Let’s face it: 2020 was no one’s favorite year. From the deeply tragic (a pandemic that took too many of our lives) to the deeply comic (a pair of Arlington drivers who found a novel way to wash their cars), this was perhaps the craziest, stupidest, Bum Steeriest year in Texas Monthly’s history. There were bright spots, to be sure (see “The Best Things in Texas”), but you had to stumble through a lot of trail dust and cow pies to find them. 


Bum Steer of the Year

The Texas Democratic Party

Because it grew so overconfident about its ability to win Texas that it didn’t bother to figure out how to win Texas, the state’s Democratic Party is our Bum Steer of the Year! Read More


Runners-Up

The COVID Nineteen

The not-quite-twenty Texans who spectacularly disgraced themselves during the pandemic. Read More

Ken Paxton

Political junkies and video gamers alike will thrill to the amazing adventures of Paxt-Man! Read More


(Dis)honorable Mentions / The Rest of the Herd

Now it really is a stately pile

An Irving demolition contractor mistakenly tore down a century-old pink Craftsman bungalow in Dallas’s Vickery Place neighborhood that was located two blocks away from the roofless house that was supposed to be demolished.

It’s never too early for a good excuse. Or even a bad one.

In a pre-election interview, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick stated that if Trump were to lose Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Florida, it would be because “[the Democrats] stole it.”

No store does more . . . to make you nauseated

H-E-B released a line of dessert hummuses with flavors including Cake Batter, Lemon Meringue, and Chocolate.

On the other hand, they did offer a very reasonable rate to film the funeral

Dallas wedding videography firm Copper Stallion Media faced a national backlash after writing a Facebook post that cruelly mocked a customer who tried to get a refund when his fiancée died in a car crash months before their planned wedding date. “After what Justin pulled with the media stunt to try and shake us down for a refund, we hope you sob and cry all day for what would have been your wedding day,” the post said. “Sorry, not sorry.”

If there were any justice, he’d get the gas chamber

A Wichita Falls man was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend after he farted and she complained that it “smelled horrible.”

Destroying actual grackles might have earned him a key to the city

Austin police arrested a man for allegedly burning down a statue of a grackle outside Austin’s city hall.

Someone set a grackle statue in front of Austin City Hall on fire

Austin Fire Department

For the talent portion of the competition, she juggled bowling pins while hate-texting with her toes

The winner of the Miss Alice Texas Beauty Pageant had her crown revoked after she was arrested for allegedly banging on the windows of an ex-boyfriend’s home. 

She should hand that loser his limping papers

A Houston man was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after shooting himself in the foot while allegedly threatening his girlfriend with a gun.

Does this mean that nice Nigerian prince isn’t going to serve as our homecoming king after all?

School district officials in Manor announced that the district was bilked out of $2.3 million as the result of an employee falling for a phishing scam.

Man oh man oh man oh man

Houston appellate court judge Jerry Zimmerer, who was running for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court, said that his primary opponent, Amy Clark Meachum, was “selfish” for wanting to be the first woman elected chief justice.

So now it’s the four R’s: readin’, ritin’, ’rithmetic, and raunch

The Texas Education Agency warned educators that a URL from one of its past initiatives that had been placed on numerous school district websites was redirecting to a porn site.

Thankfully, nothing else went viral

Three minors in Corsicana were arrested after a video of one of them drinking from juice bottles at a local Walmart and then putting them back on the shelf went viral.

“Could you turn up the volume? I can’t hear over those sawing sounds.”

Nine Gregg County jail employees resigned after it was revealed that they were watching movies during their shifts—several of them on the night that an inmate successfully escaped.

Fortunately, the victim was able to make a clean getaway

After an hours-long standoff, Houston police arrested a man for allegedly threatening his adult son with a gun for taking too long in the shower.

So, apparently, does a sense of decency

Asked about President Trump’s tweet baselessly claiming that a 75-year-old man who was knocked unconscious by police in upstate New York might have been an antifa provocateur, Senator John Cornyn replied, with a shrug, “You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Senator John Cornyn

Susan Walsh/Getty

For extra credit, which of these biology teachers is about to get fired?

