Primary Madness: Down-Ballot Roundup

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State Representative Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball.
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State Representative Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball.

We’re a week and a half away from a primary election, which means that all over Texas, the clear-minded and thoughtful politicians and activists that govern this state so well are losing their goddamn minds. There’s a lot of that at the top of the ticket—Texas’ nuclear lieutenant governor’s race has enough sturm und drang to keel over Goethe—but madness and idiocies abound in races all across the state, setting up a fun last week of campaigning. Here’s a couple of them.

RIDDLE V. NOUN

First, there’s state Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball). She’s the woman who explained to CNN that foreigners and Middle Easterners are coming to the US to deliver children and spawn “terror anchor babies,” told an American UT student with a Middle Eastern name to move to Afghanistan, and who said the idea of public education “comes straight out of the pit of hell.” She spent the last legislative session trying to maintain her ability to keep low-income housing projects out of her district.

Riddle has been wrapped up in a contentious primary race with used-car dealer Tony Noun. Riddle may be a lock to keep the seat, but Noun’s put up a fight, hammering Riddle’s apparent violations of state election law and supposed unfealty to conservatism. He’s even posed with Ted Cruz, a seeming must for any Republican in a primary this cycle. But Noun was also born in Lebanon, something that gave this pairing a frisson of danger.

On Wednesday, Noun posted on his campaign website: “Racist Taunts Will Not Stop Me.” The two candidates were at the Champion Life Center in Spring, Texas, he wrote, when Riddle confronted a Noun volunteer who was planting signs on the property. Noun approached.

I politely said, “Mrs. Riddle,” to which she replied “Don’t talk to me, you think you’re in the Middle East. You don’t put signs up like that in America.”

[I was] stunned, although not necessarily surprised. She continued her insensitive remarks, “You’re a thief and a crook running for state rep. You need to go back to your country and run a campaign. You can’t put signs up like that in America.”

Noun writes that the flashpoint followed Riddle’s hints, elsewhere in the campaign, that Noun “wasn’t actually a Christian.”

On Monday, I called Riddle to ask if Noun’s allegations were true. “I’m not going to get into a he-said, she-said. He wants to talk about anything but the issues.” I asked if, without rehashing the whole thing, she could give a simple denial that she had told a campaign worker to go back to the Middle East, or that she had cast aspersions on Noun’s faith. She declined, several times.

“I’m not going to get into a he-said, she-said,” she said again, criticizing Noun for not having control over his volunteers and running a relentlessly negative campaign. “I’m not going to get into the fact that his campaign treasurer was arrested for assault on a child. I’m not going to get into the fact that he calls himself a car salesman but his license to sell cars was revoked two times by the state. I’m not going to get in the muck and the mire,” said Riddle.

Riddle says she’s never been discourteous to the Noun campaign, but that Noun hasn’t reciprocated.  Noun’s volunteers have physically threatened her, she charged, and in one instance a constable had to be called. The whole idea of her talking this way is ridiculous, she said. “Go on my Facebook page and you’ll see a Latina woman who’s known me for ten years and says she’s never heard me say anything like that,” Riddle said. “Half of my volunteers, quite frankly, are minority.”

I ask her what sparked the confrontation. The two camps were putting up signs on different sides of a driveway at a campaign event—Noun’s on one side, Riddle’s on the other. All was harmonious. Then, a Noun volunteer stepped to Riddle’s side and started putting up his signs on her turf. Riddle tried to explain that wasn’t how things were done, she said, to the extent she could. “All he spoke was Arabic.” Riddle again declines to deny Noun’s characterization of her statements. “There’s context missing,” she says.

On his website, Noun asks plaintively: “Given what she said and how she’s acted, one of my initial thoughts was, ‘this is the person representing us in Austin? Does she talk like this to everyone she doesn’t like?’”

GOD v. GOD

The question of “Who is the real Christian?” is popping up frequently over Texas, and I’m not just talking about Dan Branch and Dan Patrick’s increasingly theocratic TV ads. (There must be something about Dans.)

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Bud Kennedy writes, the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, one of the most reactionary in the state, had a flashpoint last week over a lurking sectarian divide that’s threatened to undo Texas time again and again. It’s not Baghdad, but it’s still pretty grim. Yes—it’s the Baptists and Methodists.

The tea party group’s co-founder, Julie McCarty, wrote to her fellow members on Facebook that in the crucial three-way primary for Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 1, they should vote for David E. Cook, a Southern Baptist, over Don Hase, a Methodist, because Methodists believe “anything goes.” Methodists, McCarty wrote, “have female pastors and openly welcome gays with no church discipline,” though the connection that has to a local criminal court race is unclear.

As Kennedy notes, Cook, the Baptist, received the lowest qualification rating from a local bar association of the three men in the race (there’s also Everett Young, a Lutheran.) Until recently, McCarty’s group was meeting at a Lutheran church in Bedford, but they’re presumably finding a more holy place to sanctify their political activity.

Julie McCarty, meanwhile, has passed through this dark time of theological interrogation with flying colors.

Julie McCarty NETTP Facebook Post

CHRIS MAPP V. THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS, DECENCY

Newspaper endorsement meetings are a time for candidates to appear respectable. On the primary trail, they can let it hang out and rile people—but enter a newspaper conference room, and your job is to convince an editorial board that you’re thoughtful, stable and trustworthy. That’s not what happened with Chris Mapp, a South Texas boat salesman who’s one of the hapless seven contenders running against John Cornyn. When Mapp, entered the hallowed halls of the Dallas Morning News, he let loose with a shotgun blast of unwise rhetoric.

South Texas businessman Chris Mapp, 53, told this editorial board that ranchers should be allowed to shoot on sight anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land, referred to such people as “wetbacks,” and called the president a “socialist son of a bitch.”

After some blowback, he told the San Antonio Express-News on Friday that the term ‘wetback’ is as “normal as breathing air in South Texas.”

Mapp, who writes on his campaign website that’s he’s not the candidate for those who support the “radical Muslim agenda”—imagine Cornyn praying to Mecca—is a marginal figure, it’s true. But he’ll probably disappear after the March 4 primary, so now is the time to get to know Chris Mapp. He has a lot of thoughts, and you can read them in his website’s “Current Writings” section.

I do believe the act of slavery is not appropriate but let’s get a couple of things strait [sic throughout]. Black people sold Black people for profit as well as White People. Stop whining, what is done is done. Have you ever read the Bible, Slavery was a way of life and when you look at Joseph you will see a man that was in Jail and a slave (sold by his own family) and he turned out great. (No whining hear, he talked it out with God) What a great Idea. (Have you ever heard of Egyptian reparations, “No”?)

But he’s not a close-minded man. He’s open to learning new languages and cultures, for example.

I was checking out Rosseta Stone over the weekend and I am having trouble deciding wehther to purchase Arabic or Chinese as a second language. Here is the dilemma; If the presidents closest advisor was born in Iran and we are having the Muslim brotherhood to the white house and the new blank panther party ( notice I did not say black) – this was the reason for choice A. Choice B is based on the Debt that will grow beyond control.

As 2014’s primary season comes to a close (before two and a half months of grueling runoffs) let us set aside division and rededicate ourselves to personal growth like Mapp has.

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