Hays County county judge candidates Jeff Barton, left, and Bert Cobb, right. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By SEAN BATURA
In an open letter last week, Hays County judge hopeful Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) called on the authors of anonymous emails deriding his candidacy, who he called “cowards,” to debate him in Kyle “at high noon” on Monday. Barton’s opponent, Bert Cobb (R-San Marcos) dismissed Barton’s event as “cheap political theater.”
Authors of a string of anonymous, unsolicited emails claiming to be from the Hays County Democratic Party received condemnation from both candidates. Barton said thousands more emails using what he called “false information and character assassination” continued to be sent from other aliases after the Hays County Democratic Party Chairperson Katie Bell Moore filed a request for fraud investigation with the district attorney.
“I’m challenging these Bert Cobb supporters who have been engaging in cheap internet fraud and hooliganism to take off their electronic masks and expose their identities to the light of day and to the citizens of the county,” Barton said as he called the meeting.
On the county Democratic Party’s web site, Moore said the emails are “a cheap, dirty political trick” and that the county Democratic Party “is committed to using all its legal options to make sure the perpetrators are held responsible.”
Barton said no one arrived to take responsibility for the anonymous emails. The event took place across the street from Kyle City Hall. Barton said 40-50 of his supporters and other onlookers attended the event. Barton said about six Cobb supporters showed up, but did not engage him in debate.
Just before high noon Monday, Cobb issued a statement deriding Barton’s meeting as a political stunt.
“Jeff Barton is engaging in cheap political theater to distract the public from his record of irresponsible tax increases, selfish pay raises, and wasteful spending.” Cobb said. “It is the height of arrogance for an elected official to raise taxes while raising his own salary, and then act like a victim when the people criticize his record. Neither I nor my campaign have had anything to do with the anonymous emails that Mr. Barton bemoans, and it is time for Mr. Barton to stop pointing fingers and start addressing the real issues that face Hays County.”
Barton said his campaign erected two podiums in preparation for the event. One podium was labeled with Barton’s name and another with a question mark. Barton said Cobb supporters attempted to disrupt the event.
“They came and wanted to rehash all kinds of tired conspiracy theories about how conservation easements protecting water are part of U.N. agendas, and telling lies about how we raised taxes every year,” Barton said. “Which again, is simply not true.”
Barton said Hays County residents Sam Brannon and Charles O’Dell were among his opponents who showed up at the event in Kyle. Barton said the two men have extreme views, and he questioned Cobb’s wisdom in associating with them.
The Cobb campaign denied any connection with O’Dell or Brannon.
“They have nothing to do with Dr. Cobb or his campaign,” said Cobb campaign representative Jerod Patterson of Brannon and O’Dell. “From what I understand, these folks have been active in local politics in their own right for years, so I am unsurprised to see them voicing an opinion on the race. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, their suspicions are dubious. Dr. Cobb draws his support from a broad and diverse cross section of Hays County, as will be made evident on election night.”
In an open letter to Hays County residents, Brannon said he attended the event only to discover that anybody who wanted to participate had to sign an affidavit claiming responsibility for one or more of the emails. Brannon added that Barton supporters shouted him down as he attempted to address points from another open letter he sent out last week.
“He chose to act like a petulant child rather than a dignified elected official,” Brannon said in a Tuesday morning open letter. “And ultimately he has undermined himself as a credible candidate.”Email | Print