Klein Collins High School, outside Houston, gave dozens of freshmen a biology assignment that included a question about sperm and genetic markers and that asked students, “Which of the suspects raped Suzy?”

There’s “at the very least the ‘possibility’ ” this is why she’s no longer the Bexar County GOP chair

Bexar County chair Cynthia Brehm was one of a handful of county GOP leaders across the state who shared racist social media posts stating that there was “at the very least the ‘possibility’ ” that George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer had been staged.

Two former students whose photo you probably won’t see in SMU’s latest brochure

A gun-toting couple in St. Louis went to SMU

Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

This wasn’t exactly the kind of rocky road he had in mind

A Lubbock man allegedly got drunk and had his thirteen-year-old stepdaughter drive him to get some ice cream—and then she nearly collided with a police car. 

They were hoping the first thirteen times were innocent mistakes

Katy police arrested a fellow officer for allegedly stealing from a local Walmart while on duty on fourteen separate occasions in a one-month period.

They flunked Poaching 101

A father and son were arrested for allegedly hunting deer on the 524-acre urban campus of the University of Houston–Clear Lake.

Judge to Austin voters: So sue me

In what may have been a misplaced expression of enthusiasm for female candidates, Austin voters booted well-respected district court judge Tim Sulak to make way for Madeleine Connor, a notorious crank who was earlier blacklisted by a judge for filing frivolous lawsuits. She was the only resident of Travis County to be declared a “vexatious litigant” last year. 

Last one in’s a rotten driver!

In late summer, an apparently intoxicated driver veered off a residential street in Arlington, crashed through a fence, and eventually came to a stop at the bottom of a backyard swimming pool. A week later, another Arlington driver did the exact same thing a few miles away.

Two separate cars crashed into residential pools in Arlington

Arlington Police Department

Double, double toil and trouble, / Fire burn, and cauldron bubble, / Eye of newt and shell of snail, / Can you help me post my bail?

A Flint woman and her daughter were charged with stalking after they allegedly used witchcraft and “demonic items” to scare an ex-girlfriend of the daughter’s husband.

Dennis Bonnen’s been binge-listening to it ever since

On June 19, the conservative activist group Empower Texans accidentally released expletive-ridden outtakes from a podcast in which the organization’s vice president, Cary Cheshire, and general counsel, Tony McDonald, joked about Governor Greg Abbott’s use of a wheelchair.

Man, those stuffed peppers sure were addictive!

Nueces County drug agents discovered nearly $1 million worth of cocaine hidden in boxes of bell peppers in the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler.

You won’t relish the check

The Dallas restaurant CornDog With No Name added a $24 corn dog to its menu, complete with edible gold “mustard.”

a gold-topped corn dog is available for a high price in San Antonio

Susie Oszustowicz/Courtesy of CornDog With No Name

She may have had a green thumb, but she was caught red-handed

In November, a woman was seen on security footage stealing a large fiddle-leaf fig plant from a Fort Worth coffee shop in broad daylight.

Bill de Blasio: I am the most despised mayor in America.

Eric Johnson: Hold my beer.

Though he has served for only a year as Dallas’s mayor, Eric Johnson has already managed to alienate almost everyone. Case in point: in 2020 he launched a crusade to “defund the bureaucracy,” putting forth a proposal to cut all city salaries above $60,000. He didn’t do any of the political work to build consensus among city council members, and his plan went down in a 13–1 vote. Weeks later, he narrowly fended off an attempt by the council to strip him of the authority to speak for the city at the Legislature—a remarkable action, given that Johnson served in the Lege for ten years.

Bill de Blasio: I will go down in history as the most unloved former mayor of New York City.

Michael Bloomberg: Hold my 1982 Château Margaux.

In his brief bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg quickly built a formidable campaign organization in Texas by promising staffers he would keep them on the payroll to do work they cared about until November, whether or not he won the primary. Almost two hundred staffers signed on, believing they were in it for the long haul. The Texas primary was held March 3, the 78-year-old multibillionaire ended his campaign on March 4, and by March 13 everyone employed by his Texas operation was let go.

