Bond propositions, tax ratification elections, and other grow-government initiatives are rarely defeated at the ballot box because conservatives don’t turn out and vote. But when given a chance to vote on a proposed annexation by a community college district, citizens in three separate counties rose to the occasion and defeated the proposal by a jaw-dropping amount.

Just take a look at the numbers:

Brown County (unofficial election day totals) :

For: 169

Against: 5,912

Erath County (unofficial election day totals) :

For: 229

Against: 5,787

Comanche County (unofficial election day totals) :

For: 56

Against: 2,979

Total Among All Three Counties:

For: 454 (3%)

Against: 14,678 (97%)

So what’s the story?

Earlier this year, the Ranger, Texas-based Ranger College began efforts to annex Brown, Comanche, and Erath Counties and offer their citizens in-district tuition to it’s programs.

But such annexation would come at a steep cost.

According to the proposal, the cost of Ranger College’s annexation would be 11 cents per $100 valuation on top of the already exceedingly high property taxes that citizens pay. And citizens feared that such a tax would only be increased in the future.

Those fears stem from reports of potential corruption within the Ranger College system. Among the many allegations are; Nepotism, electioneering, and using taxpayer dollars to support a $10 million bond proposal for dormitories, an item that is not eligible for bond appropriations under law.

Indeed, citizens in the area allege Ranger College President Bill Campion knew that bond funds could not lawfully go towards dormitory renovation, yet willfully and intentionally misled the public that funds would be spent in that manner.

But before these revelations came to light, efforts to annex Brown, Comanche, and Erath counties into the college taxing district were already underway. Those efforts centered on passage of special legislation during the 83rd Texas Legislature by disgraced former-State Rep. Jim Keffer.

Keffer, who now sits on the board of a liberal think-tank and lobbies for an organization opposed to privacy legislation, carried a special bill for Ranger College granting them the ability to annex Brown County, despite the fact that the county is already in the service area of the Texas State Technical College District.

Only one citizen, Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes testified for this legislation claiming that the citizens of the City of Brownwood and the surrounding area wanted this legislation in order for the taxing district to be expanded.

But Haynes must not have known his citizens very well. As soon as the annexation was proposed, citizens in all three counties began organizing and banding together as citizens in order to oppose it.

Those efforts also got an assist from the lawmaker citizens elected to replace Keffer, State Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury). Lang, who represents both the City of Ranger and all of Brown County, urged voters to take a hard, discerning look at the annexation proposal.

“Once it’s in, there is no going back,” said Lang.

Shortly after Lang’s statement, Haynes claimed a change of heart and came out against the proposition.

“I believe in the right to vote, and I honestly could not see the harm of letting the people decide this issue for themselves, especially when the right to vote already existed in Comanche and Erath counties,” said Haynes. “However, supporting the right to vote is where my support must end.”

Hayes wasn’t the only lawmaker to flip flop on the issue.

Ben Barnes a Comanche County Democrat who served as Texas House Speaker and Lt. Governor, announced his support for the proposed annexation last month only to embarrassingly retract his support and come out in opposition to the bond a few days later.

Meanwhile, Chris Evans, an Erath County business owner who is running against liberal State Rep. JD Sheffield (R-Gatesville) in the Republican primary, has been working to lead the opposition to the proposed annexation.

In a radio ad, Evans encourages citizens to join him in voting against the annexation and stand “against bullies who want to raise our property taxes.”

Nevertheless, citizens from across the three-county area arose from the shadows and successfully fought against the expansion of big government. Even after threats of lawsuits against opponents the grassroots army persisted, and won – again!

Zach Maxwell

Zach Maxwell is a contributor to Texas Scorecard and leads the Texas Torchbearers. Raised in Cisco, he has worked in various positions in the legislature and on campaigns.


A Barn Burner Week For Texas Conservatives

Grassroots candidates are closing with positive messages while the moderates continue with numerous last minute attacks. The Texas GOP is also meeting this week to make some big decisions.