GOP Activist Says Berman Reneges On Re-Election Plans

News / GOP Activist Says Berman Reneges On Re-Election Plans

By Matt Schaefer
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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Originally Published in the Tyler Morning Telegraph on July 27, 2011


Staff Writer

Seven-term state Rep. Leo Berman’s decision to renege on a pledge to step down was called into question in a mass email authored by an outspoken and influential member of the Smith County Republican Party.The Friday email, from former Smith County commissioner and longtime Republican activist Sharon Emmert, addresses Berman’s decision to announce his re-election bid after challenger Matt Schaefer’s July 8 announcement he would seek the District 6 seat. In the email, which was forwarded to an extensive conservative email list, she said Berman made it clear to her and “his circle of friends” he would step down if a viable candidate were to emerge.

Ms. Emmert attempted to dispel rumors that Schaefer “wronged” Berman by announcing his candidacy before the representative announced his retirement. Berman announced he would seek an eighth term as state representative July 19. She called Berman’s announcement an “inexplicable reversal.”“It would be impossible and unproductive to try to get inside Leo’s mind and understand why he has once again backtracked — his final word never seems to be the final word,” she said in the email. “Like so many politicians who stay too long, he simply can’t seem to let it go.”

She continued to say that Berman is a “good man and served us well in Austin” but that “it is my firm belief that Leo can no longer effectively represent us in Austin. Leo has been correct for the past many months in believing it was time for him to retire.”A July 5 email from Berman to Peter Morrison, author of The Peter Morrison Report, a conservative email newsletter that indicated Berman’s intention’s to step down, was attached to the email.

“I’ve received several messages, which convinced me to get out of politics. They are right,” he said in the email to Morrison. “At the age of 76, I think I am ready to retire.”In an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Berman acknowledged he was set to step down but that “no substantial” conservative candidate emerged. He said Schaefer’s lack of local profile makes him vulnerable to other potential candidates.“I wanted to get out, but I wanted to get out with the right candidate, and I don’t support (Schaefer’s) candidacy,” he said.

Ms. Emmert said she hopes the situation will settle down and that the Smith County Republican Party will be united. She said the main party goal is to do what is best for the party and for District 6.

“This is bigger than the party and bigger than any one person,” she said in a phone interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “We’ll need to be patient and do what is in the best interest of the district.”

Ms. Emmert said in the email she is “100 percent on board” with Schaefer and that he “needs to be our next representative.”

Smith County Republican Party Chairman Ashton Oravetz said Ms. Emmert shared her opinion, but it is too early to say which candidate will emerge with the support of the party.

“I don’t know if there is a divide, but some people who have supported Leo in the past have given their support to Matt,” he said. “Everybody has an opinion, but the true result is going to be made by the campaigns and the voters.”

Oravetz said that as party chairman, he must remain neutral as far as the candidates and their prospective races are concerned. He said he expects both to run positive campaigns and the Smith County GOP will gain momentum heading into a busy election cycle.

Schaefer said he was “saddened and disappointed that it has come to this.” He said Ms. Emmert’s email speaks for itself. He said other similar emails from GOP members are circulating.

“I am honored and energized by the number of Leo’s supporters who are behind me,” he said. “I made a commitment to offer new leadership in Austin, and that is exactly what I am doing.”

Berman said Ms. Emmert “chose the wrong candidate.”

“I am surprised she would send such a ludicrous email,” he said. “She has a varied reputation (within the Smith County Republican Party), and I am not concerned about her emails.”

Berman said constituent services comprise 75 percent of the workload and no legislator handles constituent needs as effectively and as personally as he does.
He said Ms. Emmert’s comments that he no longer could effectively serve were based on nothing but opinion. He noted that Ms. Emmert did not question his conservative credentials and voting record.

He responded to her comment that he “once again backtracked,” by saying “if people don’t want me in there, the voting booth is where to make the change.”

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