The Dallas Observer’s 10 Biggest Turkeys of 2019

Holy cow!
Holy cow! Josh Weatherl via YouTube
The more sentimental among us would tell us that Thanksgiving is, in addition to carbohydrates, about looking back on the year that's past in gratitude. Gratitude for loved ones, employment if you're lucky enough to have it and little things like the fact that, at least so far, we've avoided a major nuclear scare during President Donald Trump's first three years in office.

We are lucky for all of those things and more. But we're reminded, when thinking about the leftover turkey and dressing sandwiches we're all hopefully going to enjoy today, that you just can't have Thanksgiving without the turkey.

Thankfully — there's that gratitude again — characters in Dallas and around the state have proved themselves as useless as that bird you forgot to take out of the freezer.

Here, for your family-avoiding and holiday reading pleasure, are the Observer's 10 biggest turkeys of 2019.

The Scooter Idiot — Two guys caught one of the most astounding things you'll ever see on a dashcam in July. As they made their way north on Interstate 35, a man on a rental scooter appeared. Riding without a helmet, the scooter pilot crosses several lanes of traffic in an apparent attempt to make a right exit. That no one was hurt seems like an upset. 
Jason Garrett — With the Cowboys still in the playoffs in January, we proclaimed, and took a lot of grief for saying, that the Cowboys should fire their longtime head coach, even if he won the Super Bowl. Garrett didn't win the Super Bowl. He didn't get fired, either, and things have gotten worse during the 2019 season.

Despite leading one of the NFL's most talented rosters, Garrett, through 11 games, has yet to beat a team with a winning record. His team's futility, in large part, rests on their coach's continued refusal to accept the analytic approach that is taking over the sport. Garrett is timid to the point of being cowardly, and it's costing his players.
click to enlarge
Cowboys yellow belly in chief, Jason Garrett
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Dennis Bonnen — After leading the Texas House of Representatives to one of its least rancorous and most productive sessions in decades, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen snatched defeat from the jaws of victory over the summer. He agreed to meet with conservative gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan, then offered Sullivan press credentials for the Texas House floor if he'd stick it to a list of Bonnen-approved targets in the 2020 Republican primary. Sullivan recorded the meeting.

When the tape of Bonnen's remarks came out, it proved to be the end of his successful run in the House. He's not running for reelection, and who his successor as speaker will be remains up in the air.
click to enlarge
Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen speaks to reporters in January.
Texas House of Representatives
Robert Jeffress — Jeffress, the pastor of Dallas' First Baptist Church, is one of President Trump's original evangelical supporters. While he proved, again and again, his willingness to go to bat for the president prior to 2019, he's truly made a spectacle of himself over the last 11 months.

Jeffress threatened that impeaching Trump could plunge the United States into civil war, insisted that he and other evangelical Trump supporters weren't the president's stooges after being called out by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and said that the impeachment inquiry into Trump's, let's call it atypical, foreign relations efforts was an attack on Christian values.

Whatever you think of Jeffress, and people think lots of things about him, you can't dismiss the thousands-strong flock that he summons to his $130 million Baptist Bellagio downtown every Sunday.
click to enlarge
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas
Gage Skidmore
Beto O'Rourke — During his campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, former U.S. Beto O'Rourke ascended from candidate to idol. He drew rapturous crowds around Texas, raised nearly $100 million and came out a winner, despite losing to Cruz by about three points on election day.

In 2019, O'Rourke has managed to give it all back. After teasing a run for months, O'Rourke hopped into the presidential race in March. He got an initial bump in the polls, but never gained traction in the race. During his campaign, he also moved to the left on several significant issues — proposing federal confiscation of certain guns, and suggesting that churches might lose their tax exempt status if they didn't approve of same-sex marriage. The centrist image that worked for O'Rourke against Cruz is gone. It's hard to see his political future not suffering a similar fate.
click to enlarge
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke meets voters in Dallas on Oct. 27, 2018.
Brian Maschino
Mina Chang — Until a couple of weeks ago, Dallas' Mina Chang had a near-spotless reputation as a humanitarian, having parlayed her work at a local nonprofit into a gig in the Trump State Department. Thanks to some dogged reporting by NBC News, however, her world came tumbling down.

