LETTER TO THE EDITOR — Political vitriol and harassment have no place in Southeast Texas

Published 12:06 am Saturday, March 2, 2024

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As a lifelong Southeast Texan, I have always cherished our community’s shared values of respect, integrity, and neighborliness.

These are the cornerstones upon which our regional pride is built. However, the current climate of our local primary elections is casting a long shadow over these ideals, and I am deeply concerned about the rise of hate and division we are seeing from certain campaigns.

An unsettling incident recently unfolded at my doorstep when two men, falsely claiming to represent Dade Phelan’s campaign, knocked on our door to disseminate lies about Dade and his political record.

Armed with counterfeit literature plastered with far left talking points, these impostors praised Phelan for supporting policies completely antithetical to his conservative beliefs before taking their charade to the next location – the Phelan’s home.

Dade’s wife was home alone with their young children when they arrived at her doorstep. They harassed her with the same lies about her husband’s record, filming her without permission and lingering on their property after she closed the door.

Thankfully, local and state law enforcement swung into action and were on the scene soon after.

This incident is a glaring example of the classless, underhanded tactics that are becoming increasingly common in politics nowadays.

These men weren’t just harmless pranksters, they are agents of a new kind of political warfare we’re witnessing in real time, where candidates’ families are not off-limits, privacy is no longer an expectation and personal property is fair game.

Their intent was clear – by knocking on doors of likely Republican voters and falsely tying Dade’s name to left-leaning causes, voters could be tricked into voting for Dade’s primary opponent.

This strategy, which was a disingenuous invasion of privacy, sought to tarnish Dade’s reputation with baseless claims and insulted voters’ intelligence in the process.

Such deceitful tactics are an affront to the democratic process and completely erode trust in our political system. If Phelan’s opponents can’t run a campaign honestly and on their own merits, they shouldn’t be running for office at all.

Sadly, the harassment the Phelan family is facing extends beyond this one instance. A couple of weeks ago, a local man was arrested for making terroristic threats against Dade Phelan on social media.

Just a couple hours before his arrest, this same individual was reported to the Department of Public Safety for verbally and aggressively accosting a woman who works for Dade’s campaign after he spotted the campaign stickers on her car. He was indicted for his threats earlier this week.

As a concerned citizen, I am alarmed at the level of hostility being targeted at our public figures and their supporters. The severity and personal nature of these attacks go beyond political rivalry and have ventured into dangerous territory.

Dade and his family shouldn’t have to go through this to serve as our representation in Austin – no candidate should.

The disturbing trend of employing dishonest and aggressive strategies to influence election outcomes should alarm us all.

Why would good people want to step up to represent us in public office in the future if they know this is how they will be treated?

This is not the legacy we wish to leave for our children.

I have known Dade Phelan for almost my entire life. In fact, we graduated from the same high school.

While I may not always agree with him politically, I know for a fact that Dade represents his house district tirelessly, often at the expense of time spent with his family.

Southeast Texans deserve candidates committed to truth, respect, and honesty. As you approach the ballot box, I urge you to reject the politics of deceit and intimidation and support leaders who treat every voter with the dignity they deserve.

For the sake of our children, for the legacy of Southeast Texas, let’s champion those who campaign honestly and will carry the torch of integrity and decency into the future.

— Hubert Oxford IV, Beaumont