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HD-17: The Facts on Latreese Cooke

by: Matt Glazer

Thu Jan 31, 2008 at 00:30 PM CST

On Friday, January 25 I wrote a piece on Latreese Cooke's questionable background.

To say it caused a stir would be an understatement.

Some questioned the validity of some of the claims we made.  Some wondered where the actual documents were.  Others just threatened me.

Rather than asking you to blindly take my word, I have taken the time to scan all of the appropriate documents in pdf form and add them to our files.

When you click the link you will find see the 6 arrest reports including the final one that shows Mrs. Cooke spent time in jail after having her probation revoked.  You will see the documents showing that she didn't live in the district as of November 14 (ten days after the cut off to be eligible for the ballot).  You will one of the half dozen reports showing Cooke claiming she has evaded her property taxes. These documents also show her marriage to two men at the same time-- lying on government documents.

Truth is an absolute defense and we are ready to defend our claims.  These are just the top pages of over 100 pages of research.

House District 17 could be the seat that determines whether we take control of the Texas House this cycle.  We won with about 500 votes in 2006, and nominating a fatally flawed candidate to take on Kleinschmidt is a losing proposition.


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this is some great research matt (0.00 / 0)
i've been critical in the past of some of the poorly researched stuff that people have tried to use on BOR to ding other candidates with, but this is some high quality research.  well done.

fielding the best candidate possible is crucial to trying to hold a district as tough as hd17.  i hope this damning research will bury cooke.  

did your research show anything that cooke is backed by none other than the al edwards?

Bury her to what? (0.00 / 0)
Who actually thinks she was a threat to win and why?
I personally find this whole smear both sensationalist and completely unnecessary. I'm not interested in the politics of personal destruction, and I don't think the voters in this district are hankering for it either.  

research (0.00 / 0)
dear BOR,

seems to me you did your research and scanned in a lot of papers. please direct me to the specific part that shows the person in question was in jail for the offense. Also, it seems that you are proccupied with getting this candidate out of the race. let the voters in the primary decide and then it will be settled. this type of mud slinging, truthful or not, does not move the Democratic Party further as a party. What if you upset this lady and she campaigns for the Rep candidate? from what i know about the race, she is strong in bastrop which is the largest county in the district. that's my 2 cents.

The purpose of BOR? (3.00 / 1)
We at BOR (I can say that now) are part press, part political commentary. Mudslinging, otherwise known as negative campaigning is, according to wikipedia:

Negative campaigning is trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent or of a policy rather than emphasizing one's own positive attributes or preferred policies. In the broadest sense, the term covers any rhetoric which refers to an opponent, if only by way of contrast, but can also include attacks meant to destroy an opponent's character, which may veer into ad hominem.

As far as I know, Matt is not personally involved in this race, and so, his original post was written from the perspective of an investigative reporter. With a national shift in momentum towards the Democratic party, it is imperative that we elect Democratic representatives of strong moral character, or else face the possibility of loosing supporters because of corruption.

That Matt did so much research, and uncovered information which is critical for the decision making of voters in HD-17 I applaud. The fact is that these charges were absolutely truthful. If I were a voter in HD-17, I would want to know if a candidate had a criminal history. The voter's will decide the outcome of this race, but an informed voter deserves to know everything possible about their candidates.

A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy.

- Theodore Roosevelt

Spare us the high-hat. (0.00 / 0)
Matt Glazer has never met Latreese Cooke, and never even gave her the courtesy of a phone call to give her a chance to explain or respond to any of this before publishing his claims. Matt also, by his own admission, knows little about HD 17 beyond the last election results. He doesn't even know enough about it to understand that Latreese Cooke doesn't have much of a chance to win this primary, if any. No, he'd rather just trash someone's name and reputation - someone who also happens to work tirelessly for very little money for a critically underserved population in a largely thankless job with an underfunded non-profit.

This "research" and the hit piece that resulted were thus irresponsible exercises in self-appointed vigilantism.

Regardless of whether his claims are true or not, his intent is clear: to present selected information and slant it in such a way as to make his target sound nefarious, dishonest, dangerous, bizarre, etc. Nevermind the fact that plenty of us have bounced checks and lived paycheck-to-paycheck, tried to make sure our kids were getting a decent education, had marriages that fell apart for one reason or another (like financial difficulties). No, these are "Dark Secrets" . as Matt melodramatically called them. Yes, very subtle. Just the facts, huh?

Despite the fact that this woman is a human being with a family, friends and professional relationships to maintain, she is clearly not a person to Matt - she is something that must be disposed of in his rush to make sure we, the voters of HD 17, do not make a "mistake". It's chickensh*t, patronizing and pathetic.

