Voters in House District 115 last Thursday were greeted at their mailbox with a piece oddly adorned with pictures of little rubber duckies proclaiming F-rated Representative Bennett Ratliff to be a “conservative leader.”

To call Bennett Ratliff a “conservative,” the people sending that mail have got to be quacks.

Ratliff earned a 41.6 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, as well as a score of 52 from Young Conservatives of Texas. On his way to earning such low scores during his first legislative session, Ratliff supported a 26.9% increase in session-to-session spending and special privileges for liberal labor unions while also voting to increase his own pension by 12%.

An independent study by political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University confirmed these results. Jones found that Ratliff’s voting record put him in the bottom third of House Republicans when it came to conservatism.

Here is a copy of the mailer:

 Ratliff Quack Back

The mailer is filled with generalities about “keeping taxes low” and maintaining a “balanced state budget.” We are always amused when tax-and-spenders boast about passing a balanced budget because they are legally required to pass one under the state constitution.

Who would possibly send out such a mailer? It turns out the mailer was sent by a new corporation called “Keep Texas Working.” So who is, “Keep Texas Working,” and do they know the difference between a conservative and a hole in the ground?

The group was founded in early 2013 and is headed by the lobbyist and former executive director of the Texas Association of Manufacturers, Luke Bellsnyder. His wife, Suzanne Bellsnyder, is also a political consultant and previously served as Chief of Staff to moderate State Senator Florence Shapiro. When the organization was unveiled it was called by the Austin American-Statesman “another business lobbying group.” In an interview with the Statesman, Bellsnyder refused to endorse the elimination of the state’s disastrous franchise tax, instead choosing to speak in generalities.

It is unclear whether Keep Texas Working exists beyond paper and websites as it may just be set-up to funnel money from the Speaker’s office to his allies. What is clear is that the group isn’t supporting conservatives. It was unveiled to the praise of Trent McKnight, a failed candidate from the 2012 primary. McKnight was beaten by conservative Drew Springer after McKnight started advocating for tax hikes on the campaign trail. Keep Texas Working is backing the same sorts of candidates this cycle.

Along with the liberal Ratliff, Keep Texas Working has universally endorsed moderate incumbents – like Jim Keffer, Byron Cook, and John Otto – who are being challenged by conservatives. The one non-incumbent who they have endorsed is Bruce Tough, a candidate in the open seat race in House District 15. The association between Tough and the Austin establishment raises a lot of red flags. TFR recommends Mark Keough in that race.

Republican voters in House District 115 should ignore the quacks in the lobby and support the true conservative in the race for House District 115, Matt Rinaldi.

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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