A conservative group that started in Fort Worth is starting a chapter in Bexar County, seeking to recruit and train activists to lobby politicians from Congress down to local school boards.
The True Texas Project began as a tea party group in Tarrant County back in 2009, organizing conservatives in one of the state’s Republican strongholds.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled it an antigovernment group this year, including it on a list of groups that “believe the federal government is tyrannical” and “traffic in conspiracy theories about an illegitimate government.”
The group is best known for promoting conservative candidates in GOP primaries and pushing Republican officeholders to the right — something it now does through a rebranded statewide organization with 18 chapters in both red and blue counties across the state.
“Blue counties have fewer in attendance, but they are much more passionate and serious about getting to work,” True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty wrote in an emailed response to questions from the San Antonio Report. “It’s been a real encouragement.”
Bexar County gave Democrat Beto O’Rourke 58% of its vote in November’s midterm election, replaced retiring Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff with another Democrat, Peter Sakai and wiped out the county’s last remaining Republican-held judgeships.
But gerrymandering has left few true political battlegrounds at any level of government in Texas, meaning most races are now decided in the primary regardless of the area’s overall political tilt.
Even in deeply blue Bexar County, many moderate Republican officeholders have steadily been replaced with more further-right successors.
“If you look at the last 10 years, conservatives have been steadily gaining more and more influence in Bexar County,” said Luke Macias, a San Antonio-based Republican consultant who has been involved in the creation of the Bexar County chapter of True Texas Project.
Indeed, the election of Mark Dorazio to replace retiring Rep. Lyle Larson in Texas’ 122nd House District and Grant Moody to replace Trish DeBerry in Bexar County’s 3rd Precinct continues the steady rightward shift among Bexar County’s Republican officeholders.
Moderate Bexar County State Sen. Jeff Wentworth was unseated in a primary by the more conservative Donna Campbell, a close ally of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who has held the seat since 2012. Conservative firebrand Chip Roy, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, now represents Texas’ 21st Congressional District, which has been redrawn to include more of San Antonio and heavily favor Republicans.
“To some extent, True Texas Project and other organizations coming into Bexar County is a logical next step for an increasingly organized conservative base of voters [here],” Macias said.
Dorazio is a longtime activist in the Bexar County Republican Party who led the effort to censure then-state House Speaker Joe Straus over his moderate positions during Dorazio’s roughly six-month tenure as county party chair.
Notably, the county party rejected a similar effort to punish U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales for voting with Democrats on a gun safety bill earlier this year.
Last month Dorazio attended the inaugural meeting of Bexar County’s True Texas Project chapter and pledged to support ending Democratic committee chairs in the Texas House, according to a tweet from McCarty. Bexar County’s state House delegation includes seven Democrats and three Republicans.
Dorazio’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Macias said 56 people attended the gathering at a Bexar County gun range. The group is looking for a larger venue for future monthly gatherings.
True Texas Project is focused on grassroots organizing, as opposed to raising and spending big money on campaigns, according to Macias.
McCarty said the group provides satellite chapters with funding to host meetings, including securing and funding a speaker, paying for a venue and supplies and helping with advertising and social media. It then trains local leaders to build a list of volunteers they can call on to engage in state and local politics.
“Our citizen advocate trainings teach anyone, anywhere how to interact with elected employees at all levels of government,” McCarty wrote in an email.
“After activists are trained, we are able to put out a call statewide any time there’s an action item to be addressed. Or if there’s a local issue, we simply reach out to those in the area,” McCarty wrote.
The group’s agenda for the upcoming state legislative session includes exploring alternatives for property taxes, stopping municipalities from hiring lobbyists, ensuring the prosecution of abortion law violations and outlawing hormone replacement therapy for minors.
“We can go to pretty much anywhere in Texas and find patriots ready to act when needed,” McCarty wrote. “Going statewide has multiplied our voice in a huge way.”
Conservative activists across the state, and particularly in North Texas, have placed a big focus on public education in recent years, running candidates for school board and fighting to ban books they deem inappropriate.
Local conservatives targeted several school board races in Bexar County this year with limited success. Macias said the new group could include a committee to focus on school board meetings, in addition to city and county governments.