Hood County Tea Party may
start districtwide recruitment
At around 10 p.m. Tuesday at Harbor Lakes Golf Club, Cullen Crisp supporter Tony Allen answered a call on his cell phone.
It was former Granbury Mayor David Southern, calling from the home of state Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland). Crisp, a Hood County farmer and small-business owner, was challenging Keffer for the District 60 seat.
Southern told Allen that the group at Keffer’s house was probably having a better time than supporters of Crisp, who had munched on cake while watching poll numbers that didn’t rise to a win.
“Yeah, he goaded me a little bit,” Allen, a Granbury councilman, acknowledged Thursday with a laugh.
But although Keffer managed to hang onto the House seat with 56 percent of the vote districtwide, his knuckles may have been white from the effort.
Crisp, who entered the race late and ran a short, 90-day campaign, convinced 44 percent of those who voted within the district that he was the better choice. On his home turf, he swept 67 percent of the vote.
Next time, he said, he’ll win.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Crisp said Tuesday night at Harbor Lakes. “He (Keffer) needs to go. It’s good for Texas for him to go.”
But not everyone feels that way.
From his home in Eastland late Tuesday, Keffer expressed gratitude for his loyalists in Hood County, several of whom were celebrating with him.
“I’ve had a good group from Hood County that has been with me from the beginning,” the lawmaker said.
If Crisp follows through on his promise to run again for Keffer’s seat, there may be Tea Party groups throughout the district helping to build his support base.
Don Poe, president of the Hood County Tea Party, said Thursday that some of the organization’s 230 members likely will help start those groups.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Poe, who attended Crisp’s election night poll watch party with his wife, Rene.
In addition to Hood and Eastland counties, District 60 encompasses the counties of Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Palo Pinto, Shackelford and Stephens.
But will that spillover into other counties deepen a political divide among Hood County Republicans?
Republican Party Chair Jean Cochran hopes not.
“I hope that we will all work for the same goal, as far as continuing to be a strong Republican county,” Cochran said.
“Each of them have very strong supporters. I hope we will all remember the purpose of the Republican Party and support whoever wins, at least while they are in office, because they are our representative.”
Poe said that, although some may view the Tea Party’s actions as divisive, that is not the group’s intention.
“We had one guy that got up at the Republican Party (meeting) and said he felt like we were being divisive and it was affecting the Republicans,” Poe said. “I tried to explain to him that we don’t have, per se, a Tea Party candidate. We are for smaller government, being fiscally conservative and not frivolously spending money.”
Poe believes that between Crisp and Keffer, Crisp is the candidate whose ideology is most in line with the Tea Party.
Said Allen: “I think there is a division right now, and I do hope that this can be mended. We’ve all got to be on the same team.”
let them eat cake
Poe said that he supported Crisp because he felt that Keffer was not attuned to his constituents in Hood County.
“(The low lake) is one of the big issues for everybody in our county,” Poe said. “At one time, he (Keffer) didn’t even know we had a problem with the lake, and he seemed to be out of touch.”
Poe said he was also concerned about a comment allegedly made by Keffer about having a “water czar” to serve as a liaison, which Poe viewed as another layer of government bureaucracy.
Allen said that he was concerned about Austin lobbyists who he said came to Hood County on election day to stand outside polling locations with Keffer signs. Allen said that he was approached by one of them when he went to vote at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church.
“It makes me wonder, why are they doing that?” Allen said.
Efforts to obtain a response to Poe’s and Allen’s concerns were unsuccessful by press time.
Southern was among several local Keffer supporters who received a personal invitation to an election night gathering at the lawmaker’s home.
The former mayor explained that he supports Keffer because he has always stepped up for Granbury and Hood County whenever he has been needed.
Keffer’s years in the Texas House of Representatives have earned him senior status that equates to power, Southern inferred.
“This will be his 10th term,” said Southern. “The way the Legislature works, you’re not very effective in your first few terms because the whole thing is based on committee structures. Keffer has 18 years of seniority, and he has been chairman of several important committees.
“Cullen might be just the right person if Keffer was leaving, but why throw out someone who’s done everything we asked and is involved in the leadership of the House? I think it would be a devastating blow to Hood County in getting anything through the Legislature that we may need.”
Southern said that, among other things, Keffer assisted in the creation of Hood County Development District 1, which has provided funding for the Acton Nature Center.
Crisp serves on the HCDD1 board and was instrumental in getting the Nature Center opened.
The former mayor said that criticisms of Keffer about the low lake level have involved “conspiracy theories” and inaccurate information.
There are claims that false information about Crisp was also spread during the campaign.
Attorneys for Keffer reportedly warned broadcasters that they could be in legal jeopardy if they continued to run televised ads that allegedly made false claims about the state representative.
Crisp said he was pleased with his numbers at the polls.
“It was a great race,” he said. “It shows that people are wanting a change. We went to every county talking to folks and listening to their concerns about District 60.
“It clearly shows that somebody needs to run, and I’m willing to do that.”
Said Crisp campaign manager Justin Newman: “It (vote totals) sends a message that a 90-day grassroots campaign can do much damage against an established incumbent.”
Poe said the Hood County Tea Party has been approached by residents of Brownwood who are “excited” about the prospect of starting a Tea Party group in their county.
Crisp reportedly received cash and voter-list software from a Political Action Committee (PAC) called Accountability First as part of an effort to boot House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), whom Keffer supports. According to news reports, Crisp also had the backing of the conservative grassroots group Empower Texans.
Keffer’s chief of staff, Evan Autry, told The Dallas Morning News that the organization’s tactics included “bogus score cards and negative advertising.”
Efforts to seek comments from Crisp about that claim were unsuccessful before press time.
As for the Hood County Tea Party, Poe said that the group’s next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at Annex 1, 1410 W. Pearl St.
“We’re going to have a ‘pot luck politics’ night,” he said. “Everybody will bring a covered dish, and we’ll open the floor for discussion.”
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