RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – Longtime Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says he has never seen as many negative attack ads as the ones being aired on TV, radio and the internet this election cycle.
Vera himself has come in for plenty of criticism from a Republican group from outside the Rio Grande Valley called ProjectRedTX. But, he said it is not only he himself who is under attack. He pointed to the negative ads constantly being aired about Congressman Henry Cuellar and Congressional District 15 candidate Michelle Vallejo.
“I have never seen dirty politicking as much as I have seen this year. Not only in my race, but with Congressman Cuellar and Michelle Vallejo. It is unheard of,” Vera said.
“No one says, this is what I am going to do, this is how I am going to improve the community, this is my plan. It is all negative, negative, negative. You’re this, you’re that, you’re corrupted.”
Most of the ProjectRedTX press releases attacking Vera focus on campaign finance laws. The group says he is investigation by the Texas Ethics Commission “for a slew of campaign finance and political advertising violations.”
Vera responded that if his opponents have any proof of wrongdoing they should go to the relevant authorities.
“All I can say is, if I’m corrupted, take it to the DA, take it to the FBI, take it to the Texas Rangers, whomever. You have an obligation to turn me in. Don’t just accuse me, prove it,” Vera said.
“And I’m not talking only about myself. I’m talking about Congressman Cuellar. I’m talking about Michelle. I am talking just about every political race. I’ve never seen this much negative campaigning and I’ve been in politics most of my life. Never have I seen the amount of mud being thrown around as I have this year.”
Asked if he knows where the money is coming from to pay for the negative ads, Vera said: “There’s an organization by the name of ProjectRedTX. They’re the ones that are funding most of the Republican candidates in Starr County. In fact, in court filings, they admitted they had paid the filing fees for all the Republican candidates in Starr County.”
Vera said the question of who paid for the Republicans to run in Starr County came up in depositions in a court case he brought. He said he went to court to challenge the residency qualifications of his opponent.
Asked what he knows of ProjectRedTX, Vera said: “I think they just came down here and looked for anyone that might be interested in running and said, ‘Hey, we’ll pay for you. We just want someone to run’.”
Vera said people deserve the right to run for office. “I am not against this but I have never believed in mudslinging or dirty campaigning.”
According to the group’s website, ProjectRedTx was founded after the 2018 election as “a focused effort to recruit and support candidates at the local level.”
The website states: “Numerous Texas counties that historically voted for Democrats saw Republican victories at the top of the ticket that year, yet few Republicans were elected locally. In many of these cases, no Republican candidates had even filed. ProjectRedTX supports and highlights candidates who are running for county-level offices. These positions are closest to the people in many ways and represent hands-on officials who have the opportunity to make a difference in the everyday lives of Texans.”
Starr County fits the criteria for a county where there was a Republican victory at the top of the ticket in 2018. President Trump secured more votes than Joe Biden in Starr County in the 2018 presidential election. Political experts and community leaders put Trump’s better than expected performance down to Biden’s remarks in a presidential debate about reducing the nation’s dependance on oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is big employer in Starr County. Down ballot, the local races in Starr County in 2018 went, as they traditionally have, the way of Democrats.
Mastermind behind turning Starr County ‘Red’ is a political operative from the Hill Country
The ProjectRedTX website highlights Wayne Hamilton as the key player within the group’s ranks.
“Wayne Hamilton is a longtime Texas political operative. The longest-serving executive director in Republican Party of Texas history, during his tenure in that position Texas Republicans gained 623 elected offices, including control of every statewide office and the first Republican state house majority in 130 years. Hamilton also served as executive director of the Texas Inaugural Committee in 2003, 2007, and 2011, and as senior advisor in 2015,” the website states.
“As part of his political consulting services, Hamilton has assisted the campaigns of elected leaders across Texas at the county, state, and federal levels. In 2012, Hamilton worked as national political director for Rick Perry for President. In 2014, Hamilton was campaign manager for the successful 2014 gubernatorial campaign of sitting Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who won the statewide election by more than 20 points. Following that election, Hamilton returned to his private businesses and state lobby practice.”
The website concluded: “In 2018, #ProjectRedTX was formed, and Hamilton agreed to take the reins of the effort. Hamilton is the founding partner of San Jacinto Consulting Group, a senior advisor for Caddo Associates, and board director for a local financial institution. He is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University and lives in Hill County, Texas.”
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