It is sometimes difficult to determine whether a politician is knowingly lying to voters or whether they simply are out of touch with reality. When it comes to Tommy Merritt, it seems it may be a bit of both.

Last Monday, Merritt visited the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party to participate in a candidate forum, along with his conservative rival, Sid Miller. Miller spoke clearly about his life-long involvement in agriculture, experience leading on the issue in the Texas House, and plans for the Agriculture Commission when he takes office. Merritt also claimed agriculture credentials. Along with being a car salesman, Merritt claimed to have “ridden on top of a log truck.”

Out of all of his statements, Merritt’s answers to some specific policy questions were the most peculiar. When asked why he killed a bill by Rep. Bill Zedler which would have ended in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants, Merritt doubled down on his support for the policy. According to Merritt, “They [Democrats] already had a motion prepared to kill the bill, so all I did was speed up the time and kill the bill ahead of time.” Why? Because he had already voted to support the policy. “All it was was a procedural vote to ask for people to vote and kill the bill, so I killed the bill,” added Merritt.

Questions then turned to why Merritt voted against a photo voter ID bill which had been widely supported by many conservatives. Merritt claimed he voted against the voter ID bill because his constituents wanted him to vote against it. “It was a bad bill,” Merritt claimed. “There’s not one person in this room who would have voted for that photo ID bill,” Merritt added. (That comment drew a cry of “I would have” from one listener in the room.) Merritt defended his vote further, claiming, bizarrely, that the bill would have allowed identification from a same sex marriage to be used in order to vote. Despite now claiming that he was trying to make the bill stronger, Merritt was criticized and mocked by his colleagues at the time for working with Democrats to stifle Republican efforts for the bill.

Next the question turned to Merritt’s involvement with the original group of eleven Republicans who joined with the Democratic caucus to elect Joe Straus Speaker of the House. Merritt’s defense for his support of Straus? He claimed that he was the subject of “lots of rumors out there” and that the facts are that he “ran against Joe Straus for Speaker.” In reality, Merritt was part of the original “Polo Road Gang” of 11 moderate Republicans that met at State Rep. Byron Cook’s Austin home to choose who amongst themselves would, with the help of 64 Democratic votes, be the next Speaker. While Merritt certainly competed behind those closed doors with Straus to lead the gang, he supported Straus when he was eventually chosen.

Austin double-talk is nothing new. Tommy Merritt’s campaign has simply taken it to the next level by blatantly misleading voters and twisting the facts in ways that make an informed citizen’s head spin. Voters deserve the truth and Merritt’s performance at the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party forum and his campaign websites make the truth about him and his record very clear. Tommy Merritt doesn’t respect conservative principles, and he certainly does not respect conservative voters.

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.