If Matt was really interested in helping Democrats gain a majority in the state house, he might be better served by getting out from behind his keyboard turret and doing some organizing in districts that the TDP has long neglected or even left for dead. He might even do some research and take TDP to task for their complete lack of grassroots campaigning and organizing to help bring some of the long-since disgusted, disaffected and forgotten voters out here who might be inclined to get on board with a party that actually paid some attention to their needs and issues and established a genuine presence out in their communities. Maybe even save some of his valuable "research" time to hold some of these rural reps accountable for writing off so many of what should be natural Democratic allies.

But no - instead of working to build a real winning coalition, Matt would rather sit around playing PI  and engaging in divisive smear-and-purge tactics, pitting Democrats against each other, creating resentment and acrimony when we should be coming together to find common ground, solve problems and work out our differences for a greater cause.

Matt's explanation to me for this garbage was along the lines of how he knows what the right-wing noise machine is capable of and how they'll savge her if she's our nominee, etc. Well, bravo, Matt. Not only have you now given her free publicity, but you've saved the "right wing noise machine" some time and money. The plain fact is that when he does this, he is no different from those he claims to oppose.

If this is your specialty Matt, then, man, you're in the wrong business. But I hear Karl Rove is hiring.

[ Parent ]
uh, say again (0.00 / 0)
If Matt was really interested in helping Democrats gain a majority in the state house, he might be better served by getting out from behind his keyboard turret and doing some organizing in districts that the TDP has long neglected or even left for dead.

Clearly you do not know how much work that Matt has done in the last 4 years alone in terms of on the ground organizing and research that has major effect in legislative policy and electoral gains. Every single writer on this front page has done so I can personally vouch for that because I've seen it and often times done it first hand along with these people.

I'm sorry that you are ill-informed on that point which may be no fault of your own. But you are 100% wrong on it.  

[ Parent ]
Even more of a shame, then (0.00 / 0)
that he feels a need to resort to this type of nonsense.

I'm aware that Matt has worked in the lege and for numerous campaigns, and I'm sure he's done some fine work in those capacities. How does that excuse what he's doing here? It's waste of time and energy and does nothing but engender bad relations with other Democrats.

Again, Matt never called Cooke or sought her ought before publication. Vacillating around in a conveniently defined gray area between journalism and advocacy does not absolve him of responsibility for trying to damage and destroy someone with selective personal information, innuendo, and corrosive language. Especially when one considers how unnecessary it was.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
I wouldn't use wikipedia as the source when arguing semantics, but whether this is mudslinging, negative campaigning, muckraking or whatever you want to call it, this is part of the vetting process.  If all this came out after she was elected, it certainly wouldn't help the party.  Sounds like the candidate has done some good works, but you can't do a good job as an elected official if you are a magnet for scandal and bad press.

[ Parent ]
Way to miss the point. (0.00 / 0)
This isn't "vetting", it's smearing. Matt doesn't know this woman but is perfectly happy to trash her.

And it's potentially harmful to any real effort to hold this district in Democratic hands. Of course, Mr. Glazer wouldn't know that, because he doesn't know the lay of the land out here. Not that he bothered to look into more than one possible outcome of this effort. There are potential costs to engaging in this tactic. But by all means, don't let research get in the way of your research.  

I'm left to wonder whether someone, somewhere, saw this woman as some sort of threat, but I can't imagine who would be that dumb.  

[ Parent ]
Why (0.00 / 0)
You've made it clear you don't like what Matt's done. But you haven't made it clear why Latreese should be the candidate going forward. Is she a good candidate, Robert? Based on all of this evidence Matt presented -- and it's all true -- I don't see why she should be representing anyone in the Texas House. If you have an argument for why she is the better candidate, please present it.

But mudslinging Matt isn't doing anyone any favors.

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.

[ Parent ]
Good point Phil... (5.00 / 1)
if I were trying to deflect from very serious charges against which I couldn't defend, I'd attack the messenger too...which is exactly what they've done.

Matt said that he'd been attacked when he brought this up before. Setting aside for a moment that it's just flat-out FUN to attack Matt just for the hell of it (sorry dude - you set 'em up, I gotta knock 'em down), he has a  damn good point. And those who wish Matt didn't have have a good point have nothing else to say, except to attack Matt, instead of either touting their candidate or refuting the evidence. While that might make for effective defense lawyering in a criminal court, I'm guessing BOR readers are pretty saavy and see right through that sort of thing. If not, then I dunno, vote for the troubled candidate I guess, for whatever strange purposes you may have.


