Politics is a dirty business, of that there is no doubt, but a deposition involving a former campaign associate for Texas State Rep. Charlie Geren revealed that the 2016 Republican primary may have involved a fraudulent call being placed to the state’s Child Protective Services division against Geren’s opponent in the final days of a fierce campaign.
Bo French, a conservative businessman from Fort Worth, was challenging longtime moderate Charlie Geren for his Texas House seat in a hotly contested battle. Over the last several months, French’s attorneys have been seeking the deposition of a liberal Democratic political operative, David Sorensen, who served on Geren’s campaign staff as part of a legal battle. Last week, a judge finally order that Sorensen answer questions in the case.
French’s legal team is accusing Sorensen of making a fraudulent call to CPS, which accused French of abusing and neglecting his wife and children. Since there was no evidence to back up the claims, French was eventually cleared, but the call “resulted in multiple visits to the French home by CPS caseworkers in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.” It was no doubt a distraction to the candidate and the campaign, and had an impact on the race, as was surely intended.
As Sorensen testified, his answers repeatedly contradicted those of Geren. As Empower Texans General Counsel Tony McDonald put it, they “prove that Geren has been covering up what he knows about the politically-motivated attack on the French family.”
Geren has tried to distance himself from Sorensen, but in his deposition Sorensen confirmed, “He was the longest-tenured campaign staffer on Geren’s 2016 campaign, that he worked on the campaign 6–7 days a week for 60-70 hours per week, and that he worked hand-in-hand with Geren.” That sounds like a pretty close relationship to me.
Geren also has claimed in the past to have no more knowledge about this lawsuit than what he read in the news, but in this deposition Sorensen said that he spoke with both Geren’s staffers and Geren himself about the false abuse rumors being spread. When asked directly about whether or not he placed the call himself, Sorensen was instructed by his attorneys not to answer. Interestingly enough he is being represented in the case by a former Democratic Party chairman.
Empower Texans President and CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan told me Geren’s alleged actions cannot be allowed to stand:
Charlie Geren has taken the political weaponization of a state agency to a new low. It’s one thing to issue rhetorical attacks based on lies and innuendo, it’s something else entirely to have campaign workers file false reports with a state agency. Worse, Geren and his campaign literally threatened Bo French’s family and children. Unless we wish to see more officials abuse government for political gain, Geren should be condemned and prosecuted. We must not allow such actions to become commonplace.
As Sullivan notes, this call not only went after French, but also his family. His wife and children became part of this attack. I’ve always been a firm believer that kids in politics are off limits. I’ve never been one to attack the children of a candidate, no matter how much I may vehemently disagree with that person. Using CPS as a weapon against someone running against you is absolutely reprehensible and inexcusable. I know we live in an era of toxic politics, but if French’s accusation is true, this is a new low.
French and Geren faced off again this year. As a former top lieutenant of the outgoing and well-hated among conservative House Speaker, Joe Strauss, Geren has had a target on his back this cycle. He has spent more than $900,000 on this primary race heading into election day, with French spending more than $400,000 himself. A typical State House race in Texas would cost about $500,000. Total. As you can see, this one is contentious all over again. If you live in the district you’ve seen dueling commercials, been inundated with online ads, and had your mailbox flooded with junk mail related to the race.
Despite all that has come out during these legal proceedings, and the controversy swirling around this campaign, in this week’s Republican primary Geren was again able to beat French, just as he did in 2016. I guess some things never change.
Money, connections, and incumbency will always have the upper-hand.