Ted Cruz has a new challenger for his Senate seat in 2018: Dan McQueen. If you’ve already forgotten the name you can be forgiven—McQueen’s time in the limelight as the embattled mayor of Corpus Christi lasted just 37 days before he suddenly quit in January.
McQueen’s background is complicated. He was elected as Corpus Christi’s mayor last year despite having no political experience—his status as an unknown outsider made him an attractive candidate. McQueen ran into problems right from the start, grappling with a clean water crisis that drew national attention less than two days after he came into power. In the weeks that followed, he traded blows with local media and members of the city council on Facebook, and became the subject of several investigative news reports that raised questions about the legitimacy of his educational background, his business acumen, and the nature of his relationship with his chief of staff. Over a span of only a few days, everything fell apart for McQueen. It started when local media started looking into his business background:
A series of reports by Corpus Christi NBC affiliate KRIS-TV raised some troubling questions about McQueen. One report implied that McQueen, who campaigned on the back of his supposedly strong business credentials, actually didn’t have a particularly impressive record after all. According to KRIS-TV, McQueen was sued in 2007 for breaking a lease in a San Antonio shopping center where he was renting space for a karate school, and he still owes $25,000 on a court-ordered lien for the property. Citing court documents, KRIS-TV said McQueen was fined twice during that lawsuit for failing to turn over documents, and one of his attorneys withdrew from the case because he had “difficulty communicating” with McQueen. McQueen also ran a failed campaign to raise funds for a documentary film called Party Hard. According to KRIS-TV, the would-be director said the film would expose the “drugs, parties, illegal immigrants, and career criminals” supposedly living off of contributions to local homeless shelters. The film’s online Kickstarter fundraiser campaign raised exactly $0 of its $7,250 goal.
His professed educational record quickly fell apart too:
Another KRIS-TV report raised questions about McQueen’s academic background. According to KRIS-TV, McQueen has claimed for at least the past three years that he had a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Florida State University. But Florida State apparently had no record of anyone with McQueen’s name and birthdate earning a degree from the school. McQueen didn’t directly respond to KRIS-TV’s questions, but he did delete a LinkedIn profile that KRIS-TV said listed his Florida State degree just hours after the news station asked him about it. He also deleted his website, which mentioned that he earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. We did find this flier for what appears to have been a speaking engagement McQueen attended at Delmar College, listing the Florida State degree in McQueen’s biography. The Caller-Times was able to confirm that McQueen earned a master’s degree in computer information systems at Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, but it is still unclear why the bachelor degree details seem to have been made up.
The final straw for McQueen was also the most salacious:
According to KRIS-TV, driver’s license and voter registration records show McQueen and his chief of staff, Shari Douglas, had shared a home address from 2012 up until after McQueen was elected, when Douglas changed her home address to a P.O. box. Douglas told KRIS-TV that she and McQueen were simply “good friends.” But McQueen’s former campaign treasurer Cliff Harris told the station that Douglas was McQueen’s “live-in girlfriend,” and the former mayor’s estranged son told the news station that his father and Douglas had been romantically involved for decades. The city of Corpus Christi’s employment policy forbids employees from hiring domestic partners without first disclosing their relationship and getting approval from the city manager.
Just as his story was falling to pieces, McQueen appeared on KRIS-TV for an exclusive interview. It did not go well. “I don’t like things coming out,” he says at one point early in the interview. He evaded most of the reporter’s point-blank questions for the rest of the twenty-plus-minute exchange. “Sorry… I’ve got secrets in my head I can’t let out,” he says at the end. Hours later, he announced his resignation.
Now, after a short hiatus, McQueen has re-entered the world of politics. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times recently received a press release claiming McQueen gave a speech July 15 in Austin, announcing his campaign as a Republican to challenge the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Cruz, who is up for election in 2018. On Wednesday, the Caller-Times confirmed with McQueen that the former mayor was running for Senate. “So having continued to serve and sacrifice for the success of America and Texas for all my life, I am propelled to continue into the fight for the citizens,” McQueen said during the speech, according to a news release sent to the Caller-Times.
McQueen seems to be running a moon-shoot campaign, but he certainly seems to think of himself as a serious candidate. He even has a campaign website, mcqueenforsenate.com, promoting the very same business record and educational background that drew questions during his time as mayor. Most of the website is cryptic. “I love America, the path to success is layered in history, dedication, and persistence,” it states. “Never assume you know the path of any individual, it may be illusive. If you’re a patriot like many of my friends, this quote probably made you question. Always Question!”
It is unclear what any of that means.
McQueen’s campaign promises are equally bizarre. He wants to cut the number of members of Congress by 20 percent, “reducing representatives to every one million constituents.” “With the new digital age,” he explains, “communication is more streamline [sic].” He’s also pretty high on border security and national security, claiming he has “tracked actual Soviet and Russian Submarines, deployed with Navy Seal Teams and Army Special Forces” and has “been involved in some of the most classified military weapon system development.”
Although the website details McQueen’s military service, his business record, his goals for Texas, and his love for motorcycles and martial arts, it does not mention his time as Corpus Christi’s mayor, save for a link to a self-published book: “37 Day Mayor: Truth – FAKE NEWS – America’s Future (Volume 1).” The book is described on Amazon as “A Story of FAKE NEWS, Bias Media, Corruption and Cronyism inside the wall.” The book includes a list of “21 Things Media Did Not Say About Mayor Dan McQueen,” and it has fifteen chapters. The title of chapter three is misspelled: “MY CRDENTIALS.”
In a section of McQueen’s campaign website labeled “Important PLEASE READ!”, McQueen explains his overall goals in running for Senate: “We have advancing technology, terrorism and national decay that is beyond the level of many in our Government. This is often the situation of most cities or even states, but most importantly at the current rate of change in America, it becomes even more important. It is for this reason that I am offering all my education, experience and dedication in an effort to Do More Faster with our U.S. Senate.”
There’s also a place on McQueen’s website for people to donate money to his campaign. “We are pushing a $7 campaign,” the donation page says, “if everyone would just give $7, we will show how to run an effective campaign on a budget. I have the lowest cost per vote process, it is a proven method. Please send $7 to promote our cause.”