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Texas House member behind anonymous Facebook page that campaigned against local bond

A state representative launched an anonymous Facebook page to lobby against a parks bond in his hometown of Fredericksburg. The bond lost by 100 votes. The city's mayor called the campaign "totally wrong."

State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, at a Texas Tribune event on Sept. 15, 2016.  

In the weeks before a parks bond election in Fredericksburg this month, a Facebook page titled “Concerned Taxpayers of Fredericksburg” began to pop up on locals' news feeds. The anonymous page urged voters to oppose a $12.6 million bond measure aimed at adding new baseball, softball and soccer fields to a local park.

Behind the page was one concerned taxpayer in particular: state Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a freshman Republican from Fredericksburg.

The Fredericksburg Standard reported earlier this month that Biedermann filed a “Doing Business As” form for the Concerned Taxpayers of Fredericksburg at the county clerk’s office. The Facebook page does not list his, or any other, name.

The anonymous Facebook page was just one step Biedermann took to lobby against the parks bond; the lawmaker also placed a “Parking not parks, Vote No” sign in the parking lot of his hardware store, railed against the bond at several city council meetings and even mailed out paper fliers. It was a highly unusual level of involvement for a member of the Texas House to have in a vote affecting a city of 11,000, local officials said.

When the Tribune asked Biedermann about the Facebook page, he declined to say why he hadn't put his name to it.

“Attempting to say I hid behind a Facebook page is laughable. Everyone in the community knew I was opposing the bond, and the majority of voters agreed with me,” Biedermann said Monday morning. “There is nothing to regret, and I will continue to openly communicate my position on this issue.”

The parks bond ultimately lost 667 to 767 — an outcome that surprised Fredericksburg Mayor Linda Langerhans, who said the proposal came out of a years-long city council effort to address recreational needs in the area. She attributes the defeat to Biedermann's "detrimental" involvement into the matter.

The Facebook page represented the vote as a referendum on higher taxes. It also cherrypicked a brief, critical section from a local newspaper’s editorial statement on the parks bond, though the newspaper had come out in favor of it.

“Everyone has a right to have a Facebook page and to post whatever they want to post,” Langerhans said. “I do have a problem with anyone who has a Facebook page who posts information that is not accurate, or that is totally wrong.”

Biedermann’s outsized influence on the election started during local debates on the matter, said Langerhans, who has been mayor for four years and served on the city council for nearly a decade in the 1990s. She said she was “not aware of Gillespie County ever having a state representative that got as involved in our local political issues.”

“It’s very difficult when you have meetings with numerous people in the room that have ideas, and [Biedermann] seems to be much more vocal, and takes up a lot of the time addressing his concerns and his ideas,” Langerhans said.

Disclosure: Facebook has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

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