State Representative Jonathan Stickland is brash, young and cocky, just as he was when Tarrant County voters sent the 30-year-old Tea Party favorite to the Legislature two years ago.
In one instance -- his trailblazing email privacy bill -- Stockland's irreverence served him well, earning plaudits from civil libertarians and the national media.
More often, he comes across looking like -- well, a brash, young, cocky jackass. Like that time two weeks ago when he posted the home address of a random guy supporting his opponent, Andy Cargile.
That's bound to turn a lot of people off. Still, the level of hatred Stickland has inspired from state's cops is pretty impressive. Last month the Texas Municipal Police Association, the state's largest law enforcement group, labeled him "one of the worst State Representatives in Texas history," who has showed a "total disregard for the safety of our children."
Yesterday several more police groups joined the growing anti-Stickland chorus: the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the Fort Worth Police Association, the Arlington Police Association and the Dallas Police Association, which isn't even in Stickland's district.
"When law enforcement officers asked for his help in protecting our families, Jonathan Stickland turned his back on us and repeatedly voted against the safety and welfare of Texas children," the groups wrote in a statement. "He is one of the least capable lawmakers we have in the Texas House and we strongly urge Republicans to vote him out of office in the March 4 primary."
So what precisely did Stickland to to incur the wrath of so many cops? Their grievances center on a handful of bills Stickland opposed them on.
One, HB 1010, was aimed at preemptively catching sexual predators by banning so-called grooming behavior. Specifically, it would have become a crime to "intentionally or knowingly cause physical contact with a child that a reasonable person would regard as offensive and sexual in nature and likely to precede sexual conduct constituting a sexual or assaultive offense."
Another, HB 124, which was passed and signed by Governor Perry, added Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogen formerly widely available at convenience stores and head shops, to Texas' list of controlled substances. A third bill, which Stickland voted for, would, in the words of the DPA, "make it tougher for law enforcement to find and rescue abducted children."
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Stickland was far from the only House member to oppose law enforcement on these measures. There were 20 nays on the grooming ban, 17 for Salvia. In addition to Stickland, five others voted against both bills, two Democrats (Borris Miles and Toni Rose) and three Tea Party Republicans (David Simpson, Matt Schaefer and Bryan Hughes).
All of them presumably opposed the measures for libertarian reasons. The language in the child predator bill is awfully vague. (How can anyone tell if touching is "likely to precede sexual conduct" unless the sexual conduct actually occurs?) And there probably are other ways to keep Salvia out of the hands of our children that doesn't involve outlawing it completely.
Perhaps Stickland foresaw the attacks but searched his conscience and voted no on principle. A rare and admirable trait, but are minor bills targeting sexual predators and hallucinogenic drugs really the best place to take a stand?
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.