San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 10th, 2014
Brad Rollins’ Blog: Donna Campbell can’t face the facts, can’t tell the truth

Listen to the complete, unedited Hays GOP debate at the bottom of this story.


WIMBERLEY — State Sen. Donna Campbell emerged bloodied and bruised — but as defiant and disingenuous as ever — from a candidate forum hosted last week by the Hays County Republican Party Executive Committee.

In the days leading up to the big event, Campbell supporters were pummeled withs email urging them to attend the Feb. 5 debate. Consequently, the crowd was clearly stacked with the firebrand freshman senator’s supporters, several dozen of whom turned out to ensure she received a warm reception. But not everyone who entered the Wimberley Community Center as a Campbell fan left as one.

Will Campbell snub San Marcos?

Sen. Donna Campbell is invited to attend the San Marcos Area League of Women Voters debate tonight along with her Republican challengers, Mike Novak and Elisa Chan.

But given the drumming she took last week at Wimberley over her record, it’s a fair question whether she will bother showing up.

About half of San Marcos — 18,883 voting-age residents as of 2010 — lies in State Senate District 25. The senator owes her constituents the favor of her company, of course, but has a record of ducking events where she’s not assured of a friendly crowd.

We won’t know until tonight whether she has the fortitude to take tough questions from the people she claims to serve.

UPDATE: Campbell was, in fact, a no-show at the League of Women Voters debate.

Her Republican Party challengers — San Antonio businessman Mike Novak and former San Antonio City Council member Elisa Chan — seem to have made headway with voters on a number of fronts, especially by noting Campbell’s sponsorship of legislation creating the Needmore Ranch Municipal Utility District on about 4,000 acres of a legendary riverside ranch between San Marcos and Wimberley. Campbell further outraged hundreds of constituents by failing to show up last April at a town hall meeting on the utility district, sending an aide instead to take the heat.

Minutes into the Wimberley debate, Novak wasted no time reminding voters about Campbell’s support for the utility district and her arrogance in declining to even justify her position to the people who elected her.

“It’s not right. It’s not appropriate. We’re talking about a place with a unique culture — a very precious part of this district — and that’s the Hill Country. How in the world, Dr. Campbell, can we possibly even think of creating a MUD” on that property?, Novak asked.

He added later: “When you establish a MUD you have enlarged our government. It is a political subdivision. You have created a government that we didn’t have before. It’s not a property right. It’s an entitlement issue.”

Chan picked up where Novak left off.

“Senator Campbell campaigned for limited government, small government and no new taxes. As a matter of fact, she signed three pledges [not to support new taxes]. So I think the MUD is a problem. It’s a new taxing agency and it’s also a new government. This is not the small government that the senator campaigned for,” Chan said.

Appearing flustered, Campbell jumped to her feet and sought to cast the issue as a property rights issue, saying the ranch’s owners have a right to do with it what they want. Maybe, maybe not. But then Campbell, incredibly and inexplicably, denied that MUD management will have the right to levy property taxes on people who live there should it be developed later.

“If you read the bill — not like Nancy Pelosi — it’s not a taxing entity. That MUD is not a taxing entity,” Campbell said.

But it is Campbell who seems not to have read the legislation that she claims to have written. SB 1868 states plain as day that the district’s board of directors “may impose an ad valorem tax or issue bonds payable from ad valorem taxes” and “may impose an operation and maintenance tax on taxable property in the district.”

The bill does stipulate that the district cannot levy taxes without an election. But since the only people eligible to vote in the election are either members of the LaMantia family or people they allow to live on their ranch, the election clause is a red-herring. It’s a bit of standard-issue bill-drafting trickery that accomplishes nothing except afford Campbell political cover.

Novak was not finished with the MUD issue and struck the hardest blow by pointing out that Campbell’s campaign did not go uncompensated for the senator’s trouble.

“I would challenge Dr. Campbell — the Democrat that owns that ranch — how much money did he give you for your campaign?” Novak said to an explosion of gasps and whispers from the crowd.

Then he yielded a minute of his own time to Campbell so she could answer the question, which she refused to do. Had she done so, the answer would have been a number with five digits preceded by a dollar sign.

In December, Campbell accepted $5,000 each — a total of $10,000 —  from Steve LaMantia of Laredo, an owner of L&F Disributors, and Val Peisen of McAllen, the company’s president.

The LaMantia family and their employees are well within their rights to pursue legislation that serves their self-interests. Nor is there anything illegal or even unethical about their contributing to the campaigns of candidates who they support. Indeed, they likely think the utility district — and their subsequent campaign contributions — serves the community’s interests as well as their own.

But Campbell was elected to serve the interests of Hays County and the rest of Senate District 25, not just the LaMantias.

Her failure to do so with the Needmore Ranch MUD — and her insistent lying or appalling ignorance about her own legislation — is something that every voter, Republican and Democrat, should not forget. Early voting for the March 4 primaries starts Feb. 18.


