TEXAS VIEW: Texas voters, beware of pro-secession candidates

THE POINT: Some Republican primary candidates have signed an unpatriotic pledge to “take Texas back.”

Saturday was Texas Independence Day. It’s a day that marks our state’s independence from Mexico in 1836 and the beginning of the Republic of Texas, which soon became part of the United States.

But there are some who take Texas’ famous independent streak a bridge too far. As Super Tuesday is upon us, Republican primary voters in Texas should beware. A worrying number of candidates for the Texas House of Representatives and other offices have signed the “Take Texas Back” pledge that makes them promise to advance legislation to help Texas secede from the United States under certain conditions.

The desire for smaller government and increased state’s rights is valid. But this rhetoric, largely espoused by far-right candidates, is not conservative. It’s unpatriotic.

The pledge asks candidates to promise that if elected, they will place the interests of Texas before any nation or political entity. By signing the pledge, candidates promise to advance legislation to call for a referendum for Texans to assert their status as an independent nation, if a majority of residents are interested.

Over 150 people have signed the pledge so far, including multiple GOP candidates in North Texas. Among them are state House District 65 candidate Mitch Little, one of Ken Paxton’s attorneys during impeachment trial who is now trying to unseat incumbent Kronda Thimesch of Lewisville, and Daren Meis, opposing incumbent Jeff Leach of Allen in state House District 67. Candidates Andy Hopper in District 64 and Shelley Luther in District 62 have also signed on.

Many of these signatories, like Hopper and Luther, are also major beneficiaries of campaign donations from a political action committee called Texans United for a Conservative Majority. The influential PAC that has pumped millions of dollars into statehouse races this primary season is funded by West Texas oil billionaire Tim Dunn. If money could talk, Dunn’s contributions are articulating an extreme new form of conservatism where it’s normal to disavow the United States in the name of freedom in Texas.

Candidates who sign the pledge also signal that they aren’t thinking far ahead about the real-life consequences of their statements. The website for the Take Back Texas pledge does not identify how an independent Texas would be funded in absence of federal money that currently comprises about 30% of our state’s budget. The practical challenges to establishing an independent nation are sizable and cannot be patched over with extreme rhetoric.

Ideologies are constantly shifting beneath our feet, and the level of extremism that the Texas electorate finds acceptable seems to grow by the day. If you’re voting in the Republican primary, we urge you to read, with an independent mind, about candidates before heading to the polls to avoid being surprised after the fact.

The Dallas Morning News