Galveston mayor responds to Weed mailer.

In a mailer that Al Weed’s campaign sent out last week, this statement is made about Weed’s nomination opponent, Bern Ewert:

Why did the Galveston Branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the NAACP seek a court order to prevent Bern Ewert from being appointed city manager?

I just received an e-mail in response to this, written by Barbara Crews, former Mayor of Galveston. Here is what she wrote:

I have seen the recent official mailing from the Al Weed campaign indicating that the Galveston branches of LULAC and NAACP sought a court order to prevent Bern Ewert from being apointed to the position of City Manager in Galveston, Texas. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, his strong record of working with diverse communities was an important attribute that my city council considered when he was hired.

I was mayor of Galveston from 1990 through 1996. My city council voted to hire Mr. Ewert for the city manager’s position in December 1995 and he came to Galveston shortly after his interview to begin work. There was never any public comment or legal action against the city to “prevent Bern Ewert from being appointed . . . ”

At the time Bern was hired, Galveston was facing serious budget challenges. He used his considerable organizational talents, his superior budget skills and his ability to build consensus to help reorganize and substantially improve the city’s financial position.

It gives me satisfaction to have the opportunity to respond to an obviously false campaign smear with the true facts about what, to Galveston, was a serious condition and one that Mr. Ewert faced with professionalism, integrity and the utmost sincerity.

Barbara K. Crews
Mayor of Galveston, 1990-1996
City Council Member 1985-1990

I have no personal knowledge about the veracity of either Al Weed’s statements or Ms. Crews’ response—I’m just printing them.

9:21pm update: There’s some good discussion here about Ms. Crews’ comments and how they compare to the mailer. Be sure to read the comments if you want to get the full picture.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

17 replies on “Galveston mayor responds to Weed mailer.”

  1. This is a textbook case and a good exercise for all of us who like to play campaign strategist. So here goes:

    If I was Bern Ewart’s campaign manager, my next step would be to mail a copy of that letter to every party chair, co-chair and precinct captain in the 5th district. Simultaneously, send letters to every newspaper in the 5th district calling for a public apology from Al Weed.

    The key here is moving fast, fast, fast. Master that database and get those letters printed tonight and in the mail tomorrow. It’s those chairs and precinct captains who have the most influence over how these caucuses turn out next week. You want this thing fresh in their minds when they go to caucus. Everyone wants unity, unity, unity and the candidate who can be shown to have launched a demonstratably false, negative attack against a fellow Democrat can be defeated using that.

    Weed’s campaign has got themselves into a real pickle with their timing. I say that because they’ve put this thing out with just enough time for Bern Ewart’s campaign to mount a successful response that makes Al look bad, but there won’t be enough time left for Al to change the subject back to the other negative items in the mailer.

    Al has just handed the nomination to Bern Ewart, provided that Bern’s staff is sharp enough and quick enough to master the logistics involved in a short-notice, targeted mailing. Some phone calls from Bern himself to key chairmen might be in order as well.

    How about it, Bern? Do you have the stuff to turn these lemons into lemonade? This is the test. If you ever want to have a prayer against Virgil Goode, as soon as the polls look interesting this is the kind of thing you’ll have to parry and thrust past constantly. Don’t just defend – defend in such a way that actually attacks while appearing above the fray.

    By the way, don’t ever mention the word ‘Charlottesville’ in another speech or elevator pitch. You’re a guy from Roanoke who retired to the Northern end of the district. Remember that.

  2. the candidate who can be shown to have launched a demonstratably false, negative attack against a fellow Democrat …:

    Whoa. The Weed flyer’s reference to a court order in Galveston was not false; the memory of the former mayor of Galveston is off in this case. Take a look at the article in the Houston Chronicle that presumably is at the root of the question:

    Attorneys for the local League of United Latin American Citizens and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had sought a court order earlier Thursday to prevent Ewert’s appointment as permanent manager.

    The groups’ state district court lawsuit argued mainly that the appointment of a permanent manager within 60 days of a municipal election would violate the city charter. The next election is May 4, only 50 days away.

