In 2011, Freshman Rep. David Simpson took on the big boys at TSA by trying to pass a bill (HB 1937) which would have made it unconstitutional for any agent to touch you in airports. Although his bill passed with flying colors in the House, it unfortunately died in the Senate.
Representative Simpson is not your average politician. He is very much a Constitutionalist and has refused to play the usual political games—which means he has sometimes stood on the House floor alone and spoken out against popular opinion.
Rep. Simpson recently announced his reelection so I interviewed him in the old Avinger, Texas post office—a building which his grandfather built.
A-M: I’ve been hearing buzz around town that you’ve been a ‘controversial’ State Representative. I personally take that as a great sign you’re doing something right—but why do you think people are calling you controversial?
DS: The first lesson you learn is that when you get in the legislature is that you ‘go along to get along’. The people in my district didn’t send me there for that purpose; they sent me to do what’s right and represent their interest. I certainly wanted to learn from more senior members but when they didn’t do what was right and wanted the Senate to kill the bill, I stood up when I couldn’t find 4 other people to object to really bad bills that also violated the 4th Amendment.
A-M: Are you talking about the TSA bill?
DS: Actually I’m talking about the Puppy Bill. It had to do with unscrupulous breeders who breed lots of cats and dogs and then if they can’t sell them they let them loose or if they do sell them, they’re not guaranteed at all. We have animal cruelty laws to deal with that but what they did is they created a ‘dog and cat Gestapo’ where they could enter a home without a warrant if you were a breeder of a certain amount of dogs. Without a warrant, without probable cause, they could enter your home to search for papers. They’re going to license breeders and regulate them and they’re going to require that all their employees have background checks but all the people doing the enforcement won’t have background checks and it’ll cost a lot of money. Most breeders don’t have a lot of money and the fee for this new bureaucracy is about $4300 per breeder. That’s very, very steep. So I opposed that because it was more government, more intrusion and it violated the 4th Amendment. But I couldn’t find anybody to oppose that bill and it was promoted by the Chairman; everyone was very fearful of her because if you displeased her, she’d kick your bill off her calendar and it wouldn’t get passed. I told her I agreed with her bill as a goal but I disagreed with the method, but I couldn’t get anybody to move it from the local calendar to the general calendar. That’s where I really first became controversial. I also promoted the right of 21-year olds and up on college campuses to protect themselves with a handgun, to carry concealed handguns with concealed licenses.
A-M: What’s the current law?
DS: You’re not allowed to have handguns on campuses in Texas. So in a gun-free zone, who’s going to bring guns on campus anyway? It’s the criminals and the people who are violent.
A-M: Did you do this in response to the UT shootings?
DS: Yes I did. I was supported by the Republicans except for the top part of the leadership in the state. I think the Governor (Rick Perry) probably would have supported it but not the Speaker. It passed in the Senate but it didn’t pass the House, even though we had about 86 supporters. I stood pretty strong on that and then against the Puppy Mill Bill. Of course, I’m for animals…
A-M: And of course your opponents are going to say you’re the guy who’s against puppies…
DS: (laughing) Yes, and that I’m for terrorists at the TSA, I’m a puppy killer and that I like guns on campuses…But they’re important issues because the government should allow people to protect themselves and if someone’s doing something irresponsible, like presenting their puppy as being healthy when it’s not, it’s fraud. But we have animal cruelty laws which we need to enforce—we don’t need more government, we just need to enforce the laws we already have. The other thing is I want to be reelected for doing what’s right. I don’t want to be reelected for being a shrewd politician. If I’m not doing what’s right I don’t need to be there. I’ve been really well received in my district and according to people like Ron Paul I’ve received more publicity than any other freshman in the country—certainly in Texas. But I wasn’t really trying to do that; I think the press is important because if we use the 1st Amendment hopefully we won’t have to use the 2nd. When people stop talking and discussing, or when the truth is hidden, then corruption and violence occurs.
A-M: I’m sure you’ve noticed when politicians such as Governor Brewer in Arizona step out and defend issues that are important to all of us nationwide, they receive nationwide support. That’s what happened with you and your TSA bill—it’s certainly how I found out about you. People step up when politicians do the right thing.
DS: And Davy Crocket is my example there—“Be always sure you’re right and go ahead.” I like his honesty, his humility because you’re not always right. Our problems are not rocket science; they’re usually pretty simple. We lack the courage in the political world just to stand, even if you have to stand alone. Most people who are against guns on campus are very inconsistent because they’ve supported guns in every other situation. If we’d had guns on those terrorist planes it may have saved all those lives and prevented wars. If the soldiers at Ft. Hood would have been armed, that terrorist would have been taken down in half a second.
A-M: What makes Texas so great?
