It always fascinates me how politicians who are running for office find ways to warp and spin their records to appeal to every audience regardless of what their past positions and actions really were. Ambiguous votes on peculiar bills, supporting legislation they know will get voted down just to get it on their resume, authoring hopeless bills which die in committee to pander to a single-issue constituency, trading endorsements with other candidates which are full of qualifiers which can then be quoted out of context — all of these are fair game when it’s time to hoodwink the voters.
Here in the Austin area, Democrat Mark Strama (Texas House District 50) (see permanently sneering image to right) has been particularly adept at trading favors and distorting his record to try to strengthen his position in a district which is fairly evenly split between Democrat and Republican voters. To win and hold his seat he has had to make deals with Republicans and do everything he can to win Republican votes, but since he doesn’t actually vote much like a Republican that means misrepresenting the substance of his record on key issues. He’s clearly feeling the pressure from insurgent Republican Patrick McGuiness and the resulting mendacity is enlightening.
To win over Republican voters, Strama has made use of supportive quotes from Republican Representative Jim Keffer (Tecas House District 60) to look like a model of bipartisanship. In 2006 Keffer said that Strama “worked with Republicans to cut property taxes and keep our public schools open.” Yet further investigation demonstrates that Strama really didn’t do either of these things.
The truth is that Strama did not work on or support any major education initiatives and actually voted against property tax reductions twice in 2006. I can’t imagine how voting against property tax reductions can possibly be defined as working for them, except maybe by a definition broad enough to classify opposing legislation as an important collaborative role.
What Strama actually did do in 2006 was to support Keffer’s anti-business, job destroying and tax increasing franchise tax bill, one of the most negative pieces of legislation to come out of the Texas legislature this decade. This is a classic example of a corrupt bargain. Keffer needed votes from Strama and other Democrats to pass his tax increase, and as payback he provided Strama with a supportive quote to use in his next campaign to hoodwink fiscally conservative Republicans into voting for a tax and spend leftist.
So not only did Strama not cut property taxes as claimed (though the legislature did it without his support), he helped create a whole new strongly anti-busienss tax structure with the collaboration of big government Republicans. Yes, this was certainly bipartisan, but is being bipartisan a good thing when it sells out the best interests of the voters? Bad legislation doesn’t become good just because unprincipled legislators from both sides of the aisle support it.
Despite Strama’s attempts to draw Republican votes by presenting himself as a tax cutter, what we learn from the facts behind his claims is that he opposed tax cuts and supported tax increases, and what’s more that there are some Republicans like Jim Keffer who maybe ought to be looked at with a skeptical eye. Keffer not only authored the franchise tax, but also opposed the indian gaming bill which would have brought in substantial additional revenue for the state without imposing new taxes on the public. Someone with more authentic Republican principles ought to think about running against Keffer in the GOP primary in 2012.
For voters in Texas House District 50 the maxim “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” ought to apply. Strama may have fooled them through his tit-for-tat with Keffer and by misrepresenting his record in the past, but in this election Republicans and moderate but fiscally sensible Democrats ought to know better and vote for Republican challenger Patrick McGuinness instead.