I am a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher, so my legislative votes are pretty well set as "pro life." In the 83rd legislative session, I voted for every pro-life issue and every amendment. Also, I had no involvement in either Senate Bill 303 or House Bill 1444 — bills opposed by Texas Right to Life that would have modified the state’s advance directive law.
Still, like many others, I received a subpar score from Texas Right to Life, which indicated that I was not as conservative on these issues as other House members. That was followed by a delegation of conservative stakeholders — including supporters of Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans; Elizabeth Graham, the director of Texas Right to Life; and Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition — traveling to my district in an unsuccessful effort to secure a candidate to run against me.
It appears that Texas Right to Life’s agenda is clearly about more than "life" issues. It is about making a lot of noise to solicit membership and funds. It is about a handful of people controlling votes in the Texas Legislature by seeing who can shout "conservative" the loudest. The easiest way to do that is to form alliances with the self-appointed "conservatives" to share contact bases and propaganda machinery.
This has become an issue in campaigns all across the state, in which these stakeholder groups recruited candidates to run against Republican incumbents. Ultimately, it’s not about the issues; it’s about the House speaker’s race: When “conservative” stakeholder groups can’t control the speaker’s agenda, and can’t control the votes of some of us who would like to think for ourselves and find solutions, they get furious.
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Obviously, many of my colleagues and I would find it hard to trust Graham and Texas Right to Life in the future. For those of us who have been conservative Republicans since before Texas changed from Democratic to Republican control, all this is extremely frustrating. When we vote to protect life and Second Amendment rights, balance the budget and expand business yet still get attacked, it becomes clear “owning votes” is the true agenda of a small but loud number of special-interest groups who like the spotlight at times but lurk in the shadows when challenged to find working solutions to problems.
It is time for those of us who believe in truly conservative solutions to push back against the self-proclaimed "don't do anything" crowd that is screaming so loudly. It’s easier for me to speak up than other incumbents who’ve been targeted, because it could seem like whining if those special-interest groups found a candidate to oppose them.
If Texas is to continue to be a leading place to live and work, we must pay careful attention to the issues of transportation, water and education and efficiently use our resources. Thus far, there have been few if any solutions suggested by the "do-nothing" crowd.
We all understand that frustration with Washington is high. Fortunately, Texas is not Washington. We have the ability and resources to find good conservative solutions. I can only hope that as we go through the election process, candidates will be asked to talk about more than anti-Washington rhetoric. Voters must require that candidates actually offer solutions and set priorities.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, is the chairman of the Texas House Public Education Committee.
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