They were dead wrong

Medicare refused to pay for the prescriptions of a 73-year-old Magnolia woman because the Social Security Administration had incorrectly listed her as deceased. 

Suddenly, draining the swamped took on new urgency

A boat parade in support of Donald Trump’s reelection campaign that was held on Lake Travis, outside Austin, over Labor Day weekend didn’t quite work out as planned, as choppy waters brought about by the flotilla’s wakes caused stalled engines, numerous swampings, capsized boats, and at least five sunken watercraft.

Trump boat parade in Austin gets swamped

Bob Daemmrich

They fancied themselves all the road rage

A group of Trump supporters in cars and pickup trucks followed a Biden/Harris campaign bus up I-35 in Hays County, surrounded the vehicle, honking and shouting, and caused at least one collision.

Maybe she meant the other state senator Royce West

When Democratic U.S. Senate nominee MJ Hegar was asked at a debate if she had tried to settle her long-running feud with her former primary opponent, state senator Royce West, she replied, “Senator West is supporting me because I know that we’re on the same page and we share so many of the same values.” West, however, saw it differently. “I’m not voting for her,” he said, calling her “crazy” and adding, “She’s had a problem all along with Black folks.”

He couldn’t resist the call of the sirens

After stealing an ambulance that was parked outside Houston’s St. Joseph’s Hospital, a man led police—who found him by tracking the vehicle’s GPS—on a brief car chase and was then arrested. 

Here’s how most Americans pronounce “lapdog”: “Dih-nesh Duh-soo-zah”

Defending President Trump’s pronunciation of Thailand as “Thigh-land,” Houston-based author Dinesh D’Souza—who was pardoned by Trump in 2018 for election law crimes—claimed that most Americans pronounce it wrong.

Dinesh D'Souza

John Raoux/AP

She’d rather put up her dukes than pick up her dookie

A Houston woman was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon after she allegedly used her car to attempt to run down a neighbor who had confronted her about her repeated failure to pick up her dog’s feces.

“Press 1 if you want to hear your checking balance. Press 2 if hearing your checking balance made you wet yourself.”

Thanks to a clerical error, LegacyTexas Bank transferred $37 million into the account of a Rowlett couple—an error that was quickly corrected when the husband called and brought it to the bank’s attention.

It’s really me! Uncross my legs and hope to die!

The Austin-based dating app Bumble briefly blocked actor Sharon Stone because moderators thought she was an impersonator. 

When it came to government money, he liked to play fast and loose

A Houston man was charged with bank and wire fraud after he allegedly spent federal COVID-19 relief funds on a $233,000 Lamborghini sports car and at a strip club.

“Our special tonight is a sesame romesco salmon, served with Aleppo pepper, garlic, pomegranate molasses, and a quick thrust to the jugular”

A man, apparently angry that he had been fired from a Dallas restaurant, was arrested after allegedly taking a sword the staff used to cut open champagne bottles and waving it at colleagues and customers.

“Alexa, name a Trump campaign lawyer who’s even crazier than Rudy Giuliani”

At a press conference more than two weeks after the election, Trump campaign attorney and Dallas resident Sidney Powell alleged, without evidence, that “what we are really dealing with here, and uncovering more by the day, is the massive influence of Communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our elections here in the United States.” Days later, the campaign issued a statement denying that Powell was part of its legal team.

Sidney Powell, lawyer for Trump fighting election results

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP

He had a dream that someday party chairs would be judged not by the content of their racist Facebook posts but by their willingness to break their word

After posting on Facebook a Martin Luther King Jr. quote juxtaposed with a picture of a banana, Harris County’s GOP chair–elect Keith Nielsen promised to renounce his position—and then changed his mind. And then changed his mind again.

Here’s the deal: that’s a bunch of malarkey

In October, a Dallas-based beer bar offered commemorative presidential election pint glasses that referred to Joe Biden as “Stuttering Joe.”

Give me the Liberty Tree, and/or give me death!

In late May, the Liberty Tree Tavern, in Elgin, defiantly instituted a “no mask allowed” policy. “If I get it, I get it,” one of the bar’s customers told a reporter. “You can’t live forever.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.