Chen Button says the contributions are a red herring—that all told they amount to less than $5,000 and that in each case she was giving to candidates she had worked with on nonpartisan race-related issues in the Dallas area. She gave money to Regina Montoya Coggins in 2000, for example, because the two had worked together on a hate crime bill. She gave money to Royce West, she says, because the two had worked together on providing scholarships for inner-city kids.

As for Dunning's claim that he's the true conservative, Chen Button points out that contrary to his label as a fiscal conservative, he took part in decisions to raise property taxes twice during his rocky tenure on the Garland City Council.

What is most ironic, considering how ugly the race between the two has become, is that initially Dunning asked Chen Button to be his treasurer, Jeffus says. She decided to run instead.

In the remaining weeks before the runoff, Chen Button says, she will do all she can to let people know who Dunning is. Despite her efforts so far, Dunning hasn't lost the support of people such as Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams or Pauken.

"He's the most conservative of the candidates in the race," Adams says. "And I've followed his career since he was a city council member in Garland."

In District 112, which takes in parts of Richardson, Dallas and Garland the "most conservative" label can go a long way. Considering that Dunning only lost the primary by 321 votes, and that in a runoff only the party's most faithful turn out, there's a good chance he could be taking his Rambo-style Libertarian politics to Austin. While the prospect of bizarro political theater at the state Capitol may make some giddy, it has others a bit queasy.

"It would be an embarrassment to Garland, to the Republican Party and the state Legislature itself," says the state legislator. "He would make news for all the wrong reasons."

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