Dear East Texas voters: Have you had enough of Louie Gohmert?
For years, the Republican congressman from Tyler has made our part of the state the laughing stock around the country for his antics to draw attention to his undistinguished career in office. His only rival for cheap publicity is retired U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.
Gohmert made headlines recently for contracting the coronavirus after running around the Capitol without a face mask, emulating Donald Trump. Louie was scheduled to fly to Texas aboard Air Force One, but tested positive for COVID-19. Although he said he was asymptomatic, he lost his ride on the plane.
Poor Louie is even catching grief from his own family. One of his daughters is a musician in California, and she criticized her father in a media post for not following orders from medical professionals.
Another Gohmert stunt nearly cost taxpayers millions of dollars and days of delay to enact the appropriations measure to fund the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. The House of Representatives was set to pass a consensus resolution, but Gohmert was the only representative objecting to the measure.
Unless his objection was withdrawn, members of the House would have to return to Washington to vote on the bill. Gohmert finally relented after Trump called him. Louie no doubt relished attention from the White House.
Gohmert was elected to Congress in 2004, and after 15 years in office, you’d think he be in line for some kind of leadership role. But his juvenile behavior and his nauseating habit of sucking up to political leaders have made him an unappealing candidate to become a house whip.
He’s fortunate to be in a conservative district in rural East Texas because he’d been long gone if he represented an urban district in Dallas or Houston that are trending Democratic. What’s ironic is that some moderate Republicans are losing their seats or retiring in the face of a blue wave in Texas while ol’ Louie hangs on year after mediocre year.
Thanks to an article in Texas Monthly, we also know Gohmert wasn’t a stellar jurist when he served as a state district judge before running for Congress. The August 2019 issue featured a story about the meat-grinder judicial system in Smith County where Louie was a state district judge.
In the infamous Edward Ates murder trial, Louie presided over an all-white jury trial that convicted a black man of murder despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Instead, Gohmert allowed the false testimony of a jailhouse snitch planted by the prosecution to convict Ates.
Sentenced to 99 years, Ates served 20 years before being paroled in 2018 after the Texas Innocence Project and other investigators began reviewing the case. Ates was offered deals to serve a lighter sentence if he would plead guilty, but he never did and the parole board finally was convinced of his innocence.
Not only has the snitch recanted his testimony, the former assistance district attorney who prosecuted the case offered to help Ates get the conviction thrown out. A declaration of innocence by the court would allow him to collect a significant sum from the state.
I doubt Louie will join the effort to exonerate Ates, but I fully expect him to comment on this column. He’s scoffed at my modest journalism credentials in the past, and this story has to sting since it attacks his professional actions as a state judge. You can read Texas Monthly’s story titled “Crowd Sourcing Justice” by Michael Hall.
As it happens, Louie has a first-rate opponent in the November election. Fellow Tyler resident Hank Gilbert was unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face Louie on the ballot for the 1st District seat in November.
Louie’s basic M.O. for campaigning is to ignore his opponent. He won’t debate, nor even hold town hall meetings to openly face his constituents. Instead, he prefers telephone town halls that are no doubt seeded by shills to call in and say positive things about Louie. Anyone with a complaint is quickly cut off.
One thing Louie can’t do is label his opponent as a flaming liberal. Hank is a Texas A&M graduate, taught high school agriculture for years while also ranching and owning a small business. He has solid credentials and a long career of public service.
Since his wife passed away, Hank and his two sons have carried on her mission of helping homeless women get back on their feet. The family has donated to and furnished more than 100 homes for East Texas women.
East Texans can do better than Louie and have a solid alternative by voting for Hank as a true representative of the people.