A shortened compilation video from a Granbury political forum followed by an Empower Texans article had Texas House District 60 Republican candidate Dr. Glenn Rogers this week clarifying his positions on two key issues and emphasizing his conservative values.

The video, published by controversial former Hood County Republican Party chair Nate Criswell, and article written by Cary Cheshire for Texas Scorecard, the online editorial arm of politically and financially influential Empower Texans, questioned Rogers' conservative values following he statements he made at last week's forum, two days before a similar forum in Mineral Wells.

The video failed to carry all of Rogers' remarks on the issues of taxpayer-funded lobbying and constitutional carry. Rogers, a fifth-generation Palo Pinto County rancher and career veterinarian, has said he is opposed to a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying and for constitutional firearm carry, but would like to see firearms training be part of that right. He has given reasons for his positions, however those were not picked up in the video or Texas Scorecard article.

“As a conservative, first and foremost I believe in local control," Rogers said in a midweek press release. "If a decision can be made at the local level, then it should be made at the local level. That has historically been our position as Republicans."

Taxpayer-funded lobbying refers to organizations like the Texas Municipal League, which uses local taxpayer dollars in support of member cities, including Mineral Wells, on policies and issues and uses some of those dollars to lobby the Texas Legislature on behalf of cities. Another is the Texas Association of Counties, likewise representing and supporting county governments funded by taxpayer dollars. Some say their efforts are not always in the citizens' best interests.

“I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people talk about taxpayer-funded lobbying," Rogers stated. "Let me make this clear: rural counties have taxpayer-funded lobbyists – they are called state representatives. The reality is that with limited resources and few representatives in areas west of I-35, including District 60, we are at a huge disadvantage. Though we are dangerously underrepresented, District 60 – and other rural districts like it – needs to compete with big cities for state resources, industry, jobs, talent and people. Rural districts and rural issues need a larger voice in Austin, NOT a smaller one."

Rogers' campaign is receiving financial support from several private political action committees, including the Mineral Wells Tomorrow Political Action Committee, Veterinarian Political Action Committee and Texans for Lawsuit Reform Political Action Committee and Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee.

“Strong, citizen-formed interest groups like Mineral Wells Tomorrow PAC are an excellent example of neighbors uniting to voice their common interest, locally and in Austin," Rogers stated. "It is vital that our citizens are active participants in the political process. If a county or city would like to raise private sector money to hire an additional voice in Austin, that certainly should be their prerogative. However, there should be strict parameters and limitations on tax dollars being used for lobbying. Monies collected from citizens should be used to fund services for citizens. Taxpayer-funded lobbyists are not unlike unions making their members contribute their union dues for purposes or candidates they don’t support. We need strong leaders who know and can communicate our issues to protect the rural way of life.”

Rogers is part of a four-way Republican Party race for the House District 60 seat with Cisco businessman Jon Francis, Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone and Granbury attorney Kellye SoRelle. No Democrats are seeking the seat on the March 3 primary ballots. Early voting begins Feb. 18.

Rogers has taken aim at Francis, considered by most a frontrunner in the race which is likely to require a runoff among the top two vote-getters. On Thursday, he withdrew from participating in an Eastland County forum, citing concerns of bias from Francis supporters.

While Francis has declared he will not accept PAC or special interest group campaign donations, he works for Wilks Development.

In his latest campaign finance report, Francis listed $610,017 in contributions, including $500,000 from his in-laws – Farris and Jo Ann Wilks, the Cisco couple who are two of the biggest financial backers of Empower Texans that has funneled huge sums of money into political campaigns and conservative causes. A number of other Wilks family members are listed on Francis' campaign contributions report.

"It's unfortunate and regrettable one of my opponents, Dr. Glenn Rogers, is frustrated with pushback from voters over positions he has publicly and emphatically taken, time and again, against important Republican Party of Texas Legislative priorities," Francis responded in a request for comment from the Index. "I'm proud to have been able to clearly, confidently and consistently articulate my positions to voters. My commitment to all five RPT priorities is unwavering and that includes passing constitutional carry and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying in our state. I will be a strong and unapologetic advocate for both in Austin."

Perricone was also asked to weigh in on the campaign's developments regarding Rogers and his statements. He first noted the relationships between Empower Texans, Texas Scorecard and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which has backed Francis.

"Empower Texans is backing Jon Francis. Empower Texans is the one who wrote this article so that ought to tell you something," Perricone stated. "Like I said earlier I am not a fan of Empower Texans because I personally have not seen them hold the line for conservative issues even though they say they do. That said, I believe Rogers is dead wrong on this (taxpayer-funded lobbying) issue. Including both Republicans and Democrats over 80% strongly oppose Rogers' position."

Perricone said TML last year contacted him and asked for his support as mayor to oppose a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying.

"Why? Because they want to keep getting that money from the citizens to continue stealing their liberties by thwarting the Constitution," Perricone said.

Perricone said concerning Rogers' position on constitutional carry, he said it comes with a huge “but that totally negates the purpose of the Second Amendment. The Bill of Rights was written better define our God given, inalienable rights that cannot and should not be tampered with even in the least bit. So with that said I agree with the written article in question and vehemently disagree with Rogers position."

SoRelle did not respond to a request for comment.

Rogers will get a chance to clarify his positions at a campaign rally and reception this evening in Granbury featuring former Gov. Rick Perry, who is among those endorsing Rogers. The event takes place 4-7 p.m. at Celebration Hall.

Granbury and Hood County are key battlegrounds for the House District 60 candidates in their race to replace Mike Lang, who is vacating the seat to run in a contested race for a Hood County commissioners seat.

Criswell, known for his political videos and interviews, resigned last year as Hood County's GOP chair and as a candidate for the same commissioners seat Lang is seeking following a serious domestic violence allegation lodged by his now former wife. She claimed during the incident Criswell placed her in a chokehold.

However, a Hood County grand jury declined to indict Criswell of a felony impeding breathing charge. He remains under a family violence restraining order filed by his ex-wife. Criswell was also campaign manager for Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds, whose office investigated the domestic violence allegation against Criswell, according to a report published by the Hood County News. Deeds endorsed Criswell's candidacy for county commissioner.

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