A consultant working with a group opposing beer and wine sales in Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 said Friday that he did not bid on handling the proponents’ campaign and denied formally handling a campaign in Eastland.
“I never formally sent a contract to them … or any kind of bid proposal. I just said, ‘Here’s my pricing.’”
Horton has successfully campaigned for legalization of alcohol in 88 of 93 of local elections it promoted in Texas and surrounding states. In East Texas, Horton has successfully campaigned for alcohol for Athens. Hard Count ran unsuccessful campaigns in Whitehouse and Bullard.
He said he also provided advice for the town of Eastland’s alcohol initiative.
“My involvement in Eastland is very simple,” Horton said. “A woman who owns a hair business there … she called me and said, ‘We were thinking about doing a beer election here in Eastland,’ and could I give them some advice, because they didn’t know the laws or how to pursue that.
“She’s a good friend of mine, and I was more than willing to help her.”
Horton said he called the Eastland city secretary and got information on the number of petition signatures required. He said he showed the group how to pick up petitions.
In dealing with the committee that launched the Tyler alcohol campaign, Horton said he suggested that the group “look at some different election cycles” and get a feel for whether the community was receptive to the proposal.
“I’m a consultant,” he said. “People call and ask me if I can help them. I’m happy to help anyone who solicits my assistance on a professional level as long as it doesn’t conflict me professionally or is unethical.”
Horton said that if hired, his fee for the petition gathering stage would have been $107,500 plus a $25,000 bonus upon petition verification by the city and county.
Horton said he is working for free with Stand Strong for Tyler, which is opposing the alcohol initiative, as a favor to his friend, the Rev. Mike Daniels, who is leading the group, which has questioned the validity of petition signatures.
“He asked for my help, and I was happy to give him help,” he said, adding that he would accept pay if it is given but “no harm, no foul” if it is not.
The petition-gathering contract went to Austin-based consulting firm Texas Petition Strategies, headed by John Hatch. Hatch handled successful campaigns in Winona and Jacksonville and two unsuccessful campaigns in Smith County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4. Texas Petition Strategies has been paid $182,260, according to campaign finance reports.
Bob Westbrook, a local restaurateur and Buy Local First chairman, has said Horton’s involvement in Stand Strong’s campaign will make it difficult to convince voters.
“It will be hard to have a man talking about alcohol bringing economic benefit to Eastland and then say it won’t in Tyler,” Westbrook has said. “When it comes to talking out of both sides of your mouth, I don’t know how you can do that.”