    Since Ewert’s appointment technically remains an interim one, NAACP President Leroy Hoskins said he’ll talk to the groups’ attorneys on how to proceed.

    The groups did seek a court order barring Ewert’s appointment, precisely as the flyer claims. Al’s campaign can’t be accused of lying here; instead, as I noted in the other thread on the flyer, the problem is that they’re strongly implying a reason behind seeking the court order (such as racism) that doesn’t seem to apply, judging from the Galveston mayor’s response.

    The Weed flyer is rhetorically manipulative (e.g. “pocketing” as a verb for “accepting salary”, as if that were somehow wrong), but nothing in it is demonstrably false. (Which is the sneaky thing about framing accusations as questions. “If it is true that Al Weed has been growing several acres of high-grade marijuana on his property, could he be sent to jail?” Which I why I loathe this kind of campaign tactic.)

  3. Waldo,

    I posted on February 28, 2006, about Bern and the court order being sought by the NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens to prevent him from being hired permanently in Galveston. The link to the newspaper article is:

    Houston Chronicle–Contract Extended

    Barbara Crews was the mayor at the time and supported his 12-month contract extension as an interim city manager as one of her last acts as mayor, even though the upcoming mayor’s election was about 6 weeks away and another mayor was coming on board.

    I’m not surprised that Henry Freudenburg (the mayor after Crews) did not send you an email about his work. Bern’s time in Galveston after the election was not as rosy, although there is no doubt that he did help the city achieve their goals before he left (two months before his contract expired).

    See these articles for information about Galveston (not in any particular order):

    Farewell to the Fixer-Upper

    Ewert, City Council Exchange Verbal Blows

    City Reaches a Crossroads

    City Manager Gets a Job in Virginia

    Another Galveston Brouhaha (As a woman, I was personally offended by this article–in which Bern kept a male employee whose job was enforcing sexual harassment polices in Galveston.)

    I also found that someone was arrested in Prince William County for sending an email with Bern’s name attached to county residents. When asked why he did it, the man said that he wanted the public to know what Bern had done in Galveston. He said the letter was a spoof, but contained information about Bern’s employment history in Galveston.

    It takes some searching, but this same scenario (where Bern did not always get along with city councils or others in the local government) played out in several localities where Bern was employed as a city manager.

    I have lots of research on both Bern and Al–most of it posted on my own blog. All of it is substantiated with links to the original locations.


    P.S. I hope these links work–they kept acting up while I was typing this.

  4. What a production on Bern’s part! Right out of the movies…..

    Cue the former Mayor! Get her on that blog!!

    Makeup!! The former Mayor’s nose is shiny!! OK, in 3, 2, 1….

  5. I don’t like negative either, but this is no smear. Let’s face a couple facts here: 1) The Democratic nominee will be subject to plenty of attacks, and 2) We can’t beat Virgil without attacking him. Al was criticized last time for not being negative enough and now he gets flack for some negative material even though it’s completely truthful? The only reason that might make sense is because this is a primary, but Bern’s only talking point seems to be his slogan “WE CAN WIN” so he’s got no room to get his panties in a twist over some competition.

    And rhetorical manipulation? I agree that there are some pretty sticky and damaging forms of rhetorical manipulation out there, but the difference between “receiving salary” and “pocketing” funds is more like applying an accurate synonym. Bern owned the company. He paid himself whatever salary he wanted to. If anything I’d say “pocketing” is the more accurate word.

    Dave is right that asking about farfetched scenarios to plant mal-informed seeds of doubt is a crappy thing to do, but that’s not the case here. There actually has been an FEC complaint and he actually could go to jail (or so I gather). Has anyone seen Bern’s Q1 numbers? Did he file them? Is this a violation of FEC regulations? I’m asking questions, and their answers are probably bad news for Berd, but it’s no smear. And seriously, if anyone finds those numbers, let me know, this looks like a pretty clear violation of FEC regs.

