You wouldn't have expected a bill to rename a stretch of Central Expressway for George W. Bush to inspire a rare bipartisan kumbaya moment in the Texas legislature. His presidency is too recent and remains a source of bitterness for too many Democrats. But when the House vote was posted, there it was: 147 yeas, 0 nays.
Representative Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, would like everyone to know that tally is wrong. "He most definitely voted against the bill," chief of staff Conor Kenney said in an email yesterday. Burnam's opposition hasn't yet shown up on the still-unofficial tally posted to the House website, but that's because "the clerk is running behind because we're moving so fast right now," Kenney wrote. "I think they're just marking most local and consent bills as unanimous."
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We updated our original post but hoped to speak with Burnam for an explanation of why he voted against the measure and why he was so eager to put that on the record. We haven't yet heard back (yesterday was a particularly busy one in the House) but his history and reputation provide some hints.
Burnam is an unabashed liberal, a perennial contender for the title as the legislature's leftmost member. He served as executive director of the Dallas Peace Center, which continues to speak loudly against Bush's terror policies and foreign military interventions. He was still serving in that position in 2003 when he was the only member of the Texas House to vote against a resolution voicing support for the invasion of Iraq.
Nor have Burnam's passions cooled since Bush left office. In 2009, two months after Obama's inauguration, Burnam offered lonely resistance to a resolution honoring the 43rd president over concern that the praise for the "development of new anti-terrorism tools" amounted to an endorsement of torture. Just last month, he participated in the demonstrations against the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU, demanding justice for "the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths and the thousands of American soldiers who died in this illegal and unjustifiable war."
In other words, Burnam's not yet in a mood to celebrate Dubya's time in office by putting his name on things. Custom toilet paper maybe, but certainly not a major freeway. So now the record is straight.