A man who lives with honor says to your face what he says behind your back.
I used to think Chuck Hopson was that kind of man. Today, I learned the harsh truth that he is not.
I always knew Chuck was first and foremost about self-preservation, but I would have thought he would retire before becoming a Republican -- a promise he's told countless State Representatives, party officials, and local constituents. In fact, he had a fundraiser for himself no more than two weeks ago, taking money from Democrats.Chuck's decision to join the Republican Party shows that he has sunk to a level of political cowardice I never expected from him. As a former employee of Hopson's, I feel betrayed by his lack of conviction -- betrayed that I ever trusted someone who so clearly puts his own self-interest above that of those who support him.
My first job in the Texas Capitol was as a legislative aide for Hopson. I began working for him in the 2005 Regular Session, and stayed on through the school finance special sessions in 2006, after which time -- in September 2006 -- I went to work as Chief of Staff for State Representative Garnet F. Coleman.
His decision today to switch parties reflects the colder side of Hopson, the side most people never encountered but was always there beneath the surface. It is a side of a man whose principles are dictated by self-preservation, and whose positions on policy you could only count on once you'd convinced him that it was politically safe for him to take action.
I can remember countless times where I had to talk Chuck into doing the right thing, including...
- Water Rights
The biggest issue facing East Texas is water rights. The city of Dallas, for years, has tried to build the Fastrill Reservoir along the Neches River -- water that no one in East Texas wants to lose to Dallas, and land that was promised to be built for the Neches River Wildlife Refuge.
In what should be a no-brainer to any rural member with brains (Don't give our water away to Dallas!), Hopson struggled. I wrote constituent letters, official letters to county and city officials, press releases and speeches where Hopson was straddling the fence -- calling for "further study" on an issue where, during a local fair in Jacksonville more than "1,269 new people signed on in support of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge" in a single day in 2006. (Source)
Why wouldn't Chuck speak up against the Reservoir? Because of the money. If he didn't block the Reservoir, he would get political donations. So for months and months, he straddled the fence, refusing to take a position despite my constant urging that (1) it was the smart political decision, and (2) it was the decision his constituents wanted him to make.
Since then, he has publicly covered his tracks. A person who always put himself first can do that pretty well.
- Public Education - I Wrote His Education Plan for his 2006 Campaign
Chuck was facing a tough race in 2006. He needed to speak strongly about public education, but since I'd done all the policy and press work for him, he needed me to write it. So, I put together most of the work I'd done on school finance in the 16 months I'd been there, put together a simple plan, and wrote press releases, a speech, and policy papers for him.
He then -- two months before his election, and five months before I thought I was going to get to be his Chief of Staff -- fired me. But that education plan I put together for him ended up in mail pieces, and he used it as a crutch in his town hall meetings for the final weeks of his campaigns.
I don't think he ever even filed legislation on any of the policy proposals I created for him.
For me, it worked out in the end. I got hired on as Chief of Staff for a real Democrat, State Representative Garnet Coleman -- another person who, throughout the years, did everything he could to get Chuck re-elected. But Hopson...
I was always okay with the fact the he fired me without any notice, and that he often worked harder to get himself re-elected than to do any real work in Austin. I remember some good work he did, too -- but I also rembmer enough that I was never at ease with the way Hopson ran things, and with his kind of politics.
I thought I was just too young. I thought I didn't understand politics. I assumed Chuck knew what he was doing, and was doing what was best for his constituents.
Turns out he was just doing what he has always done - what is best for himself.
The party of self-interests just got the most self-interested man I've ever had the displeasure of working for. Good riddance.