Three Republican TX Land Commissioner Candidates United by Common Thread: Save the Alamo!
The theme of this past Monday evening’s Kaufman County Tea Party-sponsored Land Commissioner Candidate Forum was “Remember the Alamo – just as it was,” as opposed to current Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s approach to “Re-Imagine the Alamo.” Three of the four Republican candidates that filed for Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office are united by a common thread, which some are calling the “Lightening rod” to igniting this particular race, as its message resonates with voters. The common ground? Save the Alamo! Kick George P. out of office before he can do anymore damage with his project to re-imagine, re-do, re-invent the Alamo and its history. Though each of the candidates for Land Commissioner present, were in one accord as to purpose, they had only slightly different ideas about how to accomplish their goals to defend Texas’ sacred historical assets, and very different job skills sets.
All four Republican candidates were invited to the forum that was held in Forney at Trinity Family Church; and all three of Bush’s opponents showed up: Texas’ previous Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Rick Range, and Dr. Davey Edwards. These three were quite amicable toward one another and agreed to support whichever one wins the Primary or Run-off Election.
Patterson had retired when his successor (Bush) took over the Land Office, and at age 71, he said he had not intended to get back into politics. He believes he can clean up the mess in the Land Office within one term. He mentioned the SREC resolution that passed, condemning Bush for the direction he is taking with “Re-Imagine the Alamo.” He had worked on it in conjunction with Ray Myers (leader of the Kaufman County Tea Party), Sue Evenwel (SREC-SD1), and Teresa Beckmeyer (blog writer and founder of West Texas Voice). Patterson typed it. “I went to the SREC, presented that, talked on its behalf, and it passed; and that was the first shot across the bow. So, even though I’ve been out of office for a while, I haven’t been disengaged.”
When Range, a 31-year veteran firefighter with the Mesquite Fire Department, found out the plans to “Re-Imagine” the Alamo, put up glass walls, move the Cenotaph, change the Alamo’s name, and other revisions, and he became proactive, and founded the Save the Alamo Committee with its associated web site to educate people about the plans to change Texas History. “I knew things had to change, or the Alamo as we know it, was going to be gone.” He also expressed concern about statue removal from various parks and other locations. While the Texas Veterans Land Board and Texas natural disasters also fall under the umbrella of the General Land Office, Range, who also claims some working knowledge in a family oil business believes, “The most urgent issue is the Alamo.”
Edwards has his PhD in Geoscience and is an internationally trained State and U.S. Land Surveyor. He is one in 60 Texas licensed state land surveyors qualified to have records filed in the Texas General Land Office (GLO). He pointed out that for the first century of the GLO’s history, its commissioner has had either a knowledge of surveys or experience as a land surveyor, for the simple reason that the office was created in the first place: to sell State-owned lands to pay off its war debt. During the second century of the office, many of the Commissioners have been lawyers or in real estate. Since Texas was a Republic when it came into the Union, it owned its public lands. Edwards explained, that due to the Compromise of 1850, “Texas was unique in that it did not have to surrender its sovereign lands to the federal government. The United States said, ‘You keep your own land, you manage your own land, so that you can sell it to pay off that war debt. That’s why the Texas Land Office is so important… the equivalent to that in the federal government: the Bureau of Land Management, the federal land agency that loves to take land where it can.”
Following his fellow-contestants opening speeches, Edwards clarified in his opening statement that the SREC vote last September requires the primary focus of the Re-Imagine plan for the Alamo to be “…the 1836 battle because before then, George Skarmeas, who was the creator of the Master Plan, could not pinpoint one point in time of the history of the Alamo to be significant, so they were going to cover a 10,000-year period. Not to mention, the non-profit organizations that were created in the General Land Office to cover the functions of the Alamo. They were not being transparent with state funds. State funds were being funneled into these non-profit groups. So, in December when the Senate Finance Committee was asking about what was going on with these non-profit groups, ‘Why aren’t we able to review the records?’ the current Commissioner said, ‘We’re trying to protect the liability of the board members.’ But we had a fiduciary duty to the citizens of Texas… My passion to preserve Texas is what I’m running on…”
Each of the candidates were asked: How is the UN [United Nations] involved with the Alamo? And, each candidate made it clear that the UN and UNESCO have no authority.
