On Monday, September 11, the Mason County Commission considered an ordinance outlawing abortion and abortion trafficking within the unincorporated area of Mason County. In addition to outlawing abortion trafficking within the unincorporated area of Mason County, the Sanctuary County for the Unborn Ordinance would have also allowed for lawsuits to be filed against any person or business who mails abortion-inducing drugs into the unincorporated area of Mason County.

At that point, the ordinance had been adopted by two other Texas counties and it was expected that Mason County would become the third. After hearing from many in attendance, both for and against the ordinance, Mason County Judge Sheree Hardin approached the podium to introduce a special guest – Attorney James P. Allison from Allison, Bass & Associates, L.L.P., out of Austin, Texas.

Judge Hardin read from Allison’s bio, which discussed his many accomplishments, and explained his role as General Counsel of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas. Allison, who is on retainer for Mason County, argued that counties can only do that which is granted by the Legislature, and that the Legislature had not authorized counties to pass ordinances outlawing abortion. The County Commission listened intently. Convinced by Allison’s arguments, Commissioner Fred Estes made the motion to take no action on the proposed ordinance. His motion was seconded, and the vote was unanimous – effectively killing the measure before the Mason County Commission.

Despite each commissioner receiving a letter, signed by 20 Republican Senators and Representatives from across the state, referencing the Legislature’s recently-passed laws which support cities and counties enacting such ordinances, the Mason County Commission instead accepted Allison’s contention that Texas has not authorized counties to adopt such ordinances.

Additionally, the Mason County Commission received a letter from former Texas Solicitor General and architect of the private enforcement mechanism of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Jonathan F. Mitchell. Attorney Mitchell’s letter offered to represent the county at no cost to the county and taxpayers for any litigation which may arise from the passage of the proposed ordinance. At the end of the day, however, the conservative commissioner’s court took the advice of Allison – an Austin attorney who has been a well known leader within the Democrat Party for over fifty years.

The next day, the City Council of Chandler, in East Texas, would also reject a similar measure – based on the advice of City Attorney Blake Armstrong and former Henderson County District Attorney Mark Hall. Democrat U.S. Congressman Colin Allred, representing the 32nd Congressional District, was quick to praise Mason County and the City of Chandler for “taking the right step by voting against ordinances criminalizing traveling through their jurisdictions for abortion care . . . It’s not surprising to see Texans across the state reject these extremist anti-abortion measures that would criminalize women just for trying to leave Texas to receive necessary abortion care.”

Allred, who is running against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz for his Senate seat, continued, “Ted Cruz wants to ban abortion nationwide – an extremist position that’s against the beliefs of the vast majority of Texans. When I’m in the Senate, I will continue to fight to codify Roe v. Wade and ensure that all Texas women can get the health care they need – not in New Mexico or Colorado – but here at home.” Allred, who flipped the 32nd congressional district in 2018, is optimistic that in 2024 he will be able to kick Cruz out of office and turn one of Texas’ two U.S. Senate seats blue.

Jim Baxa, President of West Texas for Life, shared, “It always concerns me when I hear of Democrats praising the Republican leadership of counties and cities for their rejection of conservative legislation supported by our state’s Republican lawmakers.” Baxa continued, “When Democrats get the Republicans to do what the Democrats want them to do, of course the Democrats are going to praise them for it! That’s what appears to have happened in Mason County. A conservative county’s leadership ended up taking the advice of an attorney who has a long history of being a mover and a shaker in the Democratic Party of Texas.”

James P. Allison: The “Great Democrat”

James P. Allison was born in Paris, Texas, and raised in Delta County. While doing his undergraduate work at East Texas State University, Allison was an active part of the Young Democrats, serving as chairman of the board of regional organizers “in charge of all new local and state organizations.” After graduating with his Masters in Government in 1968, Allison went to Austin for a year-long internship with the Senate State Affairs Committee.

