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By W. Gardner Selby July 5, 2010

GOP activist says three Republican House members did radio spot to re-elect Democratic Rep. Mark Homer

All wasn’t back slaps and hugs at the Republican State Convention in Dallas last month. Party delegates switched to a new chairman in Houston lawyer Steve Munisteri. And a critic of House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio distributed a letter the morning of June 12 all but indicting Straus and his closest GOP House allies as dangerously beholden to Democrats.

The letter from David Barton of Aledo, the state party’s former vice chairman, lists nearly 20 indicators he says show Straus working against both conservative Republicans and the advancement of a conservative legislative agenda.

Talk about a Truth-O-Meter dream. If every politico issued such missives, we’d postpone vacations, double up staff, contemplate a reality show. But we digress—and are reviewing just a handful of Barton’s statements, starting with this: "Straus Republican lieutenants Charlie Geren, Jim Keffer, and Byron Cook aired radio ads supporting Democrat Mark Homer over conservative Republican Kirby Hollingsworth, helping the Democrat to a narrow win."

Background: Barton’s statement refers to three GOP House members endorsing an East Texas Democratic incumbent facing a Republican foe. Homer, of Paris, prevailed with 52 percent of the 2008 vote, according to the Texas secretary of state.

To our request for back-up information, Barton passed along a copy of a newspaper ad with pro-Homer quotations from the cited GOP House members plus audio of a radio ad narrated by then-Rep. Brian McCall, a Plano Republican recently appointed chancellor of the Texas State University System.

The newspaper ad, headlined "Republican Representatives Endorse Mark Homer," quotes Geren, R-Fort Worth, saying Homer "works with everybody to bridge divides;" Cook, R-Corsicana, calling Homer a "problem solver;" McCall rating Homer "one of the best" and Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, saying: "The only team Mark is on is yours."

The radio spot features McCall saying: "During campaigns you hear a lot of talk about breaking gridlock. Candidates all talk about it. Some even mean it. Mark Homer has done it. Mark works with everybody, Republicans, Democrats, doesn’t matter. He works for you..."

McCall then identifies himself as a Republican House member and says he’s joined by Keffer, Cook, Geren and Merritt "urging you to re-elect" Homer. "Mark bridges divides, he looks for common ground, creates solutions," McCall says in the ad. "...So this time, send a problem solver back to Austin. The only team he’s on is yours."

That certainly sounds like several House Republicans touting a Democratic colleague.

Anything askew in Barton’s recap?

When we reached them, Homer, McCall and Keffer each confirmed the Republicans pitched in after Homer asked for help, though each man bridled at parts of Barton’s description.

For starters, Homer said, his 1,899-vote win was not the squeaker Barton suggests. "For him to call it narrow is stretching it," he said.

Also, he said, the Republicans didn’t air the radio ad, or pay for it, as Barton’s letter says. Instead, Homer said, his campaign wrote the script, which each Republican approved. Homer said his campaign also bought air time.

And was the ad a difference-maker, as Barton suggests? We don’t know how to gauge that. Homer said: "It certainly contributed... If I didn’t have it, could I have won? I feel strongly I could have won. But it was nice to have it."

Homer said he’s lined up similar commitments from Republicans this year. Like who? "I am not ready to say," Homer said. "I don’t want to say yes (about who’s endorsing me) and if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I don’t want that to become a campaign issue."

Keffer noted that Homer was vice chair of a House committee that Keffer chaired. He said of his endorsement: "We are not so polarized and partisan (in the House) that we can’t look at good members on either side of the aisle . . . I am not afraid to do that. We need the best people we can get down in Austin."

McCall questioned the part of Barton’s statement calling Homer’s GOP helpers lieutenants of Speaker Straus. At the time of the 2008 election, McCall pointed out, Straus wasn’t yet the House speaker; he didn’t launch his unexpected candidacy for the post until later. McCall said he doesn’t know if Straus knew about the pro-Homer ad.

Upshot: The radio spot wasn’t aired by the Republicans, as Barton puts it, and only one Republican voice -- McCall’s -- was heard. Also, Straus wasn’t House speaker when the ad aired in 2008, so he had no "lieutenants."

But the GOP members Barton named have proven to be Straus allies. And they earlier joined hands in a radio ad for Homer, their Democratic colleague.

Barton’s statement is Mostly True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Interview, Rep. Mark Homer, Paris, June 22, 2010

Interview, Rep. Jim Keffer, Eastland, June 22, 2010

Interview, former Rep. Brian McCall, June 22, 2010

Open letter, David Barton, Aledo, "Conservative Growth in Texas: Danger from Within," distributed at Republican Party of Texas state convention, Dallas, June 12, 2010

State Rep. Mark Homer campaign, advertisement, 2008 campaign, (received from Barton, June 19, 2010)

Rep. Mark Homer campaign, radio ad, (received from David Barton, June 19, 2010


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GOP activist says three Republican House members did radio spot to re-elect Democratic Rep. Mark Homer

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