Editor's note: This story has been updated to note an email from Michael Watts.
Andy Cargile, a candidate for the Republican nomination in House District 92, on Monday circulated Facebook comments from 2011 in which the incumbent, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, appears to speak in favor of union rights and gay marriage, and bashes Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and his local public school district.
In the comments, which were published shortly before Stickland rose from obscurity to a prominent place in the state's Tea Party constellation, he also appears to call other commenters “retarded liberals." In the same thread, he later apologizes for using the term.
The comments attributed to Stickland, in which he says his local school system "sucks" and that it is "bullshit" and "unfair" that his tax dollars support it, no longer appear on the Facebook wall of Michael Watts, a former member of the Texas Young Democrats. But several comments in the stream seem to directly respond to Stickland. The Cargile campaign circulated a version of the conversation archived on Watts' Scribd account, which can be viewed here.
On Monday night, Watts emailed the Tribune screenshots of the conversation as it appeared on his Facebook timeline. The comments depicted matched those uploaded to the Scribd account.
Asked multiple times if it disputed the authorship of the Facebook comments or was responsible for their apparent deletion, Stickland's campaign did not respond, but suggested that Cargile was "slinging mud."
In response to a reporter's question about the Facebook comment on gay marriage, Stickland spokesman Luke Macias said via email: "HAHA. Gay marriage really????" He added that Stickland "is one of the biggest advocates for traditional marriage in Texas. Jonathan believes marriage is between a man and woman and has a voting record to back it up."
In the Facebook comments attributed to him on his local school system, Stickland said it was not his responsibility "to help other peoples children ... at the expense of my own."
"I didn't sign up for it," he added. "If I want to help them let me decide on my own which way I want to do it. It is immoral for someone to take my money and spend it on things I disagree with. That is not freedom and it is not liberty."
Asked for a response to those comments, Stickland said in a written statement that he supports the local district and sends his daughter to one of its schools. "Andy Cargile has nothing to point to on our record and has been slinging mud constantly for the past several months in an attempt to gain relevancy," Stickland said in the statement. "Our campaign has continued to focus on the issues facing Texas and that's why the voters of District 92 continue to support our campaign."