Berlanga Rejects Garnet Coleman's Charge that He Recuited Rios Ybarra
Wed February 20, 2008 6:17 pm

On Tuesday, February 19, I posted a memorandum compiled by Garnet Coleman detailing efforts by Tom Craddick to recruit Craddick-friendly candidates to oppose Democratic incumbents in Democratic primaries. In that post ["Craddick D's: The Next Generation"], Coleman leveled the charge that former Democratic representatives Hugo Berlanga and Judy Hawley had recruited Tara Rios Ybarra to run against Juan Escobar. Berlanga called to say that he had tried to reach Coleman, without success, to tell Coleman that he did not recruit Rios Ybarra or contribute to her. Hawley's name did not come up.

This is what Coleman wrote about the race:

HD 43 –
Craddick D Challenger Tara Rios-Ybarra vs. Democratic Incumbent Rep. Juan Escobar

Republican financial support. Received $50,000 from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a front for Craddick financial backers. In addition, at least $68,000 of the $79,000 she reported in donations through 1/31/08 either came from TLR or persons closely connected with the PAC.

Leininger Front Group Support. Received $2,500 from William McMinn, who is on the board of directors of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank funded by voucher king and Craddick ally James Leininger. McMinn was also on the board of Putting Children First, the original voucher lobby group in Texas.

Special interest support that opposes citizens of HD 43. Another $2,500 in campaign donations came from people associated with the URI uranium mine that operates – to much controversy – in House District 43. The mine is currently involved in litigation with Kleberg County over its operations, and mine officials were angered by Escobar’s addition of an amendment to a uranium mining proposal that guaranteed the right of individuals to grant permits for new wells. In its endorsement of Rep. Escobar, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times praises Escobar for his work protecting his district from special interests pushing uranium mines in HD 43. URI uranium mine lobbyist Hugo Berlanga, who is working with Republican Todd Hunter in his bid to unseat Rep. Juan Garcia, an anti-Craddick member, has recruited and aided Ybarra in her race against Escobar. His hopes to defeat these two members would create rubber stamps for both Craddick and uranium mine interests.

This is what Berlanga had to say:

No campaign donations to Tara Rios-Ybarra have come from people associated with the URI. URI has not endorsed or funded either candidate in the Tara Rios-Ybarra versus Juan Escobar race for state representative. The $2,500 in donations referenced in the Blog came from two independent drilling contractors: one that drills for URI and one who drills with another uranium company. These individuals have no affiliation with URI or any uranium company. They run their own independent business and make their own decisions vis-à-vis campaign contributions.

The so called Escobar’s amendment was a negotiated amendment that describes the criteria that must be met to avoid contested case hearings for new wells. There is nothing in the amendment that guarantees the rights of individuals to grant permits for wells or anything of the like. That right is delegated to our State Agencies.

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