Months ago we introduced you to Eric Opiela. He is running for Agriculture Commissioner and portraying himself as a rancher, when in reality his primary occupation over the past several years has been serving as Joe Straus’ lawyer.

It now turns out that Opiela isn’t just deceiving voters about his occupation — he’s lying about his campaign as well.

In a recent email to supporters, Opiela tried to claim grassroots support, asserting that he had “won every statewide straw poll” in the race. While that isn’t totally a lie, it is a severe twisting of the facts.

Opiela won one online straw poll, but afterward when the results were recalculated to allow only one vote per computer, the poll was actually won by TFR-endorsee Sid Miller. Likewise, when Young Conservatives of Texas held an online straw poll, Opiela appeared to be the winner. But then it was revealed that 58.7% of Opiela’s votes came from out-of-state. When only Texas votes were taken into account, Opiela was soundly defeated by Sid Miller.

Sid Miller has likewise won a long string of in-person straw polls. See here, here, and here.

The bigger lie by the Opiela campaign, however, was with his list of endorsements. In the same email to supporters, Opiela claimed a huge list of endorsements by GOP activists. However, when some of the names were checked-out, it was revealed that they hadn’t endorsed Opiela at all.

Former SREC member Jimmy Kerr, who appears on Opiela’s endorsement list, has actually endorsed Sid Miller for Agriculture Commissioner. Kerr told TFR president Michael Quinn Sullivan that while he had initially offered to be helpful to Opiela’s campaign before Miller decided to run, Kerr never endorsed him. Indeed, Kerr has endorsed Miller, who he described as having “known for years and years.”

Also listed on the Opiela endorsement list was Jack Barcroft, chairman of the Coryell County GOP. He told Sullivan by telephone that not only had he never given his endorsement, he has a specific policy of not endorsing candidates in primaries. Barcroft, who took office last June, said he believes that as a county chairman he should not endorse before the primary and has communicated that fact to candidates as they seek endorsements.

But misleading voters about straw polls and endorsements isn’t the limit of Opiela’s deception. He also has misled voters about how much money he has raised. Opiela has crowed on his Facebook page and website about outraising his opponents. He even goes so far as to say that a “breakdown” of his fundraising demonstrates “grassroots strength.” After filing a campaign finance report (that he was later required to correct) Opiela claimed that he raised $898,063.18 in the latter half of 2013. However $850,000 of that money came from Opiela himself. He gave himself a half million dollar loan and then contributed $350,000.

All told, after the corrected report is taken into account, Opiela has given or loaned to his campaign $1,450,000.00 of his own money. A demonstration of “grassroots strength” indeed.

So how is Opiela able to afford a self-funded vanity campaign for Agriculture Commissioner? He has made money in Austin serving as Joe Straus’s lawyer but more importantly, as pointed out last July, Opiela’s family ranch straddles the very heart of the Eagle Ford Shale, and so he is able to put new found oil wealth to work in the campaign.

By working with Joe Straus and his team, Eric Opiela has demonstrated that he is no friend of conservatives and no friend of the Texas taxpayer. His willingness to deceive voters in his campaign for agriculture commissioner confirms our worst assumptions about his character. It is important that conservative voters rally to support Sid Miller, the only conservative in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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