SAN ANGELO, TX — The contender against State Rep. Drew Darby has opted not to participate in our proposed debate, scheduled to take place on the San Angelo LIVE! live stream show. We extended an invitation to candidate Stormey Bradley to engage in the debate, slated for Feb 12, at the Sugg Room of the Stephens Library in downtown San Angelo.
However, Bradley's campaign team, affiliated with a consultant group called Engage Right, declined the invitation. Lauren Lothringer, Bradley's campaign director employed by Engage Right, conveyed the campaign's objection to our proposed moderator, Joe Hyde.
Hyde, the founder of San Angelo LIVE!, has been covering the issues affecting Texas House District 72 for over a decade. His engagement in statewide debates on conservative platforms, such as the Luke Macias Show last summer, is noteworthy.
Macias had been promoting a narrative suggesting that Rep. Drew Darby endorsed counseling children to undergo gender transitions. This narrative stemmed from an amendment proposed on an unrelated bill aimed at funding anti-suicide programs for children’s hospitals in Texas, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jacey Jetton (TX-26). The amendment, introduced by conservative figure Tony Tinderholt (TX-94), included anti-transgender language. Despite initially failing with a vote of 52-90, some state representatives changed their votes following pressure from Macias and the Texas Scorecard, a media outlet backed by far-right financier Tim Dunn. The margin narrowed to 70-74-4, but the amendment still failed. Interestingly, the un-amended legislation passed the House overwhelmingly with a vote of 128-6. If supporting the bill without the Tinderholt amendment was considered a litmus test on transgender issues, why did a vast majority of Republican representatives vote for the final bill?
We criticized Macias for engaging in gaslighting tactics against Republicans.
Further gaslighting appears to be at play in this campaign. Stormy Bradley's advertisements claim that Darby supported "radical transgenderism," citing a 2017 news report by Hyde where Darby and Rep. Dustin Burrows (TX-83) were interviewed by the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith at Howard College in San Angelo. Darby's casual response to a question about the "bathroom bill" was misconstrued. At the time, transgender politics had not posed a threat except in Houston, where there were concerns about opening female restrooms to males. Meanwhile, Darby and other appropriations committee members were grappling with a significant drop in state revenue due to the oil and gas industry slump.
We consider the claim that Darby supported "radical transgenderism" to be unfounded. Darby co-sponsored or sponsored three major anti-transgender bills during the last legislative session, including the bill prohibiting biological males from participating in women’s sports. These are among the many issues Hyde would have likely addressed in a debate.
Bradley seems to be hiding behind her consultants, raising questions about who is financing her campaign. She asserts running a $350,000 campaign, yet her most recent campaign finance report, due on Feb. 5, is not available on the Texas Ethics Commission database. However, her Jan. 15, 2024 report indicates minimal local financial support amounting to approximately $1,400 within the district. The bulk of her funding comprises a $25,000 donation from the Family Empowerment Coalition PAC, with an Austin address, and a $30,000 personal loan from Bradley herself.
Notably, Bradley’s campaign treasurer resides in northern Virginia, in the DC suburb of Alexandria. Lisa Lisker, the treasurer, serves as the president of Huckaby Davis Lisker, Inc., a company specializing in FEC and non-profit financial reporting. Lisker also holds the treasurer position for the anti-Darby PAC named AFC Victory Fund. The PAC received an initial $500,000 from school choice advocate Betsy DeVos and an additional $500,000 from her husband Dick on Dec. 27, 2023. The PAC reported a total of $2,520.550 in contributions. Delving into the PAC’s campaign finance report reveals its intention to target incumbent Texas representatives for the March 5 Republican Primary.
The apparent overlap between Stormy Bradley’s campaign and the AFC Victory Fund prompts questions about potential coordination between the two entities, given that they share the same campaign finance chairman.
These are the unanswered questions Bradley evades by refusing to participate in a debate. Instead of avoiding voters, Ms. Bradley should be forthcoming and address these concerns directly.
DeVos's PAC is targeting 14 Republican incumbent state representatives, including:
- Ken King (TX-88 Canadian),
- Keith Bell (TX-4 Forney),
- Charlie Geren (TX-99 Lake Worth),
- Steve Allison (TX-121 San Antonio),
- Stan Lambert (TX-71 Abilene),
- Reggie Smith (TX-62 Sherman),
- Glenn Rogers (TX-60 Mineral Wells),
- DeWayne Burns (TX-58 Celburne),
- Hugh Shrine (TX-55 Belton),
- John Kuempel (TX-44 Seguin),
- Justin Holland (TX-33 Rockwall),
- Ernest Bailes (misspelled “Bailey on the report) (TX-18 Shepherd),
- Travis Clardy (TX-11 Nacogdoches), and
- Drew Darby (TX-72 San Angelo).