Just this past Wednesday we began looking at the enigmatic HD-17 race. Because I knew little to nothing about the race other than what I could find online and in old press clippings, I began doing some research on what is arguably is the must hold Democratic seat of 2008.
As one Democratic consultant put it, If Democrats are to have any chance of taking back the Texas House this cycle, we must hold HD 17. A loss in this rural/exurban swing district would set us back dramatically.
Dippel, to be sure, is not a perfect candidate. Some will certainly argue that Dippel's Democratic credentials could use some polishing. Okay, so he was hired to work at the Texas Department of Agriculture by Jim Hightower, but he also worked for Susan Combs and Rick Perry. And Dippel has a history of Republican primary voting – something that is sure to touch off the ongoing Democratic-purity vs. welcoming-new-people-to-our-party debate it seems like we're always having here at BOR and one I sometimes contribute to.
But Dippel is clearly qualified for the job. He ended his career at the Ag Department as an Assistant Commissioner, and has broad public policy experience. It also appears that he would make a strong general election opponent to Republican Tim Kleinschmidt. The Dippels have deep roots in the district, and are very active in their community. And Dippel's position on the Fayette County Farm Bureau Board ought to give him a leg-up on that key endorsement in this rural district.
Other than an eclectic voting history in a fair conservative, rural part of Texas, Dippel seems to right on most every major issue. A major example is TSTA endorsed Dippel in his race to be the nominee.
Looking into Latreese Cooke things got interesting quickly. In fact, during that same TSTA endorsement meeting, according to sources, Cooke announced she was pro-voucher. This of course made me look even more into Cooke and her background.
As one commenter pointed out, Latreese Cooke operates a non-profit called Minorities for Equality in Education, Equality, Liberty and Justice (MEEELJ). MEEELJ “serves at-risk and formerly incarcerated persons in Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, Del Valle and portions of Eastern Travis County.”
In 2007, MEEELJ honored former state representative Ron Wilson at “Yesterfest” in Bastrop. At the time, Cooke wrote:
“Ron Wilson served 27 years as a Texas State Representative serving on numerous committees and being responsible for quite a number of significant legislation striving always to advance minority interests. His participation as one of the few Democrats who supported the Republican redistricting plan in order to provide an opportunity for more minority representation in the government cost him in the primary. At the time of his resignation, Mr. Wilson ranked 5th in seniority of 150 legislators. In 1997, Texas Monthly magazine named Ron Wilson 'one of the top 10 legislators' and portrayed him as 'revolutionary'. Thank you Latreese Cooke, Executive Director of MEEELJ for inviting him.”
A source in the district informed of this passage and it appears it has now been removed from the website in the past week. This lead me to wonder what else Cooke may be hiding.
The answers below the fold may shock you. None of this material is meant to say Cooke isn't a good hearted or even nice person. However, it appears Latreese Cooke has a long criminal record.
According to documents provided to BOR, Latreese Cooke was arrested six times in Bastrop County for Theft by Check between 1985 and 2000. Over the years, Cooke has had a number of warrants issued for her arrest, she has been sentenced to probation at least twice and in 2000, Cooke served 90 days in the Bastrop County Jail.
Latreese Cooke has failed to pay her property taxes.
Latreese and Howard Cooke own two lots in Bastrop County. The lots are located at “Tahitian Village, Unit 1, Block 19, Lots 500 and 501.”
The Cookes were sued by Bastrop County on 11/30/07 for $3,335.81 in unpaid taxes, plus penalties, fees, interest, etc. The Cookes did not pay property taxes on lots 500 and 501 in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Latreese Cooke was married to two men at the same time. According to documents:
Latreese De Santis (her maiden name) and Eric Tabb were married on July 10, 1986. Latreese sued for divorce on February 11, 1992. At that time, Cooke (then Tabb) requested that her name be changed to Latreese Ann De Santis.
On 09/05/97 Cooke and Howard Bernard Cooke filed a Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage in Bastrop County. Latreese and Howard swore that they met the requirements for an informal marriage since July 12, 1987. They also swore that since that date, neither had “been married to any other person.”
From the period of July 12, 1987 to February 11, 1992, Latreese Cooke was legally married to Eric Tabb while at the same time presenting herself as married to Howard Cooke.
Latreese Cooke does not meet the residency requirements to serve as state representative for District 17.
It appears Ms. Cooke was not a resident of HD 17 one year prior to the November 2008 general election. Here's why:
Gustavo Torres sued Latreese Cooke and Khalif Muhammed on October 31, 2007, for failure to pay rent on the home they leased from him located in Del Valle – in Travis County, outside of HD 17.
Latreese Cooke was served in person on August 14, 2007, in that suit at 11704 Morning View, Del Valle, Texas 78617.
Latreese Cooke filed a “Defendant's Original Answer” in that suit on August 29, 2007. Cooke signed as “Latreese Muhammad” and listed 11704 Morning View, Del Valle, Texas, 78617 as her address. She filed in Travis County small claims court.
Final judgment in that case was made on November 14, 2007. At that time, Gustavo Torres was awarded immediate possession of the premises at 11704 Morning View, $6,500 in unpaid rent and $1,652 in attorney's fees. Until that time, there is no evidence that Latreese Cooke and Khalif Muhammed (Howard Cooke) vacated the home at 11704 Morning View. That means that on November 4, 2007 – one year from the 2008 general election – Latreese Cooke resided in Travis County.
There is further evidence that Cooke actually resides in Del Valle, in Travis County.
The Del Valle Independent School District confirms that Quione Bernard Cooke, LC's son, was enrolled in Del Valle High School on August 16, 2005 and graduated on May 25, 2006. Samirrah Ann Cooke, LC's daughter, enrolled in Del Valle High School August 16, 2006 and was enrolled at DVHS as of January 8, 2008.
The official minutes of the December 12, 2006 Del Valle ISD Board of Trustees meeting show Latreese Cooke, mother of Samirrah Cooke, attended the meeting and spoke at the public forum.
Now why are we bringing this up? In 2006 Robby Cook, the incumbent, beat Tim Kleinschmidt by less than 500 votes. If Cooke is our Democratic nominee, she will be destroyed by the Republican noise machine, and we as Democrats must field the candidates that not only represent our values, but also give us the best chance to win. Sadly, Latreese Cooke is not that candidate.