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In a Nov. 30 article about the 2012 U.S. Senate race in Texas, a Capitol Hill newspaper quotes a conservative activist rating Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams an early favorite of the tea party movement for the GOP nomination.
The Hill story further quotes Dean Wright of Austin saying that Williams has appeared at more than 150 tea party gatherings across Texas.
That's a whole lot of tea-sipping -- and a worthy claim to stir the Truth-O-Meter pot.
Right fast, we found ample evidence Williams has embraced the tea party movement.
In December 2009, The Weekly Standard noted that Williams had recently come to Washington to accept the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund. The magazine quoted DeMint telling reporters: "Millions of people who've spoken out at town halls and tea parties . . . are looking for common sense mainstream leaders who believe in the principles of our Constitution. He's one of the most inspiring people I've heard talk about those principles in a long time."
And in an April 2010 interview with Neil Cavuto of the Fox News Channel, Williams said he'd spoken at about a dozen tea party events, attended by as few as 100 and as many as 5,000 people. According to a transcript, Williams said, "That energy, that fervor you see at the tea party movement, that fight for -- for constitutional limits on the national... government, all of that, I agree with. And, so, I would like to think that I was a tea party candidate."
Williams added that he doesn't think most tea partiers are looking to create a third political party. "But I think what they`re looking to is to inform the two dominant parties and to have us about be respectful of the notions of limited government, small government, controlling spending," Williams told Cavuto. "And they want us to return to a constitutional form of government. They don`t want the national government reaching into what should be the responsibility of the states and local governments, and even the private and civic communities."
A dozen events is a small fraction of 150, though.
We contacted Wright, founder and president of New Revolution Now, which describes itself as a party-agnostic organization created to harness the "core conservative values of mainstream Americans to elect the state and U.S. congressional representatives who will return the country to its founding values of limited government, low taxation, states rights and constitutional constructionism." Wright told us that he'd told The Hill that Williams had "probably" attended 150 tea party events, but he conceded that the real number was less than that. "I'm just trying to get the point out that he's really engaging with the tea parties," Wright said. "Just in the Central Texas region, I've been to five or six events where (Williams) has spoken at a tea party function."
He suggested we check with Williams.
Done: Williams' campaign consultant, Corbin Casteel, told us that Williams' past stump schedules are incomplete due to a computer glitch, but those that remain indicate that Williams spoke at eight tea party events from April 2009 through June 2010. Casteel said Williams estimates he's attended eight to 10 more. The events reflected in Williams' records were in Travis County (April 15, 2009); Weatherford (July 4, 2009); Granbury (Aug. 29, 2009); Waco (Sept. 3, 2009); Collin County (Sept. 7); Rowlett (Sept. 12, 2009); Wichita Falls (April 15); and Bastrop County (June 26, 2010).
Finally, Williams told us in an interview he's been to 12 to 15 tea party events in Texas, and he expects more rallies to occur. "I'll have to see if I still get invitations; it's their party," Williams said.
He said he was pleased by Wright's count. "He thinks I'm spreading more than I am," Williams said.
The commissioner's got that right. We rate Wright's statement False.
Fox News Channel, transcript, Neil Cavuto interview of Michael Williams, April 1, 2010 (Nexis search)
The Hill, news article, "Texas conservatives target Hutchison," Nov. 30, 2010
Interview, Corbin Casteel, political consultant, Austin, Dec. 20, 2010
Interview, Dean Wright, Austin, Dec. 14, 2010
Interview, Michael Williams, Austin, Dec. 20, 2010
The Weekly Standard, "The Next GOP Senator from Texas, Michael Williams's bid to succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison," Dec 28, 2009 (accessed Dec. 22,2010)
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