Bud Kennedy

On the Jonathan Stickland Farewell Tour, he takes parting swipes at Cornyn, Abbott

In Arlington, Republicans were asked if they’d help John Cornyn. The reply: silence—and ‘No!’

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland criticized establishment Republicans at an Arlington, Texas, Republican Club meeting July 25, 2019.
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State Rep. Jonathan Stickland criticized establishment Republicans at an Arlington, Texas, Republican Club meeting July 25, 2019.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland is done with the Texas House.

But he’s not done sounding off about it.

In the latest stop on the Jonathan Stickland Farewell Tour, the Bedford Republican bragged proudly to an Arlington club that he killed more bills than any Texas lawmaker in history.

What he didn’t say is that many were other Republicans’ bills.

But never mind all that. Stickland is on a tear against more moderate Republicans, and his list includes U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a stunning moment in the middle of a long, thundering speech at Rolling Hills Country Club, Stickland asked the 40 or so party faithful in the room in attendance, “How many of you are excited to go out, sweat, stress and give money to John Cornyn?”

The response: stares and silence.

Then one club member said, “No!”

With Cornyn up for re-election in 2020 and Texas Democrats working for their first Senate seat in 26 years, you’d think local Republican clubs would rally around him.

“He’s gotta turn it up,” Stickland said afterward.

“He needs to turn it up. Or someone else get in (the race). Or something.”

Stickland said he’s not that someone else, not for at least 10 years “until my girls get out of the house,” referring to two young daughters.

The Cornyn comment came after he described Texas Republicans’ strategy: “Run to the middle, and hope nobody notices us.”

He said later that the Texas Legislature just ended a “purple” session that didn’t inspire voters.

He blamed party leadership — “and frankly Abbott, which may upset some people, but I’m just gonna name his name” — for dividing the House’s various conservative activists.

“The pro-lifers, the pro-gun people, the fiscal conservatives, the social warriors” didn’t pull together, he said.

After a close victory in 2018, he said party leaders chose “this crazy strategy of moving to the center.”

But you might see why Republicans wanted a low-profile session before 2020 and redistricting.

Stickland himself came within 1,500 votes of losing last year. In south Tarrant County, state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, won by fewer than 1,400 votes.

And that was with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and El Paso Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke at the top of the ticket.

This time, the name at the top of the ticket is President Donald Trump.

Based on recent polls, Texans like Cruz slightly more than they like Trump.

Stickland reeled off what seems like a new wish list for party activists: stricter “ballot security” (read: voter laws) and fewer gun restrictions, for example.

Probably not coincidentally, those ideas are also on the wish list for a new San Antonio-based activist coalition that emerged last week — Lone Star Agenda.

On Facebook, Stickland wrote: “It looks like conservatives have had it with the lack of GOP leadership. ... They’re putting together an actual plan to save Texas in 2020.”

Somehow, all this happened in exactly the same week when the leader of a conservative political action committee was accusing the Texas House Speaker and Republican Caucus chairman of conspiring to oust 10 fellow Republicans.

In an online post, Michael Quinn Sullivan, of West Texas-funded Empower Texans, wrote that Speaker Dennis Bonnen and caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, wanted 10 Republicans challenged and defeated in the March 3 party primary. The list included local state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound.

In response, Bonnen wrote a letter to House members denouncing the claim as an effort to “create further chaos” and to “divide and ultimately destroy the Republican majority.”

By about a 48%-42% margin, Texas is still a predominantly Republican state.

Texas Republicans’ biggest challenge may come from other Republicans.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.
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