Note: This story originally appeared in The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government.
To say the runoff for the GOP nomination for Agriculture Commissioner is nasty might be a bit of an understatement. Former Reps. Tommy Merritt and Sid Miller have traded all sorts of accusations and used some of the sharpest rhetoric of any of the races we’ve seen this year. In this cycle, that’s really saying something.
On everything from human consumption of horse meat to the man Miller calls his “blood brother,” Ted Nugent, neither candidate is interested in holding back at all. Their joint appearances have been about as contentious as they come, to the point that other people in the room have squirmed in their seats.
For example, when Quorum Report attended a debate between the two men in Kerrville a few weeks ago, Merritt demanded that Miller apologize to his wife for things that had been said by his campaign. Merritt was visibly shaken but at the time he did not make it clear what he was so upset about. Miller apologized for whatever had angered him so much.
Republican activist Mark McCaig, who is helping Merritt’s campaign, has written about a Miller campaign staffer named Colton Buckley tweeting that Merritt had sex with a prostitute in the Texas Capitol garage. You can see that tweet to the right.
“That would be the issue,” Merritt told Quorum Report on Monday afternoon and added that he’s put Miller on legal notice about it. “We asked him to apologize to our family and he failed to do that.” Merritt said it was his understanding that Buckley had been fired from the Miller campaign. “It stoops to a new low in politics,” he said.
Miller’s longtime consultant Todd Smith would only said that Buckley was not speaking on behalf of the campaign when he made that remark and that the young man remains campaign manager. Buckley, by the way, was recently appointed by Gov. Perry to be a Student Regent.
Merritt pointed to Miller’s campaign treasurer Ted Nugent and said “When you can have someone that writes songs about having sex with young girls and acts like a predator on young women…I think that’s going to get us beat in November.” He said “I just think the Democrats are gonna hang that around the Republicans’ neck.”
“The only Ted Nugent song I even know is Cat Scratch Fever,” Smith said. “This man (Nugent) is a patriot and we’re proud to have his support,” he said, adding that Nugent is on the national board of the National Rifle Association and has regularly done USO shows. “If his conduct was in question I think those organizations would reject him,” Smith said.
Merritt has promoted the idea that when Miller was in The Legislature, he pushed for legalized slaughter of horses in Texas. “That’s a real hot button right now,” he said. Noting the support Miller enjoys from Empower Texans, Merritt said “How can Michael Quinn Sullivan be for human consumption of horse meat? I just do not understand that.”
Smith, the consultant, shot back that if Merritt thinks Miller is for people eating horses, “then he never read Mr. Miller’s bill.”
Miller was trying to solve the challenge of humanely dealing with a large horse population that includes many which are old and sick, Smith said. “The most humane treatment would be to send them to a facility, where there is a veterinarian on site…and that was Sid Miller’s whole motive.” He said “”Mr. Miller’s bill would have specifically prohibited the sale of that horse meat to anyone in the United States.”
“Sid can spin it any way he wants,” Merritt said, “but he’s for consumption of horse meat and that is not going over well in the agricultural community.”
A sworn complaint before the Ethics Commission against Miller, Merritt suggested, could turn into a criminal matter. “I’m sure the Democrats will file a criminal complaint against Sid for perjury,” he said. The complaint, filed by McCaig, alleges impropriety in the reporting of a campaign loan from which Miller profited to the tune of about $20,000.
Smith has scoffed at the complaint and – more specifically – at who filed it. “Anybody can file an ethics complaint for any reason,” Smith said. He said that in this case, the one doing the complaining is “Steve Mostyn’s frontman,” referring to the Democratic mega-donor and trial lawyer from Houston.
At last check, Miller had $162,000 in the bank to Merritt’s $282,000. Miller is expected to get significant help from Empower Texans in the form of mailers throughout the state.
Copyright April 28, 2014, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.