In Johnson County, a Texas House runoff gets slap-happy

05/22/2014 7:26 PM

05/22/2014 7:27 PM

When push finally came to shove in the Republican runoff, it figures it would be in Johnson County.

The rough-and-tumble Texas House runoff between Cleburne school board Vice President DeWayne Burns and Clifton libertarian activist Philip Eby sparked an argument between campaigners Tuesday, and it included a visit from Burleson police.

Eby backer and local Tea Party founder Maggie Clopton Wright, 68, of rural Johnson County, wound up with a municipal-court ticket.

Burleson police say she either tapped or slapped an arm of a Burns staffer in a confrontation outside an early-voting site. Eby himself separated them.

In Texas law, that’s an assault by “offensive or provocative” contact, a Class C misdemeanor.

That was nothing compared with the ensuing Class A display of grandstanding.

A relative of Burns staffer Joy Davis, 38, of Grandview, wrote on Facebook that Davis was “physically attacked.” The relative called it “Chicago-style thuggery.”

Burns, a long-standing local cattle rancher and former president of the Johnson County Farm Bureau, is in a frustrating District 58 runoff.

Eby traveled as an anti-abortion protester with Operation Rescue before settling in Bosque County and campaigning for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential run.

Eby was already challenging incumbent state Rep. Rob Orr before Orr retired. Mostly, he has support from the same local and statewide groups that opposed Orr.

If you go by the Texas Values voters’ guide from the state affiliate of the social conservative Family Research Council, the two candidates are rated as equally conservative.

Cresson Republican Henry Teich, who finished third in the March primary, endorsed Burns. So did Orr, most mayors and almost all Johnson and Bosque county officials.

After the dust-up, Davis emailed Burns’ official statement.

“This is the manifestation of a campaign born out of extremist, radical ideas,” Burns was quoted as saying, adding that his supporters “should not have to endure this kind of bullying and intimidation.”

In Eby’s email to supporters, he wrote that Burns’ staffer “initiated an angry confrontation” and accused Davis of “attempting to exploit a 68-year-old woman.”

Look, I’ve seen Wright’s hands-on campaign style and firebrand pep talks at political rallies.

She does not look like a helpless victim who is easily exploited.

Eby’s email also blamed Burns “and his friends from Austin.”

Seems like Austin is where you’d want friends.

About Bud Kennedy

Bud Kennedy

@budkennedy

Bud Kennedy is a homegrown Fort Worth guy who started out covering high school football here when he was 16. He went away to the Fort Worth Press and newspapers in Austin and Dallas, then came home in 1981.

Since 1987, he's written more than 1,000 weekly dining columns and more than 3,000 news and politics columns. If you don't like what he says about politics, read him on barbecue.

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