Bud Kennedy

Is Joe Barton now too liberal for Texas? District 6 candidates sour on Dreamers, DACA

Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, right, talks with school board President Aaron Reich,
Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, right, talks with school board President Aaron Reich, bud@star-telegram.com

This might be tough to believe, but the way Arlington Republicans are talking, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton was just too liberal.

“The candidates for Joe’s seat are more conservative than Joe,” said Deborah Gagliardi of Mansfield, one of 11 Republicans in a primary free-for-all for the retiring Barton’s U.S. House District 6 seat.

At a Republican women’s club forum Saturday morning, she made colorful but unprintable allusions to the nude photo and text messages from Barton that showed up online last year, and said Arlington needs a conservative who does not support a deal protecting young immigrants from deportation.

“They want us to fly their flag! Speak their language!” she said, telling those brought to the U.S. unlawfully as infants or children to “go back home and fight for their own country.”

Barton has said children who’ve grown up here are Americans and will be “productive citizens for 40-50-60-70 years.” He has supported a deal to keep DACA recipients and “Dreamers” here, including 7,700 recipients in Tarrant County, many of them teachers and students.

All nine candidates who spoke Saturday rejected any deal, including former Barton aide Ron Wright, now the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector.

“I think the party and Joe have been at odds on that a long time,” Wright said after the forum.

“I don’t see any reason to make an exception. If they were brought here as children, they’re still illegal.”

Wright is the fundraising leader and drew the loudest applause in Arlington, where he is a former mayor pro tem.

Club president Carol Dailey said Arlington Republicans have not shifted against DACA or immigration reform.

“I think Joe has shifted,” she said. “He lost touch with us after 32 [now 33] years in Congress. It’s time to get back in touch with Republicans in Tarrant County.”

From the comments, you’d never know Arlington is more of a bipartisan “purple” city than Republican “red,” or that Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has called for a DACA deal to “[demonstrate] the kind of compassion that’s always characterized immigration in America.”

“They call themselves ‘Dreamers,’ ” Gagliardi said: “Well, I have dreams, too! I have dreams of lower taxes!”

“If you want to dream,” Kennedale Republican Shawn Dandridge said, “go back to your own country and dream!”

Ellis County Republican Jake Ellzey said he would make an exception for those who enlist in the military.

But he said, “If you grant amnesty … that’s 15 million people entering the country illegally to now vote Democrat.”

Wright brushed over the topic at the forum, saying that he opposes DACA but switched quickly to the government shutdown.

But he dished up other Republican red meat.

“I’m the tax assessor who said ‘no’ to [collecting] red-light camera tickets,” he said.

“I’m the tax assessor who put our official motto on the tax statements [‘In God We Trust’]. I’m the tax assessor who went to war with Planned Parenthood” (by canceling a United Way drive because donors’ gifts could be directed to any charity).

Several club members pointed out that the official Republican state platform does not mince words on immigration: “Enforce our immigration laws and expedite hearings on deporting nonviolent illegal immigrants and visa overstays.”

“Sometimes what candidates say is different from how they perform in Washington,” Dailey said.

This election will say less about Washington and more about Arlington.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.