audience if they wanted to hear the candidates give closing statements for another couple of minutes or call it a night.

The consensus was that it was time to go home.

 

But, that’s when things got really interesting.

I approached Tonya Benson, the woman who had asked Roy about the push poll to see if she was satisfied with his answer (she wasn’t).

As we talked,  McCall joined the conversation, and brought up the circumstances surrounding Roy’s move in early 2016 from  Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, where he was first assistant attorney general, to a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz’s candidacy for president.

McCall (to me): You should look at DoubleDipChip.com,

FR: Is that something you put together?

McCall: No it isn’t. It was sent to us yesterday and it lays out the timeline. (Texas) Senate Bill 73 is about abortion. It’s Donna Campbell’s bill. There is a little rider on there to stop this kind of stuff that he did.

FR: What kind of stuff?

McCall: Well, he was fired, he was asked to resign, he was presented a letter of resignation, and so instead, he rewrote the letter and said, “OK, today’s may last day in office but I’m taking three months of leave, paid leave.” That was on March 19 of 2016. The next day he went to work for Ted Cruz’s  super PAC. So the Texas government is paying him a salary of $16,500 a month while he was there, so he got busted by the Dallas Morning paper…

At this point, Roy, who was at the other end of the room but surmising what was going on, approached, and hearing what McCall had just said, interjected:

Roy: These are lies, I didn’t earn one dollar, not one dollar, that was not earned vacation, and this matters, this matters a lot because my wife recognized the $15,000 I gave up, turned down from the PAC , while I was on the payroll of the state, that’s the way the state lawyers gave it, I did not earn one dollar, not one, that was not vacation or comp time. Period

McCall: Well, I think that is probably true it you let me finish what I was saying before you interrupted my conversation, thank you very much, Chip. I guess it’s a weak hand. But he went back and changed his letter of resignation when he was busted by the Dallas paper on it. The next day, after they wrote an article he went out and made his resignation immediate and not in June, and then it probably did work out and I assume what he just said is absolutely true, but that wasn’t what was going on.

Roy: That’s not true.

McCall: And Senate Bill 73 is to end that.

Roy: That’s not true.

McCall: That’s what it appears, anyway, and I’m not claiming to be an expert, but that’s what’s out there, that’s the record, I don’t know why you didn’t sue for defamation if it was. Now Donna Campbell is trying to change those rules so people can’t take three months of severance when they retire and work for someplace else. It’s actually against the law to be on the state payroll and working in politics, from what I understand.

Roy: The fact of the matter, the truth is that when I left the AG’s office, I went to work for Sen. Cruz … the next day, I did that under the state law that was given to me by the state lawyers, that I would off my vacation time and my comp time, and when I said in the press at the time when I was asked about it, people asked questions about it when I was with Sen. Cruz’s super PAC, I didn’t take any pay, not one dollar, from the PAC while I was still on the state payroll, as the state lawyers had given me as the exit (method) from the state.

And I said that I had cancer scans with my oncologist the week of April 7th, 8th, whatever it was, so I went and got the scans and was essentially waiting for the results of the scans to know whether or not I was staying with the PAC or thinking of coming back to the state. I was still on the payroll, under the law, as they said when I left, I would be paid for the days that I earned, so that’s what I did, that’s what I was told.

So I’m over working over here (for the PAC), not earning any money.

McCall: Which I didn’t say that you were.

Roy: But what I’m saying is that when I left, I  got a clear review by my oncologist and I said, Ok, I will now make this official, and it was all within the window of this earned time. That’s what happened, that’s what the News reflects, that’s what the Tribune reported on.

(In other words, and quite reasonably, Roy wanted the state health coverage if he were still going to be dealing with cancer.)

McCall: I’m not trying to be mean but when I was running against Lamar and I said something that wasn’t true I called Logan, and I said, “Logan, I found out something I said wasn’t rue and I won’t do it again.” And I said, “Logan, please call me if you find something I said that’s not true, because I think the facts are bad enough about his voting record.’

But I’ve had five different people, who don’t know each other, that all say that you were handed a letter of resignation and you were fired, so you really didn’t have an opportunity to go back to the AG’s office.

Roy: When I left the AG’s office, what was discussed was whether or not, if I were leaving to go to work for the senator, and whether or not I might potentially come back to the state at some point.

McCall: Not the AG’s office, because they had invited you to be successful someplace else.

Roy: Here’s the bottom line.

McCall: Tell me that that’s …

Roy: When I left the state and left the state to work for the PAC, I didn’t know what the health situation was at the time.