[ Parent ]
No sale, Harold. (0.00 / 0)
One does not employ these tactics and then get to hind behind the veil of "messenger".

Is she a good candidate? Hell if I know. I've met Cooke and Dippel each a couple of times, briefly, and had nice chats with both of them about what they do, and I've heard them both speak publicly once. I'm not at all clear where either of them stand on a number of issues - school finance, health care, water and the environment, utility regulation, etc,  - but I think the voters out here would like to have those discussions and debates with both candidates without the race being clouded by this garbage. I'm willing to bet Mr. Dippel feels the same.

I plan to try and meet both of them again at least a couple of times and find out more about the things that really matter to me as a voter, after which I'll decide who to cast my vote for on March 4. I'm not at all interested in the details of their past personal, financial or family problems.

Seems to me, however, that Cooke must at least have some kind of abiding faith in things like forgiveness and redemption, or she wouldn't do the work that she does. Perhaps Matt would do well to look into those ideas before  deciding who he should smear next.    

[ Parent ]
I just don't get it... (0.00 / 0)

Let's put Ms. Cooke's personal legal issues aside for the moment.

The facts remain: Latreese Cooke is pro-voucher, she praised Ron Wilson for supporting Tom DeLay's redistricting plan, and it sure looks like she does not meet the residency requirements to be elected State Representative.

And you're still undecided?!?!

[ Parent ]
Robert (0.00 / 0)
I still don't understand why this is "smearing." I guess we just have different definitions of the term. Releasing facts that are relevant to the electability of a candidate in what is going to be a very close November election hardly qualifies -- at least in my book -- as "smearing."

I'm honestly curious -- not trying to be antagonistic or anything, just asking the question -- why electability in the general election isn't even a factor. I'm not saying it should be the entire factor, but your nonchalance towards Cooke's history fascinates me, and I'm trying to understand where it comes from.

For the record, I worked for a rural State Representative out of East Texas for several years. Though I don't have any personal experience with HD 17 directly, my experience with a more rural community is that the character of a candidate certainly matters a great deal -- sometimes as much and, occasionally, even more than a voting record. So if you needed an argument for why Cooke's background is relevant, there's mine.

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.

[ Parent ]
Wha? (0.00 / 0)

I respectfully think your argument doesn't hold water.

You say "this isn't vetting, it's smearing."  I mean this respectfully, but unless Matt's charges are untruthful, how does this post qualify as a smear?

You say that Matt's expose on Cooke's rather checkered past is "harmful to any real effort to hold this district in Democratic hands."  If your goal is to hold the district, I think you should take a deep breath and re-evaluate who you're unhappy with.

Ms. Cooke chose to put her name on the ballot -- no person made that decision for her.  Unless you have evidence that the documents in this post are forged, it appears Ms. Cooke made a very poor decision.  She clearly has a long criminal record.  And according to Matt's documents, she is ineligible to serve as State Representative because she does not meet the residency requirements.  That means Cooke has put our ability -- that of Democrats -- to hold this district at great risk.  Why on earth are you defending her selfish, irresponsible behavior?

There's only one villian here -- it's not you, and it's sure not Matt Glazer.  

[ Parent ]
On a personal BOR site note (0.00 / 0)
I'd just like to point out to our commenters that the above comment made good use of our "bold" feature. This feature -- along with "italic" and "quote"  -- were added to make comments easier to read. Since I try and read every comment that is made (and some get quite long) I find it useful that CMistress put his/her stronger points in bold.

Sorry -- a total sidebar, but thought I'd take the opportunity.

Now, a very great man once said that some people rob you with a fountain pen.

[ Parent ]
That's all Matt's conclusions you're regurgitating (1.00 / 1)
 What Matt didn't tell you, but what is also public record, is that her home is in Bastrop County and has been for many years. That her name was on a lease for a house in Travis County doesn't mean she resided there. Who knows why? Nobody here, apparently.  And spare me the "long criminal record" nonsense. She bounced a few checks over a 14-year span, and the jail sentence could have been suspended or waived for all we know as a formality upon paying the costs and fines.

I haven't spoken to her about vouchers, but I'm damn sure not gonna take the word of someone trying to smear her based on hearsay. As for Ron Wilson, there's no way of knowing if Cooke wrote that or not; sounds like a PR description that Wilson's office would have sent in advance anyway. Maybe he helped her get her non-profit started or something. Yeah, crazy, huh? Jesus, any of you ever pile up a few traffic tickets? Any of you ever even heard of Occam's razor?

