GOP says graphics firm’s error led to use of Confederate image in handout

Saturday, August 28, 2010

By ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News
rtgarrett@dallasnews.com

AUSTIN – Democrats this election season like to argue that Republicans want to take the country back to bad days, and, in Texas, they poke fun at Gov. Rick Perry for flirting with secession.

So the Texas GOP made itself a target when it handed reporters a document using an image of Texas’ Confederate-era state constitution at a Thursday event designed to raise questions about state House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam. A party spokesman said the flub was unintentional, the result of in-house miscues and a graphic arts contractor’s "laziness."

"No, categorically no," Republican Party spokesman Bryan Preston said, when asked if secessionist views permeate Perry’s party.

At the Thursday event in Waco, state Republican Chairman Steve Munisteri charged that Dunnam doesn’t live in his district and should step down. Munisteri spoke after Preston gave out a 47-page press packet with photos and real estate records on Dunnam’s two Waco-area homes.

The packet included a graphic showing language in the current state constitution, ratified in 1876, about qualifications for state representatives. The text was linked to an image of the cover of the state’s Confederate constitution, adopted shortly before the Civil War broke out in 1861.

Dunnam – who insists he has been and still is an eligible candidate, although his children attend school outside his district – called the cover’s inclusion "bizarre." Dunnam will face Republican Marva Beck on the November ballot.

Asked if he thought the use of the Confederate image was intentional, Dunnam said, "Frankly, these days the GOP continues to talk about secession and going back to ‘the way it used to be,’ so heck if I know."

Preston, however, said it was anything but.

"The graphic artist made a big old screw-up," he said, describing a decision Monday not to show the constitutional qualifications, just the photos and maps, set up on easels at Munisteri’s press conference. In Thursday’s rush of preparations, no one noticed the artist included the graphic – or noticed the Confederate charter’s cover, Preston said.

"Dunnam has spent years in deceit and even bought a house to game the electoral system," he said. "We had one graphic that was just a dumb mistake." Still, Preston blamed himself for "letting one get past the goalie."

As for the graphic arts firm, he said: "They’re not going to get hired again."

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