Several people have asked me for an opinion on the Dallas Mayor's race. Though I haven't decided who I'm voting for, I've decided on one person who I'm voting against.
Jason Villalba is a former Texas state representative with a hair-trigger temper who was unseated in the 2018 Republican primary. He has described himself in the past as a "Reagan Republican", but that may not be accurate—and, as we'll see, it may be impossible to tell.
One of Jason's first acts, after getting elected to the Texas legislature, was to try to criminalize people recording police officers—even people recording their own traffic stop.
He argued that "people being arrested for recording their own traffic stop" was a ridiculous stretch.
OK, here's the bill. Read it yourself.
The law would have made it a Class B misdemeanor (meaning you get arrested and go to jail) for "(1) filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 25 feet of the officer; or (2) filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 100 feet of the officer while carrying a handgun."
There was a "defense to prosecution" (meaning you'd still get arrested, but you could argue this when you got to court) if you fit the detailed definition of a State-defined or State-recognized "news media employee" and were just doing your job. But that's it!
As ridiculous a stretch as it might be, film your own traffic stop and you could have been headed to jail if Jason had his way.
The bill died after failing to get a co-sponsor.
But there have been other questionable bills.
In 2015, Jason proposed a bill that would have allowed school districts to arbitrarily force state mental health screenings on public school students at the whims of teachers and counselors.
After being diagnosed, even arbitrarily, by a teacher and a school counselor for conduct occurring "on or off school property; or
during or outside regular school hours", the bill would have required the principal to send a student to an alternative education program and issue a directive to the student's parent mandating a mental health evaluation be performed within 30 days. Failure to obtain a physicians's certificate from a psychiatrist would bring about an automatic suspension or expulsion. No appeal.
The bill died in committee.
Then in 2017, Jason decided that too few transplant organs were being donated so he proposed changing the Texas state's organ donor registry.
Instead of "opting in", as you now have to do, you would have to "opt-out". Otherwise the state would own your guts.
That means if you died in an auto accident, and you happened to have overlooked the check-box when you renewed your license, your organs were harvested regardless of what you would have wanted or not.
The state's largest organ donor registry roundly criticized the proposal, fearing the law would lead to even lower rates of organ donations while noting a survey showing nearly 60% of Texans opposed Jason's "opt-out" law.
This bill, like the go-to-jail-for-videoing-your-traffic-stop bill, failed to get a co-sponsor.
Over the years, Jason has blown up at people on social media. Even the Dallas Morning News took note in 2017 after a particularly nasty melt-down at a blogger who Jason called, among other things, an "oafish fat dufus", a "butt bloat" and an "irrelevant ass."
There have been numerous others over the years who have been the recipient of Jason's social media wrath (full disclosure: and I have been the recipient of Jason's social media wrath in the past but I've never been called an "irrelevant ass", a "butt bloat" or an "oafish fat dufus"—though that's probably coming and, some would agree, may be well deserved)!
OK, maybe other candidates have a temper too, but what about ethics issues?
In 2016, while still sitting on the State Legislature, Jason started a lobbying firm.
Oh, sorry. Correction: not a "lobbying firm", let's make that a firm that tries "to influence public opinion."
After the Texas Tribune noticed and outted LightSwitch Solutions (rumor has it they were tipped off by Jason's colleagues in the State Legislature), the website went largely dark.
According to a snapshot of LightSwitch Solutions website at the time: "LightSwitch provides a turn-key solution to accomplish the objectives of your business. Whether you are seeking to bring to market a new and innovative product or service, engage the growing Hispanic economy, manage consumer opinion after a media relations setback, or coordinate stakeholders in a large and complex commercial project, LightSwitch is uniquely qualified to get you the results that you seek."
The Tribune notes that Jason's most recent committee appointments, at the time, were Business & Industry, and Economic & Small Business Development.
Jason reassured the Tribune however, before pulling the plug on the website, that he would comply with all laws.
Enough recent past. What does Jason believe? What does he stand for?
At times in his career, he has been a crusader for the little guy. Other times, he has been a staunch torchbearer for the Republican Party's conservative platform while being a crusader for the left, big business and government. As some watchdogs have noticed, he's sometimes been simultaneously for and against the very same issue—maybe at the same time!
Might the ambiguity around what a mayor believes, and when he believes it, impact the City of Dallas?
Better yet: does any of this really matter? Am I just, to semi-quote Jason, another oafish, irrelevant, fat, butt bloat doofus?
Look: I wish Jason Villalba all the best in private practice. He's a decent lawyer and has had a long and arguably distinguished career in public service. There's something to be said for someone who will give up a large portion of his or her life to sit in the Texas House.
But the ethics questions, temper, meltdowns, flip-flopping and questionable legislative history are the reasons I can't really support his return to public office again.