    (I’m biased, I support Al Weed but I still try to think for myself)

  6. Fair’s fair. I’ve criticized Al Weed’s mailing; now the Ewert campaign is playing fast and loose with the truth. Their campaign manager Marlin Adams has sent out an email to 5th District Democrats (whatever the source of the list, my wife and I both received it just now) that contains the entire email from Barbara Crews reprinted above, prefaced by this:

    Good day, folks,

    attached, and below, is a response to the malicious Al Weed attack on Bern Ewert’s integrity. Ms. Barbara Crews was the Mayor of Glaveston Texas when Bern was hired as the City Manager in 1995, and is uniquely qualified to directly refute and expose the malicious and unfounded nature and content of the Weed attack.

    Once again, BARBARA CREWS WAS WRONG in her email, if the Houston Chronicle article linked above is correct. There was at least preliminary legal action taken by the NAACP and LULAC seeking to block Bern Ewert’s permanent appointment as Galveston city manager. Based on the article, it sounds like they were upset that other candidates had been passed over, and presumably they abandoned legal action when Ewert’s appointment was kept as interim and not made permanent.

    So if Al Weed’s campaign owes Bern Ewert an apology for the implication that he did something nefarious in Galveston that he didn’t, Bern Ewert’s campaign now owes Al an apology for repeating a mistaken claim that the reference to the court order was “an obviously false campaign smear” when it was factually accurate.

    Lord almighty, you all keep this up and I’ll have to get rid of my bumper sticker reading “Had enough? Vote Democratic!”

  7. I would encourage everyone to see the articles about Bern Ewert’s time in Galveston as reported in the Houston Chronicle. I tried Lisa’s links and all I needed to do was register and search the archives for Bern Ewert. After reading the articles, it became clear to me that Mayor Crews who wrote you (Waldo) hired Bern and extended his contract perhaps illegally just before the newly elected officials took office. The mayor and city council members that were not pleased with Bern’s “people skills” would perhaps paint a very different picture of Bern.

    Excerpt From the Houston Chronicles – “Mayor Henry Freudenburg and other council members who likely would have fired Ewert last summer if they had found a loophole in his contract.” Obtained from

    Look, we just want to beat Virgil. We want no secrets that could destroy our chances of being victorious this November. It seems that after doing some research on Bern’s performance in both Galveston and Prince William County – there might be quite a few skeletons in his closet, and we can’t afford to be uninformed.

    This is an excerpt from The Washington Business Journal from the time around Bern’s working in Prince William County: “Bern Ewert resigned from the $125,000-a-year post in January before he was fired by a board disgruntled with his opinionated and independent style.” And continues with: “Both officials also appear to have something Ewert didn’t: the ability to get along with the elected board. Ewert — who served as the county’s top administrator since March 1997 — repeatedly quarreled with the eight-member board. He had personality clashes with elected board members and county staffers, and was a stronger advocate of curtailing growth in the county than most of the board members.” This was obtained from
    This isn’t about throwing mud – this is researching our candidates. I think that Al is raising some valid questions that we need answered since most of us have only been exposed to the rosy picture Bern seems to paint of himself. For me – I am not interested in voting for a middle manager who seems to have serious enough deficiencies in people skills to warrant references from media in Texas and Northern Virginia. We need a leader (not a middle manager) who listens and can communicate effectively to promote the 5th district – Al Weed!

  8. From Mayor Crews email –
    “I have seen the recent official mailing from the Al Weed campaign indicating that the Galveston branches of LULAC and NAACP sought a court order to prevent Bern Ewert from being apointed (sic) to the position of City Manager in Galveston, Texas. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, his strong record of working with diverse communities was an important attribute that my city council considered when he was hired.”
    From the Houston Chronicle dated 3/15/96:
    “In an unusual arrangement, City Council decided Thursday to keep Ewert on as interim manager for a year longer than planned when the Virginia-based consultant was hired in January to straighten out the city’s serious financial problems.
    Rather than name Ewert permanent city manager, the council extended his contract 12 months beyond May 3.
    Attorneys for the local League of United Latin American Citizens and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had sought a court order earlier Thursday to prevent Ewert’s appointment as permanent manager.
    The groups’ state district court lawsuit argued mainly that the appointment of a permanent manager within 60 days of a municipal election would violate the city charter. The next election is May 4, only 50 days away.”
    Obtained from
    This article completely contradicts Mayor Crews’ letter. I am really tired of politicians with memory slips, something that Mayor Crews and Bern seem to have in common. Didn’t Bern say in a debate when asked about his past statement of running as a republican that he had lost his mind for a few weeks?