Discussion of groundwater and the Needmore Municipal Utility District starts at 12:33

COVER: An animated State Sen. Donna Campbell speaks at a candidate forum Feb. 5. hosted by the Hays County Republican Party Executive Committee. MERCURY PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS

CORRECTION: Early voting for the March 4 party primaries starts Feb. 18, not Feb. 11.

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7 thoughts on “Brad Rollins’ Blog: Donna Campbell can’t face the facts, can’t tell the truth

  1. I’ll post the identical comment that I put up on your FB page as criticism of your hit piece on Sen. Campbell:

    “Please Brad. Phony indignation over a altogether legal and customary political practice is unbecoming. Senator Campbell joined Representative Isaac to do a service for a Hays County property owner. Passing legislation establishing municipal utility districts around the state is an almost daily occurrence when the legislature is in session. I don’t think that a single one has ever failed to become law. Campaign contributions given to incumbents for a job well done are also commonplace. The constituent’s political preference is of no importance. And by the way, it is not at all clear that the owner of the property is a committed Democrat. Guests at a BBQ held at his ranch last year included many highly-placed national and state Republican office holders. In other words, using the loaded term “sold out” and expressing such righteous concern over such a small matter is ugly partisanship. Donna Campbell will be reelected with a large margin.”

    May I add that the creation of MUDs is solely a power of the legislature. City and county governments have no role in their creation. And this was in fact an aid in the exercise of Mr. LaMantia property rights.

  2. Jim,
    > I don’t have a problems with MUDs, in concept, and the Needmore Ranch MUD turned out much better after Rep. Isaac — who did, by the way, show up to meet with his constituents in contrast to Campbell — amended it to prohibit use of Trinity or Edwards groundwater for its water supply. Campbell had nothing to do with that improvement. Bottom line: Isaac responded to his constituents’ concerns while Campbell didn’t bother to hear them out.
    > The bigger problem for me is that Sen. Campbell either does not know what is in the legislation or she is lying about what’s in. She stood up in Wimberley and said flat-out that the MUD does not have taxing authority. That is not true. It is not close to true. The real question is: Did Campbell know it was not true when she said it or is she so incompetent that she failed to read a bill of critical importance to Hays County, a bill she claims to have authored. If the former is the case, Campbell looked her voters in the eye and lied to them. If the later is true, she’s worse than Nancy Pelosi, who she invoked in the argument. She didn’t have to pass the bill in order to know what was in it. She passed it and *still* doesn’t know what is in it nearly a year later.
    > You may be right that she’ll be re-elected by a wide margin. But, if that’s the case, it won’t be because the facts weren’t available to voters who wish to be informed.
    > I know your support of Campbell is heartfelt, Jim, and I appreciate that we’ve always been able to disagree about her with mutual respect and civility. But she is a freakin’ Texas Senator and I refuse to believe we cannot do better.

  3. I truly hope Donna Campbell is sent home to Columbus after the March primary. She does not live here! Lies to the constituents She is not interested in anything but far right wing agenda, and legislating her own morality. Let’s send her home, maybe Columbus will elected her but we don’t want her!!!

  4. Donna Campbell granted the Needmore Ranch owners, who are Laredo residents, hefty campaign donors and Budweiser distributors the MUD designation she DENIED the City of Wimberley.

    If this practice is so commonplace, why would the MUD designation for Needmore Ranch be favored over the town of Wimberley for this tax privilege? Why not grant it to both.

    In addition to giving the LaMantia family eminent domain, which means they can cut across the little 2 acre guy if they need to, she turned a blind eye to additional land grabs under the “navigable waters” clause. This political practice, making the land available to developers for the navigation of commerce, was also commonplace …in the 1800’s!!

    So, do not tell us that Texas, especially the educated, informed constituents of Senate District 25 will stand back and let this Senator pillage our land, our rights and our roads.

    Donations for a job well done? These guys are her top donors.
    That sounds like a “sell-out” to me.

  5. So a Municipal Utility District was created on one person’s property and no one’s taxes went up. If he develops it later, fine, people will move in and pay a tax for their utilities. Where’s the controversy?

    In the audio, Chan and Novak are saying she raised taxes and made government larger because she created a MUD. Are they not going to create MUDs for new residential developments in the district? Are they anti-growth? It’s the attacks, not the senator’s response, that seems disingenuous and out of touch with our growing district.

  6. Brad, I can’t help but agree with your assumption that Campbell is simply incompetent. That fact is, she doesn’t know what this bill does and she doesn’t know what her bill on toll roads does! She can spew all of her nonsense all she wants, but up until this point she has not proven that she UNDERSTANDS that those bills did anything wrong. I would respect her much more if she would say “yes, I did create more government with MUD” or “yes, I did leave loopholes so we can build tolls on already built roads.” Either her denial or incompetence just baffles me. Whichever one it is, I don’t want my State Senator to have it.

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