Mark Davis: Lies, smears target conservatives as Texas primary campaigns get desperate | Opinion

In Texas’ 26th Congressional District, a crowded Republican primary field looks to fill the vacant seat of retiring Dr. Michael Burgess. A Donald Trump endorsement and a family connection to author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza seem like strong conservative ammunition toward that goal. Yet as candidate Brandon Gill carries those assets into battle, a wave of mailers and broadcast commercials have maligned him as an enemy of law enforcement seeking to “de-fund our police.”

Not exactly a Trump/D’Souza stance. That’s because it is an intentional deception.

A Las Vegas-based shadow political committee draped in the name “Conservatives for American Excellence” has been outed as the source. The “police defunding” they seek to smear Gill with is his wish to rein in and perhaps retool the entire FBI for its perceived targeting of conservatives, the exact political opposite of the defund movement that saw the left go after police forces at various levels.

So how does an obvious anti-MAGA faction get away with this kind of fraud? The same way several other campaigns have taken advantage of the current flavor of advertising, an avalanche of mischaracterizations casting misleading light that has fooled and frustrated countless voters.

In races for the Texas House, in a Republican party filled with directional disagreements, the ads bristle with the sloppiest possible spins as opponents trade charges. Brent Money, looking to rebound from a razor-thin special election loss to Jill Dutton in House District 2 in East Texas, once again hears her charge that he is a Never-Trumper, when he has long acknowledged that he is one of many Republicans won over by Trump’s track record and thus converted to a supporter.

But it gets better. Dutton also deploys a tactic favored by candidates facing opponents backed by Defend Texas Liberty, the staunch conservative PAC that has supported Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and a list of other grassroots conservatives notable in the current cycle for their opposition to House Speaker Dade Phelan and his allies.

An inexplicable October 2023 meeting with cartoonishly brash antisemite Nick Fuentes spelled the departure of the PAC’s president, former Bedford Rep. Jonathan Stickland, not known for echoing such bigotry. Nonetheless, anyone who ever received a dime from Defend Texas Liberty is now subject to the type of stigma heaped by a Dutton ad that invokes “Brent Money and his neo-Nazi-affiliated backers.”

In House District 64, Denton Rep. Lynn Stucky, a Phelan ally who voted to impeach Paxton, faces challenger Andy Hopper, who finds fault with the incumbent on both counts. Stucky’s retort involves an ad characterizing one Hopper policy as: “High schoolers? Let ‘em drink booze!” This is an attempt to stigmatize Hopper’s view, shared by many, that if kids can die for their country in a war upon turning 18, they should be able to drink a beer.

But in primary season, few opportunities to deceive go to waste. Lawmakers opposed to Greg Abbott’s broadly popular school choice agenda assert not only that it will destroy public education as we know it, but will favor children in the country illegally. Such fraudulent claims are based on the sound expectation that most people will not know that states have been obligated to provide education regardless of a child’s immigration status for more than 40 years.

Primary-season hostilities are likely here to stay. Even after Tuesday’s results and any possible runoffs in May, when formerly testy GOP rivals mend fences for this year’s November efforts against Democrats, two towering figures appear to be stoking primary juices — for 2026.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn shows willingness to seek a fifth term with his announced wish to succeed Mitch McConnell as Senate Republican leader. Paxton, often mentioned as a potential primary rival to Cornyn, called him “anti-Trump and anti-gun,” adding: “Republicans deserve better in their next leader, and Texans deserve another conservative senator.”

Cornyn, in possible anticipation of that matchup two years down the road, replied: “Hard to run from prison, Ken.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Mark Davis hosts a morning radio show in Dallas-Fort Worth on 660-AM and at Follow him on X: @markdavis .

Mark Davis
Mark Davis

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