  9. A pox on both your houses.

    I’m so pissed off at both campaigns right now that I’m supporting neither. For the first time in many years I’m not going to attend the caucus. I won’t donate to either candidate. In November I’m going to write in Meredith Richards or maybe Mickey Mouse.

    I haven’t missed a Democratic party election, caucus, primary or convention since returning to Charlottesville from college 7 years ago. This is what your negative crap really results in. It alienates even devoted party members and weakens the party. Republicans are gleeful at this whole thing. Both of you are such weak candidates with such massive achilles heels that the idea of either of you thinking that it would be a good idea to throw mud is laughable.

    Al took 35% in 2004. He’s doomed and everyone knows it. Bern manages to piss off everyone who’s ever questioned him and he gave the most boring political speech I’ve heard in years. Neither of these people should have allowed this thing to escalate. They’re pulling each other’s hair over who gets to be the king of nothing for 5 months. It’s pathetic.

    I want nothing to do with either of these 2 candidates and from now on I’m going to pretend that this race isn’t even happening. We’ve got a real Congressional race in Virginia Beach and a real Senate race on our hands with George Allen polling at 49% now. Neither of these guys is worth a dime of our money or a minute of our time when we’ve got serious candidates running serious races in need our support.

  10. ATA,

    Do you remember those adds Kerry and Gephardt’s people ran against Dean . . . pretty nasty party infighting: it happens, get over it.

    It is patent nonsense to say that this alienates devoted party members or weakens the party. Party members are only alienated when the party’s fortunes are flagging; a spirited fight, even if we lose (if the party as a whole is advancing) can only get the juices going, and make the activists hungry for more.

    You can complain about nasty politics, or you can also complain about human nature, both will get you the same distance.

    If Bern is such a loser, as you claim, how does it weaken the party to show people how much of a loser he is? Politics is Darwinistic, if anything.

    Of course you can turn that around to say the Weed should not survive because he only got 35%, so on and so on. But if he wins the primary, then he survives. And America is about nothing, if not about a certain doggedness against long odds.

    People respect that fight, and there have been many politicians who have lost and kept coming back; Reagan comes to mind.

    I am actually encouraged by this: we all want a candidate with integrity, but we also want to know that our candidate has claws and is willing to use them when he/she needs to. (of course I don’t mean to speak for everyone)

    I would also like to address a term that I have seen thrown around way to much, “swift boating”. I think that term has lost its affectedness and accuracy.

    It has been stretched to essentially cover anything that a campaign would do or say to shine a negative light on their opponent. Are you all going to go as far as saying that a candidate should never attack their opponent?

    The same for “Rovian”. What does that mean? Before there was Rove or Atwalter, there was a long line of Democratic campaign operatives with long knives.

    Granted, there are extremes: the Republicans have employed such polarizing politics this last decade they are seeing their “Permanent Majority” die before it was even born.

  11. It is patent nonsense to say that this alienates devoted party members

    I’d say, that’s where you’re wrong. ATA says he’s a devoted party member and he’s alienated. Can’t we take him at his word?

    I’m a devoted party member and I’m alienated.

    That makes two of us. This episode has alienated devoted party members.

    One of these two guys will get the nomination. I contend that the value of that nomination has now been devalued considerably.

  12. Harry,

    Yes, I certainly can not speak for everyone. I apologize for harsh language, I did not mean to discredit anyone who disagrees with me.

    I was mostly reacting to ATA, because I am sort of annoyed with anonymous posting: you get to throw lots of bombs for free when you are not accountable. ATA seems to throw a lot of bombs. For god-sake this isn’t a campaign in here. (thats a joke) Sorry ATA, if everyone here knows who you are, if thats so you get to throw all the bombs you want.