Let's take a bunch of personal business, remove any and all context, make some assumptions and spoon-feed our readers some conclusions about her character and abilities - again, for someone he has never even met or spoken to - and purge her from our midst, based on the virtually non-existent DANGER that she might win the primary and get hacked up by Kleinschmidt. Yeah, big 'Democrats', you guys are. Small wonder we have such marginal success building coalitions in these districts.

Cooke hasn't put anything "at great risk". She does like to help register new voters, from what I know, and that's always welcome in a swing district, I'd think. She wasn't hurting anyone or causing any trouble that I could see. I maintain that Matt's hit piece was vicious and unnecessary.
We'll "vet" our own candidates out here, but thanks anyway.

[ Parent ]
The most (0.00 / 0)
"potentially harmful" thing would be for Ms. Cooke to get the Democratic nomination. Right now we seem further from making that mistake than we did a week ago and much of that credit should go to Matt's research.  

[ Parent ]
Why not? (0.00 / 0)
If wikipedia has been shown to have equal to better accuracy over Encyclopedia Britannica, why not use it to back up an argument? This is however, just more semantics.

You hit the nail on the head though, and this is part of the vetting process. I really don't understand how some can think this information shouldn't be made public.

A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy.

- Theodore Roosevelt

[ Parent ]
Time to Respond (5.00 / 5)
First, I want to say that I absolutely respect Robert and what the every person is doing to win and maintain HD-17.  After doing rural organizing across the country and in Texas, Robert is doing yeoman's work.

Robert is also right. Before I wrote these pieces I didn't contact any campaign.  At the time it was because I wanted to stay above reproach.  I wanted to ensure that no candidate, organization, elected official, or activist was blamed for what what I wrote on BOR.  After the responses I have received the past two weeks, I am even happier that no other person is going through this because it seems my instincts were right on.

After the first post ran, I was contacted by Mrs. Cooke. I offered to retract any false statements and incorrect information.  I further offered front page time to respond to my research.  Not only did Mrs Cooke not respond to the offers I made, she also asked to get lawyers involved in the process.  Once she made that threat/promise, self preservation mode kicked in.

At that point I no longer thought it was either wise to to contact the campaign or Mrs. Cooke nor did I think it was smart not to have the documentation up (the best way to defend yourself from libel is to have facts on your side).  I do, and therefore thought it best to show that to the BOR community.

There is no malaice in this post.  I would never have put it up if I weren't nervous about legal actions.  I am and therefore thought it best to protect myself.

To the people in HD-17, go vote. Vote for who ever you want.  I am not the decider nor would I ever claim to be.   As a field guy by training and trade, I have always been the first to say, "you have to trust the people in the ground."  You do what you think is best, but it took me two days to find this information.  I promise you that the Republican party found it already and they are ready to use it.  

I want what is best for Texas and that includes HD-17.  I want kids on CHIP and teachers to get paid what they deserve.  I want our farmers and ranchers to know that they won't have toll road built through their families land and I want a Democratic majority.

I won't sit on facts if they will prevent that, but at the end of the day, I will support every Democratic nominee March 5th.

Thanks BOR (0.00 / 0)
This is exactly the type of reporting we need in Texas.  Despite messenger attacks and legal threats,  BOR fearlessly reports the truth.

The "we'll vet our own candidates out here" attitude must be stopped.  Every race in Texas matters to every Texas voter.  The Texas House stands in the balance.  If we are ever to drive Mr. Absolute Power out of Austin and restore the Texas Constitution, we must put forth candidates that can stand the scutiny.

Thank you, Matt. (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate your response.

This is exactly the type of reporting we need in Texas.  Despite messenger attacks and legal threats,  BOR fearlessly reports the truth.

Fearlessly, yes. Wisely? Prudently? Not always.

The "we'll vet our own candidates out here" attitude must be stopped.  Every race in Texas matters to every Texas voter.

Yes and No. While we all certainly share an interest in deposing Craddick and electing more Democrats, One must also tread carefully in places one is not familiar with. 'Rural districts' aren't homogenous, and different considerations apply to different districts.

Please understand - I realize the importance of vetting candidates and doing background research. Obviously the character of our candidates matters a great deal. That Matt did this research is not the real problem. The way he assembled it and released in a political vacuum could very well be a problem, and there's a real potential for this disclosure to hurt Mr. Dippel as well. Due consideration for ALL interested parties and potential fallouts must be given before one decides to ignite a potential sh*tstorm. Discretion is the better part of valor, sometimes, and there may have been a less  incendiary way to handle this issue without causing a potentially significant rift that we can ill afford in this district.

still.... (0.00 / 0)
despite all that being said, i don't know how you link this lady who is African American to Al Edwards who is also African American? are you saying that all African American's know each other in politics, life, etc? please advise so we can all be clear.

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