Edwards said, “…The UN designation was to make it a World Heritage Site, and that was to give it some promotion worldwide, but it was also brought in with three or four other missions there in San Antonio… They [UN / UNESCO] do not have any authority as to the planning or the direction of the Alamo.” However, he acknowledged that reading through the re-imagine plan, there are names of two World Heritage Site advisors, and George Skarmeas is an advisor to World Heritage Site.
Patterson repeated the question and answered, “What does the UN have to do with the Alamo or UNESCO, or World Heritage Organization? Absolutely Nothing. In order for them to have any control, any input, any requirements, or any expectations, there would have to be some kind of an agreement. There is no contract, there is no agreement, there is no letter of understanding. There are no requirements, no expectations, there are no prohibitions. I cannot imagine that George P. Bush would sign a contract with UNESCO or WHO or the UN. But what I can tell you is that when I become Commissioner… we will find if there is a contract, and if there is a contract, it will be cancelled… UNESCO made the designation of the entire five missions of the Alamo trail, the Alamo was one of those five. It was a designation requested by the National Park Service and the City of San Antonio. And, the Land Office, under my administration, agreed to be part of the application because we are one of the five Alamo missions. There is no control, nothing, zero, nada.”
Range said, “I agree… Technically, they [UNESCO] have no enforcement power… The problem at the Alamo is not UNESCO; the problem is George P. Bush, and we’ve absolutely got to defeat him, come March 6.”
A woman in the audience queried, “I want to know what safeguards you have set up in your personal lives to keep you accountable, if you’re elected, to keep you from becoming a part of the establishment.”
Range answered, “I don’t intend to run again. I am not using this as a stepping stone. I’m going to run for a four-year term, and we can get this done in four years. You know, they built the Empire State Building in one year under budget, they built the Golden Gate Bridge in one year, on budget. I’ve worked with all the real Alamo experts on several projects over the last 15 years, and I know them all. They’re all the people that Bush refused to even talk to. He went and got these out-of-state yahoos. I’ve already talked to all these people. They are ready, willing, able, and chomping at the bit to go in there on day one and start implementing the plan that the legislature passed three years ago, which is an excellent plan, if Texas will let them.”
Edwards said, “My consultant is God and my wife. I listen to what God tells me, as far as your opinion. I’ve got to stay focused on what’s important, and that’s His Word. That keeps you straight and narrow. I don’t want to be in one term. I’ve focused on this office for my career. That’s why I don’t have a political portfolio, other than running for county surveyor…But that’s where I want to be. It’s going to take some time to untangle this non-profit organization… I think there may be some legal issues. We’ve got to audit it. I think Texans are gun shy right now. We’ve got to convince Texans that any plan is going to be the right plan, and I don’t have anything against the plan that these two may have [he pointed to Range and Patterson], but Texans are not convinced. I don’t think that in one term, we’re going to be able to turn around everything that’s internally wrong with the Land Office.”
He then made reference to problems with the permanent school fund, coastal maintenance, and with Hurricane Harvey relief projects botched by the Land Office. “We’ve got a lot to do, and it’s going to take more than one term to turn it around. Two terms? Maybe.”
Patterson got laughter from the crowd when he said, “The older you get, the wiser you become, and the more forgetful you become. I’m 71 years old. I had no interest in running for office again. I’m not seeking glory. I don’t need my ego stroked. I saw an agency in absolute chaos, and I got in at the last minute. The other thing that happens to you when you get old, is how important your faith becomes to you, and the more you realize the opportunities you missed in the past to demonstrate that.”
He then mentioned the fact that he’s been spending his time recently, making Texas History documentaries, and that he knows what needs to be done, since he was there in the Land Office a few short years ago. “I know the people who were fired, who were good people, experienced, knowledgeable. I know the people who were hired. Some of them are just absolute disasters. I can get this done in less than four years.”
The Super Tuesday Primary Election date is March 6, 2018. Early voting goes from February 20 – March 2.