McCall: I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m trying to understand. You went to Washington, D.C., on a weekend trip with Paxton, whatever happened, you came home, the next morning at the office you were presented with a letter of resignation. They expected you to sign it.

Roy: That’s not true. None of that is true and I can’t talk about …

McCall: You were basically fired.

Roy: That’s not true, and I can’t talk about what went on n the AG’s office.

McCall: There’s a bunch of people who say that, and none of them were my  personal friends before.

Roy: When I left the AG’s office I went to the work the very next day for the PAC. We announced it and put it out in a press release.

McCall: Yeah, but you didn’t leave the AG’s office because of that. You left that job because you’ve been fired.

Roy: No, I will not talk about what went on the AG’s office because it is not appropriate for me to do so.

When I resigned, I resigned to go work for Sen. Cruz the very next day. And for the time I was with Sen. Cruz, the lawyers in the AG’s office said, this is how we run off your vacation and your comp time. So that’s what I did. That’s the bottom line.

FR: But is it not appropriate because of a settlement or just because of your own sense of what’s appropriate or what’s not appropriate?

Roy: The point about my departure from the AG’s office and what I earned or didn’t earn, I only got paid dollars that I earned, and I turned down pay that I didn’t have to legally, I turned down pay from the PAC to avoid any hint of impropriety, even though there wasn’t any, because I was waiting to find out what the results might be before deciding whether to go back to the state for state benefits. I never had a conversation about the specifics of that. I had any number of options that were on the table.

McCall: Chip, I think you have a history of doing what’s legal and wrong.

Roy: Legal and what?

McCall: Legal and wrong.

Roy: Wrong?

McCall: Legal and wrong. Just because something’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: And I think you got caught.

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: What?

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: Well, I think you left the state because you got forced to. They handed you a letter for resignation. And you then, while you were collecting money from the state, you were working for a super PAC, which is against the law and you signed a statement saying that you wouldn’t do that.

Roy: What’s against the law?

McCall:  Huh?

Roy: What’s against the law?

McCall:  Using state funds, which that’s what it would be, to do political work.

Roy: It’s illegal to work in a political environment when you are on the state payroll. It’s not. They do it all the time.

McCall: The next day you changed your letter of resignation.

Roy: No.

McCall:  I’ve seen it. It’s actually on-line. It’s not me doing it. It was sent to me – DoubleDipChip.com.

Roy: We changed it when we got the reports back from the oncologist.

McCall: Which just happened to be, shazam, happened to be the day after.

FR: Changed it to what?

Roy: We terminated my being on the payroll when I got my report back from the oncologist.

FR: But then back to the circumstances of your leaving the AG’s office, was there some legal settlement that does not allow you to talk about that, or is it not in the nature of anything like that?

McCall:  I have to run – in the interests of truth, that’s all I am trying to dig for here. And it does really look like, just like you don’t live in the district, it’s legal but it’s not right. What happened there looks like it’s legal but it’s not right, it looks like you got busted on it, and that’s just the way it looks.

Roy: It’s just not true.

McCall: I don’t know that its’ not true and there’s a lot of other people who don’t think that, who think that’s what happened. I tell you that people just walked up to me that I don’t know and they’re like, this is bad and this is why Donna Campbell has the provision in an abortion bill ending this nonsense. It’s complete abuse of the…

Roy: No, the reason she has that bill is because of the nature of the system that has been used in many, many, many instances.

McCall: Which you were using because it was legal, and it’s wrong.

Roy: It’s what the AG’s office gave me as the exit.

McCall: I respectfully disagree?

FR: Are you guy’s doing this again tomorrow?

(Yes)

At this point McCall departed, and Roy offered his summation.

Roy: The important part in my view, because it matters, and what I told the Tribune at the time, is that when I left, what I was told by the lawyers was, this is how you burn your vacation and your comp time, and they set it out at some point in the future.

xxxxxxx

I was told here’s how you burn your time and then when I left and went over and then had blood work that came back a little screwy, so I was scheduling scans with my oncologist, I was then holding on setting the date of the final burn of the time while I was working for the PAC, turning back the pay for the PAC, so that was what was happening.

Kellyanne Conway, and Dave Carney and the people working at the PAC know that I turned down that pay even though legally I could have it. I did that because, while that time was going and I thought that there was at least a chance that if there was a bad report or a bad result that I would have a conversation at that point with the AG or the governor or other people, “Hey, is there a job I can do with the state and be on state benefits if the cancer comes back, because I was sitting on COBRA at $1,900 a month while working for the PAC.

