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As Texans go to the polls today, they have an important choice to make in the race for Railroad Commissioner. On one hand, they can vote for Wayne Christian, a taxpayer champion who fought for conservative values in the Texas Legislature and is backed by the oil and gas groups. On the other hand, they can vote for Gary Gates, a slumlord who, after defaulting on loans from the taxpayers of Houston, has spent millions of his personal wealth on six losing campaigns for school board, state representative, and state senate and has spent the last few years bankrolling and cozying up to the corrupt Austin establishment.

Now Gates is taking his aspirations for public office statewide, and spending millions to convince Texans that – despite having no experience with the oil and gas industry – he should nonetheless be elected to the Railroad Commission where he would oversee Texas’ most important industry.

There’s one major problem, however. Gary Gates has been the subject of litigation over his parenting and the details of those cases are disturbing. Contemporary reporting on those cases reveals that Gates may very well have abused his adopted children.

Yesterday Texas Scorecard received a letter from Gates’ attorney regarding an article that ran a week ago. Attorney Tom Sanders challenged a contention this publication made regarding the fact that a district judge “found credible evidence that Gates ‘may very well have’ abused his kids.”

Texas Scorecard stands by what we wrote.

In 2000, the Houston Press, which was covering Gates’ case against Child Protective Services after the state agency seized his children, wrote about the Judge’s decisions in the case.

“Judge Stansbury’s eyebrows were clearly raised by the evidence, but ‘my concern and my endeavor right now,’ he said, ‘is to make a decision in my own mind whether the emergency removal was appropriate, not whether these children have been abused, because I’m concerned that if things bear out in this affidavit, the children may very well have been abused.’”

As the Houston Press reported, the children were returned to Gates not because he was exonerated for the abuse, but because CPS had abused due process in seizing and interviewing them.

“This is one hearing that’s conducted in this court involving children where the court’s order is not made on the test of best interest of the children,” Stansbury said. “The ability of the state, of CPS specifically, to come into someone’s home and remove children requires a heavier burden, and our laws provided that.”

Gates has dismissed claims that he abused his children by pointing out that the children were returned to his care. But they weren’t returned because they weren’t abused. They were returned because the government violated protocol in taking them.

The Houston Press noted, however, that Judge Stansbury was disturbed by the allegation and ordered Gates not to punish his children for cooperating with authorities.

In a 2008 decision upholding summary judgment against Gates, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recited a number of disturbing claims from the Gates’ children.

During the interviews with the children, TDPRS learned that Gary’s punishments included sitting against the wall in the chair position, running, moving bricks and boards across the driveway, doing push-ups, and being spanked with a hand, belt, or board. Travis and Alexis had been given “throw-up” medicine (ipecac) for eating food they should not have eaten, and children were required to skip their next meal if they stole food. On occasion, Gary taped newspaper around a child’s hands to keep him or her from stealing food.

Timothy stated that Gary threw the older children against the wall and that “dad hurts Travis and the big kids.” Timothy also stated that he was afraid of his father because “he hurts them.” Cynthia stated that after Gary found out about Travis stealing food, he kicked out Travis’s chair while Travis was sitting on it, causing Travis to hit his head on the floor;  Gary then hit Travis, kicked him in the stomach, and pushed him into a wall. Marcus corroborated this story. Cynthia also stated that Gary had hit Cassandra and Andrew the previous day and that she is scared to live at home because her dad gets so mad. Andy confirmed that he had been spanked the previous day and had a bruise on his leg as a result.

Further, according to a TDPRS employee, when Gary arrived home that day, he told his children, “These people want to talk to you, they think mom and dad are bad people.” Timothy then responded, “Well dad you are bad, you slammed them [sic] up against the wall and made his head bleed.” Alexis and Marcus agreed with Timothy.

Had Empower Texans known these facts, we probably would not have even scheduled an endorsement interview with Gates. A person whose children repeatedly allege is engaged in criminal child abuse is simply not qualified for public office.

As it were, the interview was a pathetic affair. Gates attempted to justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting the corrupt leadership of the Texas House because they now were “willing to take his phone calls.”

Gary Gates is hoping to buy his way into public office. He’s tried six times and failed, but hopes his seventh run, a statewide race for a low-profile office, will be his ticket to power and notoriety. But regardless of whether he wins or loses, he can never run away from the choices he has made in his past.