Grassroots women across the state lined up in support of a fellow conservative woman today after her opponent compared her experience in the pro-life movement to “prostitution.”
Emily Kebodeaux Cook, a long-time grassroots leader in the pro-life movement, decided to challenge her home district’s incumbent—State Rep. Ernest Bailes (R—Shepherd)—after watching first hand as he failed to represent his conservative district comprised of Walker, San Jacinto, and Liberty Counties.
From the outset, Bailes has been on defense, attacking Cook’s experience lobbying for pro-life policies on behalf of Texas Right to Life and the support she is getting from her employer and other conservative groups around the state.
However, at a candidate forum in San Jacinto County on Monday, Bailes stepped over the line saying Cook had “sold [her] soul and prostitute[d] out for special interests.”
Immediately after Cook published the video to her campaign’s Facebook page, women within the district and beyond reacted to Bailes’ implication that Cook’s time working with Texas Right to Life was equivalent to “prostitution.”
Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, blasted Bailes in an email, promising to triple donations to Cook’s campaign through February 5.
“This uncharitable and inflammatory attack on Emily’s gender and on her integrity is inexcusable. Bailes’ attempt to bully and intimidate godly, conservative women into silence must stop,” stated Graham. “Emily is undaunted by Bailes’ desperate, failing attempts to undermine her campaign, and she recognizes such vicious demeanor as weakness and the tactics of a losing campaign.”
Sources close to the race say at least one woman on the SREC called Bailes’ office asking him to issue a public apology, while many other grassroots leaders took to Facebook.
Dana Hodges, known in the halls of the Texas Capitol for her work as the former Director of CWA of Texas said, “Mr. Bailes, either you’ve chosen your words very poorly (which alludes to a lack of discretion on your part), or you fully intended to refer to a strong, female, pro-life warrior using the word “prostitute”. Either way, you crossed a line that demands an apology.”
Likewise, Trayce Bradford, President of Texas Eagle Forum, took to Facebook demanding an apology from Bailes, “Mr. Bailes managed to show a lack of respect for his opponent and a total deafness to the current culture wars regarding this very issue! As someone who knows and loves Emily Kebodeaux Cook and worked closely with her for sometime let me say she is sharp, hardworking and steadfast in her convictions and this comment by Mr. Bailes reeks more of fear of her more than anything else.”
“As someone who knows Emily Kebodeaux Cook personally and has worked closely with her, I can tell you she has an impeccable reputation and the utmost integrity and honesty of anyone I know. Mr. Bailes needs to publicly apologize to this hardworking wife, mother, and patriot for stating that she prostitutes herself,” wrote Cindy Asmussen. “That is reprehensible and uncalled for no matter how badly he wants to win.”
Hodges, Bradford, and Asmussen are well known in the Capitol as the “Mom Caucus” for their leadership on issues important to conservative women.
Support for Cook and astonishment at Bailes’ words came from women across the state.
Jackie Schlegel, who heads up the grassroots organization Texans for Vaccine Choice had this to say: “Mr. Bailes has an enormous lack of respect for women who stand boldly for conservative values. The war on women starts here—on the war against those fighting for the state’s most precious resource, our future. As an activist and as a woman, this behavior from a state legislator is appalling.”
Schlegel’s colleague at TFVC, Rebecca Hardy also commented, “He’s is the one who sold his soul when he voted to kill pre-born babies!”
Stacy McMahan, who runs East Texans for Liberty wrote, “As a pro-life woman, I am exceptionally disappointed in Mr. Bailes’ characterization of Emily Kebodeaux Cook and her work with Texas Right to Life. Who does not know Emily’s dedication and passion for the pro-life movement? She is a very hard and committed worker for not only life at conception but through the end of life. This characterization screams desperation, and in a state that is overwhelmingly pro-life, it is quite alarming.”
Bailes’ record already spoke for itself, and not in a good way. He earned an abysmal 42 on both the Fiscal Responsibilty Index, and Texas Right to Life’s Pro-Life Scorecard, and a 45 on Young Conservatives of Texas’ Legislative Ratings. His words on the campaign trail now amplify that bad record.
Meanwhile, Cook has a strong record of fighting for the weakest among us in the Texas Capitol. She has served as Texas Right to Life’s General Counsel and as part of their Legislative Team for the past four legislative sessions.
Despite Bailes’ attacks on her and her support from grassroots conservative groups across the state, Cook notes on her website that her
family has lived in House District 18 for four generations.
A lifelong resident of Liberty County, Emily attended Cleveland ISD and graduated from Tarkington Independent School District. Emily is an attorney and her husband, Justus, is currently the Director of Technology at Hull-Daisetta ISD and operates a small business. Emily and Justus, along with their son Andrew, currently live in Liberty.
At a time when women across the country are standing up against harassment en masse—from the sets of Hollywood to the halls of the Texas Capitol—it’s astounding that a sitting state representative would take it upon himself to turn a policy debate into an opportunity to sling sexist insults at his opponent.
Ernest Bailes does not just need to apologize to his opponent, he should publicly apologize to all the women who pour their blood, sweat, tears, and precious time and resources into making their world, country, state, city, and county a better place. Conservative or liberal, left or right, no woman should have to worry about being called a “prostitute” for spending years of their life fighting for a cause they believe in.
This is precisely the type of behavior that keeps good, strong, principled people out of politics, and intimidates them into keeping their mouths shut. Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has endorsed Emily Cook for HD 18 in the Republican Primary election.