While pursuing a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas School of Law, Allison served as a research director for the Senate Interim Committee on Urban Affairs and a director of the research staff of Democratic Senator Barbara Jordan during the 1971 legislative session. That same year, Allison was elected president of the Texas Young Democrats.

As president of the Texas Young Democrats, Allison would find himself speaking at gatherings over the next few years, all across the state, in cities like Abilene, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Paris, San Angelo, Waco, and Wichita Falls.

In 1972, Allison was elected to the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) to represent Senate District 1. After graduating law school, Allison returned to Delta County where became the County Attorney in January of 1973.

In February of 1973, Allison was appointed by SDEC Chairman Calvin Guest to be the vice-chairman of the Canvassing Committee in an effort to unify and grow the party. He did this through “a newsletter, a program of public barbecues to introduce officeholders to citizens, and a pilot program of workshops in party activity.” Those workshops were so successful that they were picked up by the state convention and implemented across Texas. He was reelected to serve on the SDEC to represent SD 1 in September of 1974. That same year, Allison worked full-time in the re-election campaign of Democrat Congressman Wright Patman.

In 1976, Allison served as District Chairman for Democrat Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s presidential campaign. While Bentsen did not win the presidency in 1976, he was reelected to the Texas Senate in 1976, 1982, and 1988. In 1988 Bentsen was chosen by Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis to be his running mate against Republican Presidential Nominee George H.W. Bush in the 1988 Presidential Election. Bentsen had previously defeated Republican challenger George H.W. Bush when he ran for Senate in 1970. After Democrat President Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, Clinton appointed Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury.

In addition to supporting Bentsen’s 1976 run, that same year Allison chose to run for U.S. Congress for Congressional District 1 – an area covering 21 counties in East Texas. Democratic Party of Texas Chairman Calvin Guest spoke very highly of Allison. Guest said, “Every assignment that I have given Jim, and there have been many, he has delivered more than I asked; more than he could have been expected to give: more time, more talent, more ideas, more enthusiasm for the Democratic Party activities. He is a great Democrat.” Despite such support, Allison was not able to obtain enough votesamong the crowded field of competitors.

Allison was reelected for SDEC’s Senate District 1 in 1976. He chose not to seek reelection for SDEC’s Senate District 1 in 1978, but continued to remain as an active part of the Democratic Party.

In 1979, Allison was appointed to serve as Chief of the County and Local Government Section of the Office of the Attorney General by Democrat Attorney General Mark White. No longer serving as the Delta County Attorney, Allison moved to Austin. In his new position, Allison advised city and county officials on their legal questions and prepared Opinions of the Attorney General regarding local government issues. While working at the Attorney General’s Office, Allison spoke at many local government conferences across the state in cities like Longview, Marshall, Abilene and College Station.

After the 25th Annual County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference at Texas A&M University in College Station in February of 1983, the association formed the County Officials Political Action Committee (COPAC) to promote the legislative goals of county officials and to fund legislators in Austin who were friendly to their efforts. The initiating board included Henderson County Judge Winston Reagan, Dallam County Commissioner Bernard Eads, and Jackson County Judge Sam Seale. At this time, Allison, who was no longer with the Attorney General’s Office, became employed as the executive director of COPAC.

In the decades that followed, James P. Allison continued to work to grow and strengthen the Democrat Party through promoting candidates and policies which he believed were best for the State of Texas. In the 1992 Presidential race, Allison cast his support behind Democrat challenger Bill Clinton over Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush for President of the United States. When Clinton won the presidency in 1992, Clinton appointed Democrat U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury.

This appointment prompted Democrat Texas Governor Ann Richards to fill the vacancy of the U.S. Senate seat with Democrat Bob Krueger, who served about five months in office until a special runoff election for the remaining 18 months of the term was held. In that 1993 Special U.S. Senate Runoff Election, Allison supported Bob Krueger over Republican challenger Kay Bailey Hutchison. In the 1994 Democratic Party Primary, Allison supported Jim Mattox, ending in a runoff with Richard Fisher to determine the Democratic Nominee for the U.S. Senate seat. In the 1994 Special Democratic Party Primary Runoff Election, Allison supported Jim Mattox once again – who again lost to Richard Fisher. In the 1994 General Election, Allison cast his support behind Democrat challenger Richard Fisher against Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison. Hutchison defeated Fisher in a landslide.

