Republican Ron Natinsky says the Dallas GOP will be better off if residents in a southern Dallas congressional district “spend their food stamp money” on Election Day instead of voting.
Natinsky, a candidate for Dallas County judge, made the remark last November during a meeting of the Coppell Republican Club. A video of his appearance was on the club’s website for months but was taken down Tuesday once a report about it appeared on dallasnews.com.
“We don’t want to motivate her voters,” Natinsky said of Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in the appearance. “What we want them to think is: ‘There’s no reason. She doesn’t have an opponent. I don’t need to go to the polls. I’ll go spend my food stamp money at the grocery store, or whatever, you know, on Election Day.’”
Natinsky said Tuesday that he doesn’t remember the speech or the comment about food stamps.
“I haven’t seen the video and don’t remember what I said a year ago,” Natinsky said. “I don’t see the connection between spending food stamps on food and voting.”
Johnson’s district is made up overwhelmingly of minority voters, and she is the first black person elected to Congress from North Texas. Her district supported the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama at a higher rate than any in the country, Johnson has said.
Republicans across the country have complained that many Democratic voters like government assistance programs, a narrative clearly promoted by Natinsky.
But Democrats contend that Natinsky’s comments feed into a racial stereotype, particularly his reference to food stamps.
“Ron Natinsky owes the people of my district an apology,” said state Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat whose district overlaps with much of Johnson’s. “To say that they are all on food stamps is outrageous. If Natinsky does not apologize, we need to look at him to determine if he’s a racist.”
Natinsky is running for county judge against incumbent Democrat Clay Jenkins. Since Republicans in Dallas County generally fare better in midterm elections than contests in presidential election years, the race for county judge could be competitive, though Jenkins has a heavy advantage in campaign cash and name recognition.
In his appearance before the Coppell Republican Club, Natinsky urged fellow Republicans not to run a candidate against Johnson because it would hurt the chances of other Republicans on the ballot.
That’s because Johnson, one of the most influential elected officials in North Texas, is in a heavily Democratic district where it is virtually impossible for a Republican candidate to win. Natinsky theorized that if Johnson is unopposed in the general election, she would not mount a serious campaign and base Democrats would not vote.
“We don’t need another five or ten thousand of her people going to the polls,” Natinsky said.
Johnson is running for re-election against Libertarian Max Koch and independent Eric Williams. The election is Nov. 4.
Natinsky appeared at the Coppell meeting with Tom Nowak, a Dallas lawyer who lost the contest for the GOP nomination for district attorney to Susan Hawk.
The video of the appearance was on the group’s website all year, but Democratic operatives discovered it in recent days.
Jenkins declined to comment on Natinsky’s remarks, while Johnson, without addressing the food stamp reference, urged residents to vote.
“There are forces, local and national, who are expecting you to sit at home,” Johnson said. “The stakes are too high.”
Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Wade Emmert could not be reached for comment.
At the same meeting, Natinsky said that local Democrats got a boost when victims of Hurricane Katrina moved to North Texas.
“Unfortunately, they came up here as Democrats,” he says of those displaced by the 2005 storm. “We didn’t check their IDs at the border.”
On the video, a few people in the audience can be heard chuckling.
Follow Gromer Jeffers Jr. on Twitter at @gromerjeffers.