The network's reporters found that Chang had exaggerated much of her résumé, painting her small charity as a multinational operation, claiming to be an "alumna" of Harvard Business School without being awarded a degree and saying she spoke at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2016, despite not having spoken at either one.

She resigned on Nov. 18, saying that she would not "surrender her fidelity to the truth."

Brian Isaack Clyde — Brian Isaack Clyde got up the morning of June 17, put on some tactical gear and headed to the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse in downtown Dallas. He got a few rounds off, shattering the building's front windows, but didn't hit anybody.

For his trouble, federal officers shot and killed Clyde before he got anywhere close to getting inside the building. If Clyde wanted to die, that was all he accomplished.
click to enlarge
If there are answers to why someone like Brian Clyde loads up with guns and ammo and goes downtown to kill people, they are going to lie deeper than the external facts.
Brian Isaack Clyde via YouTube

Poncho Nevarez — When Eagle Pass Democrat Poncho Nevarez announced that he wasn't running for reelection on Nov. 8, it didn't exactly come as a shock. Nevarez, a member of the Texas House since 2013, had seemed for years like he had ambitions for higher office.

The reason he wasn't running again, which came out a few weeks later, made up for the initial lack of surprise. Nevarez — best known in North Texas for his public spat with Irving's Matt Rinaldi, who threatened to shoot Nevarez on the House floor — had been busted for alleged cocaine possession at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, after authorities found two baggies containing the drug in an envelope bearing his office seal.

Pete Sessions — Sessions, the longtime Dallas congressman knocked off in 2018 by Democrat Colin Allred, made the news for all the wrong reasons in 2019 — first for being criticized by members of his own party after carpet-bagging to Waco to run for different congressional seat and then because he found himself right in the middle of the Ukraine saga.

From our Oct. 11 article:

Here's the short of it, with thanks to ProPublica, which published a thorough Twitter thread doing as good a job as anyone has explaining what's going on:

Federal authorities arrested two Soviet-born men who've helped Giuliani as Giuliani has wandered the globe investigating former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Biden's son Hunter Biden. Authorities arrested Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman on Wednesday night as they tried to leave the United States. The two are accused of breaking federal campaign finance laws, including helping "funnel foreign money into U.S. elections," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Fruman owns a beach club in Odessa, Ukraine. That club's name? Mafia Rave.

Getting back to Sessions, the indictment filed against the two men says that they "committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. congressman ('Congressman-1'), who had also been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by Committee-1 during the 2018 election cycle."

Committee-1, according to media reports, is a Pro-Trump super PAC. The money wasn't enough to help Sessions last year. Colin Allred, his Democratic challenger, coasted by the incumbent on election night, winning by 6.5 points.

According to the indictment, Parnas met with Sessions around the time he and Fruman committed to raising the money and asked Sessions to help the duo's efforts to "remove or recall" Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Sessions said that he'd only written a letter criticizing Yovanovitch because he'd heard she was criticizing the president.

"My entire motivation for sending the letter was that I believe that political appointees should not be disparaging the president, especially while serving overseas," Sessions said. "I have been friends with Rudy Giuliani for more than 30 years. I do not know what his business or legal activities in the Ukraine have been."

It's hard to imagine that Sessions' time in the spotlight is over.
click to enlarge
Pete Sessions speaks with reporters on Nov. 6, 2018, the night Dallas voters showed him the door.
Mike Stone/Getty

Errol Spence — On Sept. 28, Errol Spence, Dallas' greatest ever boxer, had the best night of his career, winning a split decision over Shawn Porter to unify the WBC and IBF world welterweight championship in a bout that may end up being the fight of the year. Twelve days later, he was in the ICU, not because of a boxing injury, but because he'd flipped his Ferrari multiple times while speeding just south of downtown Dallas.

Spence has been charged with DWI, and his next fight, which looked like it would be the week before the Super Bowl in January, has been put off indefinitely.
Errol Spence Jr.
Porfirio C. Barron Jr.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young