Lawrence Person’s BattleSwarm Blog endorses Larry Gonzales over John Gordon in the House District 52 Republican Primary runoff on April 13th. I believe that Gonzales is the better candidate, will have a better chance of winning against Diana Maldonado, and will be a better Representative in the Texas House than Gordon would.
Because both Gonzales and Gordon have been unfailing courteous about answering my questions, I want to make clear that I’m making this decision without any animosity and based solely on the facts at my disposal. I do not know either gentlemen personally, I am not privy to the inner workings of the Williamson County Republican Party, and have no knowledge about either that cannot be gleaned from receiving their campaign literature and searching the internet. And because Gordon has been so cooperative, I feel it only fair to explain the reasons for my decision, and especially which factors were and were not important in making it.
The relative ideological beliefs of the two candidates was not a deciding factor. I do believe that Gordon is genuinely conservative, and should he win the nomination, I would vote for him over Maldonado. I believe that Gonzales is also a solidly conservative candidate, and I find the political differences between them fairly minor. In fact, on two of the issues Gordon points out as differences between himself and Gonzales (opposition to an RRISD bond election, and opposition to public sports subsidies), I would support the same position as Gordon. (On a third, the extension of drinking hours, being of a generally libertarian disposition I would have supported the same postion Gonzales did; I do not think government should have any role saving people from themselves). It is possible that Gordon might, say, pull the voting lever in the state house how I would 95 times out of a hundred, while Gonzales might only pull it how I would vote 93 times out of a hundred. This is, to my mind, too small a difference to worry over.
The recent mailers and the information on http://www.thetruejohngordon.com were not themselves decisive, in that they largely contained information I already knew. Indeed, since I’m endorsing his opponent, I would like to take the opportunity to bend over backwards to clarify which items were not a factor in my decision:
- I’m not particularly bothered by the Randy Staudt lawsuit. Granted, I would be unlikely to do paying work for a close friend, and if I did anything more than a trivial amount of it, I’d certainly get a written contract. (The famous saying is that “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”) But if someone owed me $7,000, much less $24,000, you bet I would eventually take them to court if they didn’t pay up, friend or not.
- Assuming Gordon’s account is correct, I approve of the lawsuit he filed against Round Rock ISD, as I do not feel any government entity should feel free to violate the open meeting act, especially for a major decision like buying land.
- I don’t care that he’s racked up several speeding tickets. My guess would be that between 1997 and 2004, I probably racked up more myself.
All of that said, however, the sheer number of incidents, as well as the many others covered by http://www.thetruejohngordon.com, do point to the main reason I cannot endorse John Gordon, namely temperament. There’s nothing wrong with being spirited. There are many times when it is appropriate for a congressmen to be combative (see, for example, Newt Gingrich in 1994). However, Gordon seems not merely spirited or combative but abrasive, alienating not just his political opponents, but friends and fellow Republicans. Time and time again he’s proven a very poor judge of his own self-interest, pursuing confrontational strategies when a softer approach might have produced better results, and spending his time and effort fighting needless battles that could have been avoided.
Take, for example, that traffic stop video. If you want to avoid getting a ticket, the first rule is to be polite, friendly and non-threatening. After all, policemen and highway patrolmen are just doing their job. But one thing you do not do is say things like “Let me tell you what officer,” “Believe me, it will go all the way up” and state sarcastically “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Indeed, I would think that anyone over the age of about 25 (much less 60) should know that this approach is likely to achieve, shall we say, sub-optimal results. You’re not going to win a verbal pissing contest with a police officer at a traffic stop, and the fact that John Gordon evidently feels he needs to does not reflect kindly on his temperament or judgment.
You may very well beat a ticky-tacky charge like this in court, but acting like a jerk at the stop itself is pure mule-headed stupidity. Indeed, I’ve never gotten a ticket (or even been stopped) for such minor offenses; the fact that John Gordon has, and gets tickets for them, seems to suggest that he has something of a history with local law enforcement agencies. And while I heartily defend the right of the accused to demand jury trials for traffic infractions, the fact Gordon seems to have done so for every single ticket he’s received suggests that to him, winning is far more important than the time and money involved in going to court. An effective politician has to pick his battles; John Gordon seems to go out of his way to pick fights.
While having a boot put on my car (even in error) certainly wouldn’t make my day, no way would I go all Homer Simpson by taking a crowbar to the boot. Doing something like that suggests that Gordon suffers from dangerous levels of hot-hotheadedness. Nobody is above the law, and acting like you are won’t win you many friends.
Another incident that highlights his lack of judgment is his lawsuit over Alyssa Eacono’s residency requirements. Regardless of the technical merits of the case, it was obvious very early on that Larry Gonzales was going to be Gordon’s major opponent in the District 52 primary. Why spend the time, money, and effort (three of a candidate’s most precious commodities) to attack someone who wasn’t a major competitor? Suing Eacono instead of spending the same effort directly engaging Gonzales suggests very poor tactical sense.
And speaking of engaging Gonzales and poor tactics, I believe Gordon’s decision to make Gonzales’ campaign funding from Bob Perry his biggest attack issue was a major strategic blunder. Do I worry about Gonzales getting so much of his funding from Perry? Yeah. Slightly. A candidate’s financial backers are always a legitimate concern. But it’s not like he’s getting his money from George Soros. If you look at Perry’s campaign contribution recipients for this election cycle, 2008, or all the way back to 2000, the overwhelming majority of his contributions are to solidly conservative Republican candidates and causes (Phil Gramm, John Carter, etc.), with an occasional Democrat mixed in. If Gordon wanted to make Perry’s contributions a significant issue, he should have made the case exactly how and why Perry’s interests were inimical to those of Williamson County voters, not merely expect that an attack mailer showing Gonzales as a puppet would be sufficient to make that case for him.
And speaking of campaign finances, for someone who has spent so much time harping on his opponent’s campaign contributions, Gordon’s base of campaign contributors seems pretty small. If you add up all the individual contributors whose names don’t end in “Gordon” from all five of his campaign filings (7/13/09, 1/3/10, 1/27/10, 2/22/10, 4/5/10), you get a grand total of 35 names (and that includes “in kind” voter information from the Republican Party). There’s nothing wrong with self-financing your campaign, but for someone who’s harped on Gonzales’ contributions from outside the district and has made so much of his efforts building the Republican Party in Williamson County, Gordon supporters inside it seem remarkably thin on the ground.
By contrast, if you look at Gonzales’ reports for the same period of time, you get well over 150 individual contributors. Some of those are from out of district (San Antonio and Houston), and about five from out of state. However, Gonzales has more contributors from Round Rock alone (to say nothing of Georgetown, Austin, or Taylor) than Gordon has total.
I could go on to point out little things like the fact that the news and highlights section of his website still says “Content coming soon” more than a month after the primary as an example of poor attention to detail, but the central issue is still Gordon’s hot-headedness and lack of judgment. Even though the http://www.thetruejohngordon.com website contains little that attentive observers of the race didn’t already know, it is a very effective piece of negative campaigning because it gathers all those individual issues in one place and reinforces doubts many voters already had about him.
By contrast, Larry Gonzales is a thoughtful, intelligent and conservative candidate who has run a very smart (and, until the recent round of attack ads, very issue-based) campaign and garnered a broad base of Republican support. He seems more than capable of doing the job, and doesn’t come with Gordon’s baggage. I’ll be voting for Larry Gonzales in the House District 52 Primary runoff on April 13th, and encourage all District 52 voters to do the same.