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While his close association with former Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) alone is enough to merit serious concern, House District 60 candidate Kevin Downing has given voters several reasons to be concerned about his ability to impartially serve the public trust — especially in regard to the sensitive water issues affecting the district.

On Jan 20, residents from Hood County chartered a bus to Austin to attend Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proceedings regarding the Brazos River Authority’s permit 5851. That application from the BRA, if granted, would authorize the quasi-governmental agency to pump out and sell an additional 58,000 acre-feet of water out of Lake Granbury each year. Vigilant residents have fought the permit for years at every bureaucratic level because of the threat they believe it poses to their community’s economic and environmental future.

According to several Granbury residents who took that bus to Austin, Downing opted to drive himself to the meeting — and only stayed around long enough for a photo opportunity and a chat with some of his BRA cohorts.

“Mr. Downing was not on the bus. In fact, he was at the hearing briefly standing behind Phil Ford with the rest of the BRA contingent,” said Van Vernon, one of the concerned activists who attended the hearing.

“Kevin Downing showed up at the meeting and my best estimate would be that he stayed maybe thirty minutes,” said Don Poe, a longtime Hood County conservative activist. “The rest of us were there approximately three to four hours before riding the bus back to Granbury.”

Such tepid, empty posturing is hardly surprising. After all, Downing’s campaign treasurer happens to be a current BRA board member. That relationship is curious in and of itself, but it makes more sense when the bigger picture of Downing’s professional network is taken into account.

On his website, Kevin Downing touts decades’ worth of investment banking experience. The man knows a good investment, which explains why one the banks he lists — OmniAmerican Ft. Worth (for which Downing was President and Chief Lending Officer until 2008) — is listed as a preferred lender for Patterson PK Land Partnership LTD.

That’s the same Patterson land group that orchestrated a massive real-estate deal (enabled by Keffer’s HB 3031) which cheated the state out of nearly $1 billion in prime real estate in 2009, resulting in the shutting down of Morris Sheppard Dam.

The dam’s closure left Hood County residents high and dry, but it created favorable conditions for well-heeled interests that would benefit from building the third and fourth nuclear reactors at Comanche Peak.

These business relationships might also explain why Mr. Downing’s Fort Worth address is copied on the ‘Comanche Peak Mailing list’ in August 2010 communications from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the Environmental Impact Statements for the same project.

After all, any good banker would be foolish not to pay close attention to market conditions pertinent to his business deals.

Hood County residents have been fighting against these kinds of special interests for years now. Many of them are excited to have an opportunity this cycle to choose a representative who will fight for them — and has a history of doing so.

In addition to having honorably served his community as constable, Downing’s opponent in the Republican primary, Mike Lang, was involved with the Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association before it was politically expedient to do so. His supporters say he is willing to put the time in for issues of genuine importance to the community.

“Mike Lang rode the bus and stayed for the whole meeting,” said Poe. “It was a real long day for those of us who were interested in what was going on in order to help Lake Granbury.”

Others say Downing appears less genuine in his actions.

“I don’t ever recall seeing him at the LGWOA meetings,” noted Rose Myers, a city councilwoman from Granbury. “I certainly don’t recall him ever making any of the BRA meetings as well, but with that said, I didn’t even know who he was until he entered this race.”

Given Downing’s background, it looks as though he’d probably prefer it that way.