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Miller Claims Merritt Bought Foe's Endorsement

Former state Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, is trying to discredit an opponent's endorsement by claiming that it was "for sale."

Former state Reps. Tommy Merritt and Sid Miller, Republican candidates in runoff for agriculture commissioner.

Former state Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, is trying to discredit an opponent's endorsement by claiming that it was "for sale."

Joe Cotten, a financial adviser from Dallas who came in fourth place in the March primary election, announced earlier this week that he would endorse former state Rep. Tommy Merritt of Longview, who will face Miller in the May runoff. But Miller says Cotten offered his endorsement for a price. 

During a meeting with Cotten, Miller said, Cotten told him that "if I endorse you, I need you to pay off my campaign debt." After Miller declined to do so, he said "the meeting pretty much ended" and Cotten decided to endorse Merritt. No one else attended the meeting except for Miller and Cotten, Miller said. And the other participant's story is exactly at odds with his. 

Cotten says he never asked for money. "My endorsement is not for sale," he said. "It's not for sale yesterday, it's not for sale today, and it's not for sale tomorrow." Cotten said that he decided to endorse Merritt because of allegations that Miller profited personally from his campaign fund, among other claims. "I did my research and it was compelling," he said of the two candidates. 

Cotten added that he has very little campaign debt. He loaned his campaign $10,000 along with another personal donation of $3,760, which was mostly to cover the filing fee. But, he joked, "if anybody would like to send me a check, I'll take it. Let them know that I take Visa or MasterCard."

Miller won the Republican primary in March with about 35 percent of the vote, while Merritt took about 21 percent. Cotten received about 15 percent of the vote. The other two participants in the primary, J Allen Carnes and Eric Opiela, have not endorsed either runoff candidate.

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