DS: We have a heritage of courage. You think of the pioneering women and children who came here, with the sake of raising a family the way they wanted to. They endured all kinds of risks but they put their liberty ahead of their security. We had terrorists then—they were Indians. People like Houston and Crocket are heroes because they pursued freedom more than security. They’d rather live and die free than to live as slaves. I have a pin which is made by a 17 year old Georgia girl named Joanna Troutman; she made it in 1835 for 150 Georgia volunteers. They’d heard about the tyranny in Texas when Santa Ana revoked the Constitution and came to get the cannon in Gonzalez. So they outfitted 150 Georgia volunteers to come to fight for Texas and liberty. Joanna Troutman took her white silk skirt, put a blue star in the middle and wrote underneath it ‘Texas and Liberty’ and on the back it said in Latin, ‘Where liberty dwells, there is our country.’ And that’s the conviction of free men. She gave that banner and one of the earliest Lone Star flags to those Georgia volunteers when they marched past her. All those people gave their lives at Goliad, fighting for our independence. So we’ve got to get beyond progressivism and Conservatism. If Conservatism is only putting on the brakes of progressivism, we’re never going to solve the problems. We’ve got to go back to our founding fathers here in Texas even. Joanna Troutman understood the goal—it’s liberty, and living freely and responsibly. That’s what’s made Texas great; it’s our self-reliance, our self-government and we’ve abdicated as a state so much, not just like individuals have abdicated the state generally, the state federal government, but the state government abdicated to the federal government. So we’ve basically enslaved ourselves so that our road taxes have come back to us partially but they tell us how to run our schools. That’s wrong. So we need to return to that spirit of independence and of liberty. Conservatism is good in that we’re opposed to radical change—violent change. But it’s not enough; we’ve got to get beyond that, we’ve got to understand the goals of individual freedom and responsibility.
A-M: Which should be the state food of Texas: fried catfish, barbecue beef or chicken fried steak?
DS: Oh—barbecue beef, of course! (laughing)
A-M: What’s your favorite memory of growing up in East Texas?
DS: It actually took place right where we’re sitting. This used to be the old post office. There was a man named Bern Hunter; he was a big black man—about 6’6”. He worked for my grandfather and knew my great-grandfather and my great-great grandfather. He’d pick me up at the farm around 6:30 in the morning in his big red pick-up that had cow horn ornaments on the hood. We’d come to town together to get the paper and the mail and then we’d eat breakfast at the café. Because he was black we had to go around the black and we ate in the kitchen together because he wasn’t allowed up front. This was when I was around 6 years old or so. To me, that really helps me understand and appreciate our heritage here because he was like family to me and yet we had to go in the back of the restaurant. Of course, I thought that was very cool because I got to watch all the cooking going on and I thought it was a privilege. So on Sundays when I’d come to the café with my family, I wanted to go in the back to eat. I grew up in Highland Park—a pretty well-to-do area and it was predominately white so in Avinger I came to respect and love Bern like a family member. He taught me to hunt and fish—and yet when we went to that café, they separated the bathrooms with ‘colored’ and ‘white’ and it was the same with the water fountains. So all of that had a huge impact on me.
A-M: When do you start campaigning for reelection?
DS: Well, I’m always campaigning (laughs). I did file for reelection a few weeks ago so I’ve been campaigning overtly since then. But I am asking for votes now—
A-M: Is it going to be a tough election now that the guy you beat last time, Tom Merritt, has announced he’s running against you?
DS: Well, he boasted before he announced that if he did run he’d spend up to $2 million against me. I take it as a compliment that it might take that much money to run against me—good to know I’m worth that much (laughs). It’ll be a big race and I welcome it. I don’t have anything to hide, I have a good conscience and I did what I thought was right. That’s what Pete Laney, one of the former speakers of the house—a Democrat and wise man who offered me this advice: “Do what’s right, explain it and you’ll be okay” and so far that’s been true. One of the toughest votes politically was they had legislation that would override home owner’s agreements where you could fly your flag. Some of them prohibited flying the flag. They wanted us to change every homeowner agreement in the state to allow that and not just progressively but retroactively. I didn’t think that was the duty of government—the duty of government is to force the rules between individuals and they have ways they can change those homeowner agreements. So I can just see my vote being the only red vote on the board and the rest being green—and that’s what it was. And in the Longview News Journal of course it says ‘Simpson votes against flag’.
A-M: So David Simpson doesn’t like puppies and he doesn’t like the American flag…
DS: (laughs) But people understood my stance when I explained it. But of course the campaign will pick some of those and present them as half-truths.
A-M: Really? Would your opponent actually resort to half-truths in a campaign against you? (laughs)
DS: Yep. But I think I’ve done a pretty good job explaining it and I’ll continue to do that.
A-M: Awesome. And if people want to learn more about you and your campaign where can they find you?
DS: Go to DavidSimpson.com
A-M: Okay, thank you so much and best of luck with your election!