So in the interests of my family, I said, well I will see what happens with the scans, I will burn my vacation and comp time, and then when I get to the scans, which was April 6th, 7th of 8th, whenever it was, that first week of April, it was about a month after I left the AG’s office, I’ll see what the result is. Got the result back and the very next day did that.

The reason this is frustrating to me is that I literally did nothing in any of that that had me getting any benefit from the state that was not earned.

Now had I gone past April, whatever the date was, and then not gone back to the state – and now by the way, I was still given that by the state, people took that, whether that was right or not under the law, that is what the lawyers in the state  were saying, this is how we set that up – I reckon  I would have been within my rights to do that, but what I would have chosen to do is to go back to the attorney general, go back to the state leaders I know and say, “Hey, I’m probably not going to be able to be able to go work for the PAC now, I’ve got to go battle cancer, is there something I could do here at the state like I did for Gov. Perry.”

I might have stayed on COBRA, I might have chosen not to. I was waiting for that timeline before cutting off state insurance until I got through this.

FR: What about Obamacare?

(Roy emitted a negative noise.)

And the PAC job wasn’t one with benefits?

Roy: No because you’re an independent contract.

FR: Which PAC was this?

Roy: Trusted Leadership. There were like four PACs. We formed that one as I left the AG office, which, by the way, had been a six-month long conversation of people saying, “We need you to go do this for Ted,” some friends and donors and supporters out there. And I had been saying “no,” because I had an obligation to people in the AG’s office when they hired me, so when I left it was just in the heat of he battle in 2016 and I needed to do that so I went and did it.

FR: Thanks.

Roy: Thanks.

Meanwhile, the Baker Institute at Rice University at the end  of March held the inaugural conference of its Presidential Elections Program with a panel discussion, moderated by Major Garrett and featuring David Axelrod and Karl Rove.

I have not had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet but, beginning at the 48:50 mark, you can hear some spectacularly misinformed analysis of the CD 23 Democratic race by Rove.

Rove: Each party has its own unique challenge.

The Republican Party. Look Donald Trump owns the Republican Party today, but there is no coherent Trumpism. The Republican Party remains a center-right party governed by somebody who thinks that (Friedrich) Hayek owns a bar on the Upper East Side, who has not read  (Ludwig) Von Mises, and Bill Buckley, well he had a cute wife, and, this is not a guy who is ideologically sound … or grounded, and he’ll be the first to admit it. But he’s got a sense of what the, quote, base needs, and as long as it’s conservative judges and Second Amendment rights, and tax cuts and strong military, they’re going to be with him.

And look, we’re at tribal, a moment of tribalism in American politics. I see this in my party. I can remember people in my party tell me, “I’m offended that the president of the United States would have sex with an intern in the Oval Office, and today it’s, “God I love Donald Trump and who cares about the porn star.” And similarly Democrats – “My God, sex is a private matter and we should not criticize the president,” and, “My God, we’ve got to impeach that son of a bitch.”

So we got to the point of tribalism where everybody’s this way. And so Trump right now is the beneficiary of that tribalism. The Democrats have the tribalism of, “We hate that guy.” and resistance and rage is ultimately going to drive, in my opinion, too many Democrat primaries this year. We’re seeing it right here in  Texas … to the party’s detriment. You saw it here in CD 7, which is yet to play out.

Well, the better example is CD 23 out in West Texas where the Democrats all got behind former U.S Attorney Jay Hulings and the Castro brothers endorsed him and he’s a Marine and he has like $500,000, and he comes in fourth behind a woman who spends $34,000 on her first race for office and a guy who spends twenty grand on like his 50th race for office because he shares the name of a famous Tejano music star, Rick Treviño, a former high school teacher, and the first-place finisher hasn’t lived in Texas for 20 years but, by God, she speaks to all the anger of the Democratic hard left, and both parties are going to have to work their way through this.

Wow. that last paragraph is teeming with misinformation.

OK. He’s close to the mark on Hulings’ money.

But he’s completely off on Gina Ortiz Jones’ money. Totally off.

 

 

He also seems offended that the money wasn’t entirely decisive.

And he also expects us to believe that if Huling had won he would have proclaimed it a victory for the eminently reasonable, non-Trump-hating Castro brothers.

Not likely.

What’s more, the last time he attacked Jones, on FOX News Sunday, (though he got her last name wrong ), it was not that she was a hard-left hater but an identity politics special pleader.

