A supporter of Corbin Van Arsdale in his bitter Republican primary battle with Allen Fletcher (and Dan Patrick) sent me a copy of a campaign letter sent out by a Fletcher supporter named Mark Shirley. It characterizes — I should say, mischaracterizes — my blog posting about the race on February 9. These are the first three paragraphs of Mr. Shirley’s letter:

Dear Friends: Greetings again! With three weeks before we vote, here are some things to consider as you seek the TRUTH in the Texas State Rep District 130 Race:

EVEN TEXAS MONTHLY GETS IT: Over the weekend, Paul Burka, veteran Texas Monthly writer, noted in his “Van Arsdale – Fletcher (Houston)” piece that the grassroots (you and I) and the Senator (Dan Patrick) we elected in 2006 are making an impact in Austin. It is clear the Austin Establishment led by the Speaker (Tom Craddick) is totally out of touch with what voters want accomplished. The fact that Craddick would be surprised that voters
(you and I) are not happy with Corbin Van Arsdale is amazing! Time for a
reality check on March 4th.

CORBIN VOTED AGAINST HIS OWN DISTRICT: As Burka notes, Corbin voted – time and time again – against his own District. He voted for the Trans Texas Corridor, the Business Tax, to deregulate college tuition (sending costs skyrocketing), to give illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses, to bust the spending cap, to tax residents of nursing homes and for a sales tax to be placed on Cy Fair only. The fact that Speaker Craddick would think the voters would be ready to send Corbin back is rather SHOCKING. The people of District 130 and true Republicans everywhere were against almost every one of these votes.

[The rest is mostly attacks on Van Arsdale and reports about the campaign.]

Here is what I actually wrote in the blog on February 9. As you will see, I did not “note” that “the grass roots and Senator Patrick are making an impact in Austin.” I described what was going on in the speaker’s office. The conclusion was Mr. Shirley’s. Nor did I “note” that Van Arsdale voted against his own district, only that this is what his critics (including Senator Patrick) say he did. Here is the complete text of what I wrote. It is primarily about the importance of the race from the speaker’s point of view, not about Senator Patrick or Mr. Van Arsdale and his voting record.

I heard a report earlier this week that Craddick was suddenly panicked about this race. The image of Craddick as “panicked” doesn’t readily present itself, but the race has become an important battle in Craddick’s fight to hold onto the speakership.

Fletcher, of course, is Dan Patrick’s handpicked candidate to take out Van Arsdale, who supported Joe Nixon over Patrick in the 2006 race in which Patrick won his Senate seat without a runoff. Patrick has said that his objection to Van Arsdale is that not that he campaigned for his opponent but that he doesn’t vote his district. Craddick was slow to recognize that other Republicans in the footprint of Patrick’s radio broadcasts took a “There but for the grace of God go I” view of the Patrick/Fletcher challenge to Van Arsdale. They fear that if Fletcher wins, they may be the next in Patrick’s. They want Patrick stopped, now, lest he start dictating how they should vote. The vote that is really causing problems for Van Arsdale is his support of the business margins tax in 2006; the criticism is that he voted with Craddick in order to advance himself in the House, rather than vote his district.

The peril for Craddick is that if Van Arsdale loses, the speaker will get the blame, for not doing enough to support him. And it will resurrect two complaints members have against Craddick: (1) that he forces them to vote with him instead of voting their districts; and (2) that he really doesn’t care about individual members and their races, so long as the person who ultimately occupies the seat is pledged to him. Whether these concerns are valid is beside the point at this stage of the game. Perception is reality. There are a lot of chickens coming home to roost.

[I have removed a short update about Fletcher’s advantage in yard signs and endorsements from precinct chairs]

I hope that if Mr. Shirley chooses to republish my writing again, he will restrict himself to direct quotes rather than characterizations–or mischaracterizations.