    But, I will still contend that if some miracle happens ( and it can, because it is American politics after all and anything, I mean anything can happen–despite ATA’s pessimism), and this race turns into a hot one, all will be forgotten.

    Just like all the dirty tricks that were pulled in the ’04 presidential primary. Of course, I am sure that there are some Dean people who still hold a grudge . . . but this is no where near as bad as Dean got, and I believe most people will just shrug this off.

    And as far as dirty goes . . . is this mailing so bad? Lets make a scale of 1-10 for dirty direct mail:

    The Republican mailings in WVA claiming Democrats wanted to take people’s bibles, thats definitely a 10!

    Kilgore’s immigration mailings with the foreboding brown people, 10 !

    So, where does Kaine’s phony Club For Growth mailings land? (which I thought where awesome, by the way . . . hmmm, that might give you all some insight into my character.)

    So, anyway, where does Al Weed’s mailing rank? I mean come on guys give it a rank, because it seems like all the accusations are close enough to hurt and nobody’s been compared to Osama bin Laden, yet.

    I am just saying lets try to put all of this in perspective, because it seems like pretty standard fair to me: campaigns sometimes have to use crude methods to get their message across, high light differences and point out what they feel are their opponents weakness.

    You have to break through the noise and get people’s attention; and nuanced exposition aint always gonna cut it.

    Harry, I suppose we agree to disagree, because I just don’t see how this effects the value of the nomination.

    These are human beings after all. Even though we should hold people seeking office to a higher standard, I do not believe we should hold them to the standard of absolute perfection. We should realize that there are things we will disagree with them on, be it campaign tactics or a policy, and not judge their whole character on that one disagreement.

    Ha, of course thats what campaigns generally try to get us to do!

  13. I’ve been greatly disappointed in the two candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Congress in the 5 District. I received mailings from each of them that they perceived would be helpful to their own interests, yet the result will be to diminish the value of my party’s nomination to whoever wins it. Bern Ewert paints Al Weed as a pathetic loser. Al Weed suggests that Bern Ewert may be going to jail. Neither characterization is correct. But, you can bet that Virgil Goode will remind the nominee what his opponent had to say about him.

    The question that I’ve been pondering is what to do with my disappointment. Do I let the actions cancel each other out? Do I try to decide which candidate’s statements were more egregious? Do I just sit out the caucus and let others decide?

    Here’s what I’ve come up with: In order for a candidate to be eligible for consideration for my support, I’ll first have to see a public apology. Not weasel words. Not “he did it first”. Not “what I said is true”. Not, “I’m sorry if anybody took offense”. The apology that I need to hear includes “I was wrong. My actions caused damage. I shouldn’t have done it.”

    Otherwise, whoever wins will assume that their mailing was helpful to their victory and they’ll be inclined to repeat their actions. The message for future candidates is that this is how you win a nomination.

    If there are no apologies when my county caucus is held next week, I’ll only vote for uncommitted delegates. And, I’ll encourage those delegate to withhold their vote for any candidates who has not apologized by the time the convention is held.

    Yeah, I know, I’m dust in the wind. But, maybe some other Democrats will be moved to join me.

  14. Are you actually offended by such watered-down negativity as this? Or are you just offended because other people might be, and neither candidate should have been so wreckless as to threaten the weak and dying Democratic party, which is only hanging onto its base by a few weak threads?

    I have news: it’s 2006 and the Republicans have destroyed the world, not to mention the Constitution. Lots of people are pissed, and lots of people are eager to get active and help fix this country. If the party is really so weak, maybe this one little political spat will kill it off forever, maybe the pundits are right and every time we draw attention it’s bad; if it’s not so weak, I doubt this will hurt it. So what are we, men or mice?

  15. Neither of these guys seems capable of beating a rented mule much less MZM/Mitchell Wade’s personally owned jackas_, Mr. Goode for nothing.

    Maybe it’s time to follow ATA’s advice, but why wait until November? We should draft Meredith Richards now.

Comments are closed.