From the Fox News Sunday transcript:

ROVE: Twenty-third district of Texas, one Democratic nominee is Gina Ortiz Turner (sic).

CHRIS WALLACE: OK.

ROVE: Who has never used the word Ortiz ever in her professional life and probably doesn’t — that’s not her real middle name. Why? Identity politics.

Meanwhile, as far as I know, Jay Hulings was not a Marine. Rove is probably confusing him with Joseph Kopser, who spent 20 years in the Army, or Gina Ortiz Jones, who was an Air Force intelligence officer.

And his point about Treviño, is exactly what?

He calls him a “guy who spends twenty grand on like his 50th race for office because he shares the name of a famous Tejano music star, Rick Treviño.”

A couple of days before Rove’s appearance at Rice, I wrote a First Reading on Treviño, To `catch some lightning.’ On Rick Treviño’s perhaps not entirely impossible CD-23 dream.

For starters, this is not Treviño’s 50th race. It is his second.

In May of 2017, Treviño had, by fewer than 30 votes, missed making a runoff for a seat on the San Antonio City Council … 

One would think that Rove would more mindful that a lot of candidates lose the first time out – even with a more famous name and more money than Treviño.

From CBS Newsin 2014.

AUSTIN, Texas — George P. Bush was elected Texas land commissioner in a landslide Tuesday, winning a little-known but powerful post that could eventually lead to higher offices and becoming the first in his family’s political dynasty to win his first race.

Bush, a 38-year-old Fort Worth attorney and energy consultant, raised more than $3 million against his little-known Democratic opponent, former El Paso Mayor John Cook. Nonetheless, he spent months crisscrossing the state in a campaign bus adorned with his towering, grinning face.

Bush is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush, who was Texas governor before taking the White House. His father, Jeb, is a former Florida governor who is considering a presidential run in 2016.

But none of them–nor the family patriarch and source of George P.’s middle name, long-serving Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush–won their first races. His grandfather lost a U.S. Senate race in Texas in 1964, while his uncle lost his 1978 congressional bid. Jeb Bush wasn’t elected Florida governor until his second try, and Prescott Bush, George P.’s great-grandfather, came up short in his first Senate race in 1950.

And anyway, how exactly is Treviño winning votes on the strength of his shared name with a popular performer  evidence of the “anger of the Democratic hard left?”

And by the way, for those not obsessed with identity politics, Treviño, who grew up loathing his father’s Tejano music, is better described as a country singer.

From Federico Martinez in a 2017 story in the San Angelo Standard-Times

His first label, Colombia Nashville, had him record a country album, which is the music genre Trevino is most comfortable. The company also insisted that he record a Spanish country album, even though Trevino wasn’t fluent in the language. He needed to take Spanish lessons to make the album.

“The record company decided to release the Spanish album first, which I thought was a mistake,” Trevino said. “My concern at the time was that people would perceive me as a Tejano artist trying to crossover to country.

“I understood Colombia’s decision. They saw a money-making opportunity and a chance to tap into the Hispanic/Latino market.”

The album, “Dos Mundos,” sold more than 500,000 copies and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Trevino says his concerns proved accurate when his self-titled second album was released in 1994. It took time for the English-language country album to find an audience.

“Music fans were confused,” he said. “Is he a country artist? Is he a Tejano singer?”

Only more recently – heavens to Trump – has Treviño, the performer, returned to his Latino roots

“My Granddaddy’s daddy crossed the Rio Grande, trying to find a better life than what he had; to plant the strongest seeds to grow the family tree for cowboys like me.”

Those semi-autobiographical lyrics are the opening lines from “Cowboys Like Me,” the first single from Grammy Award-winner Rick Trevino’s upcoming album, “Long Coyote Gone.”

Trevino’s eighth studio album since 1993, it includes some of his most personal lyrics to date. The second single, “I’m a Mexican,” which he recorded with legendary Tejano artist Flaco Jimenez, is an unflinching declaration of Trevino’s cultural heritage and a story about the struggles of an undocumented immigrant working in the U.S.

“Some of the songs are more personal, provocative and political than anything else I’ve ever done,” the country star said. “I’ve been singing “I’m a Mexican” for the past three years.

“Initially, I was concerned about how people would react. Let’s face it, 70-80 percent of my audiences in the dance halls I perform in have a more conservative view of immigration. But the audience response has been great.”

As for the other Treviño, the one running for Congress in the 23rd Congressional District, he is angry, but, as a devoted Bernie guy, that has more to do with the concentration of wealth and power in the United States than Trump per se, who he saw coming.