Austin Tea Party ‘endorsement’ raises questions
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
Though early voting started on Monday, the race to City Council hasn’t come to a halt. Over the weekend, an endorsement from the Austin Tea Party had District 4 candidate Greg Casar crying foul and issuing allegations that the whole thing was a stunt to help his opponent win.
The Austin Tea Party sent out a flurry of messages on Twitter Saturday proclaiming their endorsement of Casar for District 4. Austin Tea Party Organizer Dean Wright also sent an email directly to Casar.
It read: “In a recent mailer you mistakenly attributed our endorsement to Laura Pressley when in fact we have endorsed YOU! Please correct asap. We surely do not want to help Laura or any other district 4 candidate but you.”
The group also promised a “major press release” to tout their support. That release failed to materialize, though Wright did speak to the Austin Monitor to explain the logic behind the endorsement. He said that, because Casar had mistakenly attributed a Tea Party endorsement for Laura Pressley, Casar had “aligned himself with the Austin Tea Party.”
“No one else in District 4 has done that, and has been willing to take that step. We thought it appropriate that we show some support for Greg,” said Wright. “(It) was kind of surprising to us, but if he wants to go out and endorse for the Austin Tea Party, I guess that’s just what’s going to happen.”
Wright could not identify any other reason for endorsing Casar.
For his part, Casar rejected the endorsement and said that claims he had sought an endorsement from the group were false.
“Respectfully, the Tea Party is the last group on earth from whom I would seek an endorsement,” wrote Casar. “ And, if by some ‘ingenious’ calculation, you thought it might be helpful to your ally (my flouride-free, TSA-fearing, Ron Paul-activist opponent) to hang your endorsement around the neck of a Democratic community organizer like me, I don’t accept it.”
Indeed, throwing the sincerity of the endorsement into doubt is a flyer touting Pressley as one of “Austin’s future leaders” in an event organized by Wright on meetup.com. (The version of that flyer appears on the meetup site does not have Pressley’s photograph on it.)
Pressley told the Austin Monitor that she was block-walking Oct. 10, and was not aware of the event.
“A lot of groups put out a lot of stuff, and I’m not in charge of it. I can’t control it, I’m not part of it,” said Pressley.
And, though Wright is listed as the organizer of the event, Wright also told the Austin Monitor that he was just helping to spread the word about the event. He did confirm that the flyer had been updated to remove Pressley’s picture.
Pressley’s current campaign shows little trace of her former activity at City Hall, which was focused on fighting water fluoridation, TSA scanners, railing against smart meters and fighting for Second Amendment gun rights. However, there is ample public record of Pressley’s activity, both in the city record and on YouTube, which has preserved her appearances with Alex Jones.
On Nov. 11, 2013, Pressley appeared on the Alex Jones Show to explain her opposition to smart meters and explained what “started her on this path” of fighting the meters.
“My husband and I were having a lot of issues because of our smart meter, in hindsight. It took us about a year to figure out. We would be laying there trying to go to sleep at night. I would notice, our legs would twitch. Just kind of kick and twitch. We are both engineers, so we would count the seconds between the twitching. It was 25 seconds,” said Pressley, who explained that interval was the same as the “pulsing” of the smart meters.
“When we turned the radio emitter off, the twitching stopped,” said Pressley. Ultimately, Austin Energy gave customers the choice to opt out of smart meters if they wanted to pay a little more. Though Jones praised her victory less than a year ago, it is nowhere to be found on Pressley’s campaign website. However, her website, Austin Smart Meters, is still online.
In fact, though Pressley was certainly one of the more active candidates at City Hall before deciding to run for office, none of these causes are listed in her current campaign materials, or on her website. Instead, this time around, Pressley is focusing on her work against fee waivers, her role at the Austin Neighborhoods Council and her advocacy of a 20 percent Homestead Exemption.
“It’s not part of what we are doing right now,” said Pressley. “I’m focused on affordability. That’s the biggest issue in this city and every candidate ought to be focusing on it. That’s what Austin needs and wants and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m representing voters, in our district. And what our district wants, and what our residents want and what our voters want is affordability and that’s absolutely Number One.”
An Austin Monitor open records request for emails to City Council members from District 4 from Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 30, 2013 offered few surprises to those who were paying attention to City Hall during that time.
Pressley’s emails address problems with smart meters, ask Council members to impose a warning comment on water bills saying infants and children should not drink fluoridated water and remove fluoride from the water supply all together; advocate for keeping police in neighborhoods, instead of reassigning them to overnight patrols on bike trails; request that Diet Coke be removed as a city-designated “healthy choice”; and oppose a City Council resolution that urged federal leaders to require background checks for all gun sales, limit the size of ammunition magazines, restrict ‘military-style guns’, and gather data on the sources of guns involved in Austin crimes.
In comparison, the emails sent by Casar centered on his role with Workers Defense Project. His emails advocate for living wages and hiring economically disadvantage workers; oppose rezoning for the Gables’ downtown residential project, based on its past workers safety record; address the prevailing wage scandal for the Downtown Marriott project; and thank Council members for passing a workers rest break ordinance. Casar also addresses issues of affordability, zoning, and reforming economic incentives offered by the city.
Pressley was endorsed by the Austin-American Statesman. Casar has been endorsed by the Austin Chronicle.
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