In an open letter distributed June 12 to delegates to the Republican Party of Texas convention, former party vice chairman David Barton of Aledo depicts Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, as part of a Democrat-friendly cabal that needs to be shaped up or shipped out.
Barton’s letter excoriates instances of Republican House members pitching in to help Democrats win re-election. An excerpt: “Straus Republican lieutenant Jim Keffer did mail pieces for Democrat Mark Strama to help him defeat his Republican opponent.”
Keffer hails from Eastland, some 160 miles northwest of Austin, whose legislative delegation includes Strama. Did a rural Republican really back the re-election of an urban colleague from the other party?
When we asked for elaboration, Barton shared copies of what he said were two political leaflets from a Strama re-election campaign.
One of the documents includes pro-Strama quotations from former State Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat; the Democrat-leaning Austin Chronicle; a resident of Strama’s district and Keffer, who’s quoted saying: “Mark Strama serves his district, not any one political party.”
In the other document, Sharp and Keffer are also featured. Keffer is quoted saying Strama “worked with Republicans to cut property taxes and keep our public schools open. We don't always agree on every issue, but we agree on the need to put the interests of Texas ahead of partisan politics.”
Responding to our query, Keffer confirmed he’d given Strama a hand, saying: “Whether you’ve got an R or a D behind your name doesn’t mean you are most qualified.”
Finally, we contacted Strama, who told us by e-mail that Keffer, who had authored school funding legislaton that Strama co-sponsored, “didn’t ‘do’ mail pieces in the sense of paying for them,” but agreed to be quoted in a mailer “funded by my campaign about my bipartisan approach to the school finance bill.”
Though Strama paid for the campaign materials, Keffer willingly helped out his Democratic colleague. Barton’s statement checks out as Mostly True.