One congressional candidate in West Texas is unleashing a series of attacks against his Trump-endorsed opponent just weeks out from the July 14 Republican runoff election.

In the past week, former lobbyist Josh Winegarner unveiled a series of television ads, campaign emails, and social media ads targeting Ronny Jackson, former physician to the president, in the Republican runoff race in Texas’ 13th Congressional District. 

One television spot features a moving fan adorned with Jackson’s logo, raising questions about Jackson’s residency and absence from the 13th District during his service in the U.S. Navy. The ad also makes an issue of Jackson’s military promotions and President Trump’s nomination of Jackson to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2018.

“We are Ronny’s backup plan,” a narrator says in the new ad from Winegarner’s campaign. “We deserve better.”

Other components of ads released by Winegarner include attacks on Jackson’s alleged conduct while serving in the White House and about his statements that Levelland, near Lubbock, is part of the Texas Panhandle.

The series of attacks drew immediate criticism from veterans in the 13th District, with many pointing out their belief that Winegarner’s ads crossed a line by attacking Jackson’s military service. Vance Snider, a U.S. Army veteran who placed fifth in the March 3 primary for Congress in the district, immediately took to social media to criticize Winegarner for his new ads.

“When someone begins to attack a veteran’s military service for his own political agenda, I lose all respect for them,” Snider wrote on social media. “Josh Winegarner has done just that.”

Jackson responded to Winegarner’s attacks in a new ad spot released over the weekend, entitled “I’m From Here.”

“My opponent has tried to paint me as a carpetbagger. That’s offensive,” Jackson said in the ad. “He’s even gone so far as to say I’m a carpetbagger from D.C. He might as well say I’m a carpetbagger from Iraq. I’ve spent the last 25 years in service to my country. … I will not apologize to my opponent or anybody in this district for my absence the last 25 years.”

In a statement to Texas Scorecard, Jackson also highlighted his military service, saying he refuses to apologize for it.

“It’s unfortunate that my lobbyist opponent doesn’t realize how the United States military operates and the concept of service before self. I proudly served my country for 25 years in the United States Navy, and for that, I will never apologize. As a member of the U.S. military, my orders were to serve the executive office of the president, alongside thousands of other active duty members assigned to the White House. If my opponent wants to continue to try and rehash the same lies and fake liberal CNN and MSNBC talking points about my military career, that’s his prerogative. I am the true conservative in this race and the ONLY candidate endorsed by President Donald Trump. Despite the fact that my opponent has now decided to adopt the smear tactics of the D.C. swamp, I will remain focused on the mission at hand: promoting our Texas values, standing with our brave police officers and insisting on law and order, and getting Texans back to work.”

Winegarner’s series of attacks comes as the congressional candidate is facing questions over his record as a lobbyist for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and his ties to Democratic politicians through his work with the TCFA. As Texas Scorecard reported earlier this month, lobbying records show Winegarner lobbied against the Trump administration on country-of-origin labeling in 2017 and lobbied legislators to keep NAFTA.

In an interview on KFYO in Lubbock, Winegarner was challenged on his past lobbying record, claiming that despite disclosures filed with the U.S. Senate by the TCFA, the information about his lobbying was untrue.

“The article itself is completely misleading and untrue,” Winegarner said. “It’s a perfect example of how neither my opponent nor the publication that drafted the article understand the issues that were taking place then. And I’m proud of the work I have done for the Texas Cattle Feeders.”

Winegarner has also faced criticism from his opponent over the TCFA’s contributions to Democrat politicians through its political organization, BEEF-PAC, while Winegarner worked as a lobbyist and as government affairs director for the organization. In particular, at a debate in Wichita Falls, Jackson highlighted BEEF-PAC’s contributions to U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, brother of former presidential candidate Julian Castro. Winegarner responded at the Wichita Falls debate by claiming no responsibility for the contributions.

“I didn’t make the decisions on who was getting any contributions,” Winegarner said.

This hotly contested primary runoff will be decided on July 14. Early voting begins on June 29.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.