Meet Bob Hall, the Tea Party True Believer Headed to the Senate

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Bob Hall
Facebook/Bob Hall
Bob Hall

On Tuesday night, a political unknown named Bob Hall upset three-term state Sen. Bob Deuell, a conservative Republican from Greenville, in a GOP runoff. It was one of the least-followed, but most triumphant, victories for the tea party grassroots. But who’s Bob Hall and what does he believe? In speeches and interviews he’s given in the past year—many of them available on YouTube—Hall espouses far-right views, traffics in dark conspiracy theories and expresses a variety of tea-party antipathies.

He doesn’t understand “why the [immigrants] who are coming here want to turn it into a country like where they came from.” He thinks Obama is using public schools for “communist indoctrination.” He thinks bike paths are part of a United Nations plot. He believes a “confederation of states” can nullify federal laws. He thinks Bob Deuell was controlled by Satan.

Thanks to an extremely low turnout, Hall beat Deuell on Tuesday by a scant 300 votes. There’s no Democrat in the race, so come January, Hall will likely represent North Texas in the Texas Senate.

It’s a quick rise to political prominence in a state Hall has lived in for only five years. In 2009, Hall moved from Florida to East Texas, just as the tea party was bursting onto the national scene. A veteran of the Air Force and licensed pilot who’d recently sold his business helping companies secure government contracts, Hall retired with his wife to a quiet community for pilots and aviation enthusiasts near Canton that features a runway and hangars. But then he became politically active, as he’s frequently told tea party groups around the state, when Barack Obama began plunging America into a dark socialist nightmare.

Hall, 71, quickly became an adept organizer and assumed leadership of the Canton Tea Party, one of many active tea party groups in that conservative part of the state. A fan of American and Texas flag shirts, Hall combined his bona fides as a businessman and military veteran with an ability to articulate the many passions of the far right: Agenda 21, CSCOPE, an obsession with debt, anti-immigrant sentiments and a hatred of RINOs and anyone not sufficiently conservative.

Despite railing against lobbyists and special interests on the campaign trail, Hall was largely funded by two PACs loaded with special-interest money. Seventy-five percent of his $314,000 haul came from Empower Texans PAC, which is run by right-wing enforcer Michael Quinn Sullivan and his benefactor Midland oilman Tim Dunn, and the North Texas Conservative Coalition, a PAC largely funded by Carl Westcott, a Dallas developer and entrepreneur.

(Hall did not respond to requests for an interview.)

In the Senate, Hall will join a growing caucus of tea party activists—Donna Campbell of New Braunfels, Don Huffines of Dallas, Van Taylor of Plano, Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and possibly Konni Burton of Fort Worth, if she beats Democrat Libby Willis this fall—who are redefining what it means to be conservative and taking the state into uncharted political territory.

If there were ever any doubst about the strength of the tea party grassroots in Texas, Hall’s victory over Deuell should lay them to rest. It proved that it’s nigh impossible to be too conservative—or too embracing of the bugaboos of the far right. It proved that it’s not a deal-killer to be accused, as Hall was, of domestic violence or have racked up $165,000 in tax liens over 20 years of unpaid federal taxes. When Deuell made an issue of Hall’s past, Hall told a tea party radio program that “Satan must have a stranglehold on [Deuell].”

Deuell was by no rational calculus a “liberal” or even a “moderate.” As The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey has noted, he was once—just a decade or so ago—considered a “crazy right-winger,” a doctor who opposed abortion even in cases of rape or incest. But, occasionally, he took positions that evidently didn’t square with the grassroots. For example, Deuell championed legislation legalizing clean-needle exchanges for drug addicts, a public health-driven proposal that’s been embraced by at least 30 states.

Hall mocked the idea. “Do they get sick using the needles? Yes they do,” he told a group of voters in Rains County in October. “But do they also get sick by using bad drugs. So is our next step to provide them state-provided drugs so they don’t get bad drugs. The next thing to do is to hand out handguns to bank robbers.”

A bill that Deuell co-sponsored pushing the Texas Department of Transportation to adopt a “complete streets policy” that would give greater emphasis to pedestrians and bicyclists was actually part of a sweeping United Nations plot.

It was “an Agenda 21 issue that would’ve required bicycle paths on all of our highways in Texas,” Hall said.

(No matter that the bill would have done no such thing.)

“Now, folks we built highways for automobiles. Automobiles paid for those highways, and if you’ve been around any communities where they’ve put in the bicycle paths traffic is a nightmare.”