In the 1994 General Election, Allison embraced Democrat Lloyd Doggett against Republican Jo Baylor for Congressional District 10. Allison would further support Doggett’s reelection in 1996 against Republican challenger Teresa Doggett, and his reelection in 1998 against Libertarian challenger Vincent J. May – all of which saw Democrat Congressman Lloyd Doggett the victor.

Over the next several years, Allison cast his support behind Democrat John Sharp for Lieutenant Governor of Texas against Republican Rick Perry and supported Democrat Gary Mauro for Governor of Texas against incumbent Republican Governor George W. Bush. In the early 2000’s, Allison cast his support behind Democrat Sherry Boyles for Railroad Commissioner in her race against Republican incumbent Michael Williams and supported Democrat Ron Kirk for U.S. Senate in his race against Republican John Cornyn. Allison also supported Democrat Josephine Miller in her run for HD 32 and Democrat incumbent Ann Kitchen’s run for HD 38.

While Allison did support Republican incumbent Craig Estes in 2004 and Republican incumbent Robert Deuell for SD 2 in 2010, Allison almost always threw his support behind Democrat candidates throughout the state of Texas. Allison supported then-Democrat Ryan Guillen’s run for HD 31 in 2012 (Guillen switched party affiliation in November 2021), Democrat incumbent Garnet Coleman’s run for HD 147 in 2016, and Democrat Bill Brannon’s run for HD 2 in 2020.

A Non-Partisan Administrator or a Paid Democrat Influencer?

As General Counsel of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, Allison is viewed by many county judges and county commissioners from across the state as an expert in county law.  While Allison being a Democrat in-and-of-itself does not make his fifty-plus years of experience worth any less, his level of involvement in the Democratic Party does raise pertinent and disturbing questions: Under his administration is COPAC acting to advance Democrat Party goals rather than the PAC’s stated purposes of “[promoting] the legislative goals of county officials and [funding] legislators in Austin who were friendly to their efforts”? Is Democrat Attorney James P. Allison influencing red counties to support blue candidates and policies in opposition to their conservative convictions? These questions arise especially after examining campaign finance reports for the County Officials and Commissioners Political Action Committee, where Allison serves as registered agent and treasurer.

An in-depth review of COPAC reveals that the vast majority of candidates supported by the PAC in the last three General Elections were Democrats. Out of 23 candidates the PAC endorsed, 19 were Democrat and only 4 were Republican. The last three Primary Election candidate pools looked much different. Out of 29 candidates supported by the PAC, 23 were Republican with only 6 Democrats. These numbers raise concerns that COPAC’s strategy may be to support the least conservative candidate in Republican Party Primary and Runoff Elections, and then back the stronger Democrat candidates in General Elections.

When State Rep. Dustin Burrows (HD-83) heard of Allison’s involvement in opposing the Mason County Ordinance he was not surprised. Representative Burrows shared, “Many important policies myself and other conservatives have fought for in the legislature, including tax relief, banning taxpayer funded lobbying, and regulatory consistency, have always been strongly opposed by Allison and others.” Burrows continued, “It would be disappointing and problematic if any representative of one of these associations let their personal political ideology get in the way of giving true and accurate advice.”

Despite the setback in Mason County, many within the community are optimistic that the abortion trafficking ordinance will eventually be revisited by the Mason County Commission. After Mason County rejected their opportunity, Cochran County moved forward late September to become the third county in the State of Texas, and the fifth county in the United States, to pass a Sanctuary County for the Unborn ordinance. Cochran County’s actions were condemned by several prominent  Democrat leaders, including former Texas Senator Wendy Davis, former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com

Mark Lee Dickson

Mark Lee Dickson is a director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

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