Conservative Republicans for Texas, a political action committee run by a longtime religious-right activist in Houston, has released its list of endorsements for the March 4 Republican primary in Texas.  A mailer sent to Texas voters age 65 and older lists the group’s endorsements. Most of the names aren’t a surprise — especially when you see where CRT has gotten much of its money in this election cycle.

Steven Hotze, who runs CRT, is a Houston physician with a long history of religious-right and anti-gay activism. We won’t list all of his group’s favorite candidates. (Click here to see part of the group’s endorsement mailer: ConsRepOfTexasMailer_2.2014.) But one of the candidates the group endorses is Barry Smitherman, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission who is running to replace Greg Abbott as the state’s attorney general.

Smitherman has become known for his extremist positions on a host of issues. Last October, for example, he defended white supremacist and other extremist organizations identified as hate groups by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center. (Smitherman thought the SPLC was unfairly criticizing the groups, which he lumped in with what he called “patriot, mormon, and judeo-christian religious groups.”) 

We suspect Barry Smitherman might find that headline a bit unfair. But maybe the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission should spend a little time researching the organizations he almost reflexively chooses to defend.

The Texas Observer is reporting that Smitherman, who is seeking the Republican nomination next year to replace Greg Abbott as Texas attorney general, is upset that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified various “patriot, mormon and judeo-christian religious groups” as hate groups.

Apparently, last year Smitherman sent a letter to his daughter’s school, complaining about materials from the SPLC used in a classroom lesson about the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The SPLC “has a more radical view of racism, hate, and intolerance,” Smitherman wrote.

“I identify myself as a Christian and find it intolerant for the SPLC to label me as intolerant. Same with many of the patriot groups that have organized in Texas over the last several years. I personally know members of these groups and they are focused not on racism, but on balancing the federal budget and reducing or eliminating our $16 trillion national debt.”

In his patriotic fervor, Smitherman goes on to name a number of groups, including… Read More