But Hall really took Deuell to task for sponsoring a bill that tried to sort out some very tricky end-of-life issues by balancing the medical judgment of doctors against the rights of patients and their families. The bill actually extended the period of time families could dispute a medical decision to end medical treatment and it was supported by groups like the Texas Medical Association and some pro-life groups, including the Texas Alliance for Life. But Texas Right to Life, an influential and hardline anti-abortion organization that frequently attacks Republicans, protested it as an unconscionable breach of pro-life values. Hall went even further in his campaign.

Bob Deuell
Bob Deuell

“If it had passed… it would have codified—that is, made it law in Texas—medical death panels just like you’ll find in Obamacare,” he told a group in Emory. “That’s hard to imagine but it would have.”

It’s hard to find an issue on which Hall doesn’t stake out an extreme right-wing position. But he does have a tiny bit of nuance on secession: He’s against it… but is for the old idea—last advanced during school desegregation—of nullification.

“We have the power of nullification but we don’t use it,” he said at an October candidate forum in Emory. “Instead we go with lawsuits. I think with a confederation of states agreeing to work and doing the same thing we can achieve similar goals.”

On eliminating property taxes: “I think the more we move toward a total consumption tax the fairer it becomes. I think the issue of us renting our property from the government, which is all we’re doing as long as we pay property taxes.”

On immigration: “ think we need to be looking at how we can shut down the candy stores, the attractions that bring them here.”

On immigrants: “The reason America achieved so much in such a short time period was the American exceptionalism. It was not like the countries people came from. It was no Ireland, it was not England, it was not Germany, France, Italy any of these countries. It was America, and as such it offered opportunities they did not have. I don’t understand why the people who are coming here want to turn it into a country like where they came from.”

On Common Core: “It is every bit as bad as CSCOPE or worse. It is true communist indoctrination of our kids, no question about it.”

On Wendy Davis: “The one thing we can hope for is that the message of being the baby killer will resonate with enough people that they won’t buy into it. Those are strong words but that’s exactly what it is.”

On democracy: “I think we’re sliding into Gomorrah… If we do not change what we’re doing by changing the leaders when we go to the ballot box, our children and grandchildren may be having to change their leaders with the ammo box.”

The man who said all that will—thanks to the support of a little more than 3 percent of the voting age population—represent Senate District 2 in the state Senate. He won’t come up for re-election until 2018.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

  • don76550

    To left wing extreme propagandist Forrest Wilder, anything that isn’t extreme left wing is “far right.” Bob Hall is exactly right on many of his issues while Wilder is exactly wrong.

    • Forrest Wilder

      Here, I’ll disprove you. It’s right there in the first line of the piece, Don. “…Sen. Bob Deuell, a conservative Republican…” Conservative, not far-right.

      • Bourgeois

        Deuell may have started out conservative, but like so many others, he moved decidedly to the left. I worked on the Bob Hall campaign, and I know him personally. What you have written is so lopsided that it’s ridiculous. But it’s okay: we have learned to go around the press. You will always trade the truth for a lie. You guys are writing and reporting yourselves into oblivion. See ya.

        • nonprofitessa

          So Bob Hall does not beleive that bike lanes are a UN plot?

          • Bourgeois

            Agenda 21 is not a plot, its a plan. It is based on the man made global warming hoax. The left wants to take people out of their cars and put them on busses, & bicycles to “save the world,” while the political class rides in limos and jets. Texas is in tremendous debt. Why should we spend billion$ building bike paths that very few people will use based on a hoax? THIS is Bob Hall’s position.

          • nonprofitessa

            Sure, OK. The UN is in cahoots with the global elite capitalists to make you ride a bike while they suck up all the available gasoline and oxygen. Cool story bro. Let me get my tinfoil hat.

          • Bourgeois

            How did I know that you had a tin foil hat?

          • nonprofitessa

            Cause, I too, am a Bob Hall supporter.

          • Bourgeois

            Sure you are.

          • nonprofitessa

            Yeah I am! The Obama administration is coming for your guns, that’s the truth. The global warming hoax is the reason that they will make hurricanes land on us. Then they are going force you to live in a FEMA trailer. The political class will continue to live well while you have to ride a bike. Not cause you are one of the 2/3 of Americans that are overweight or anything. This is all PC liberal bullshit.

            Buy gold.

  • Edward Hartmann

    I live in his district and I got so many hate ads from Hall’s campaign that I decided to vote against him before I even looked into his ramblings. The simple thing is that by claiming that Deuell was a liberal, who conservatives VOTED FOR 3 TIMES, Hall was calling every voter in his district an idiot. Not the best way to treat your base.

    • Bourgeois

      I voted for Deuell a few times myself because I believed he was a conservative, as did many others. But as part of the Hall campaign, I was asked to research his voting record, and I soon realized that I was being played. When his record was made public, the voters agreed. If you take an objective look at his record, and still think he’s a conservative, THEN you’re an idiot, Ed.