Star-Telegram examines Blackard’s role in Santorum visit

Really interesting column on Jeff Blackard of McKinney by Bud Kennedy in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Evangelical real estate developer brought Santorum to North Texas

By Bud Kennedy

If Rick Santorum eventually wins Texas Republicans over, one of Texas’ leading real estate developers should share credit.
Last month, Jeff Blackard of the McKinney-based Blackard Group went undercover in South Carolina as a walk-in Santorum volunteer.

He came away convinced that the Pennsylvania Republican would make the party’s best nominee for president.

“You can’t change the country sitting on the couch watching TV news,” said Blackard, 54, Santorum’s host Wednesday for a much-discussed pastors’ forum in a wedding chapel in Stonebridge Ranch.

Without introducing himself beyond his name, Blackard made phone-room calls for Santorum in Charleston, S.C., then volunteered at events.

Word got around about a “guy from Texas” who “threw a bunch of suits in his car and came to help.”

Eventually, Blackard found a smaller gathering where the host offered him time with Santorum.

“I had one real question,” Blackard said.

He asked, “Are you a believer?”

“I really got up in his face,” Blackard said.

“I want to put a godly leader in the White House.”

Blackard doesn’t have a long partisan or political history. Mostly, he said, he wants a more conservative president to spark investors’ confidence.

But he also describes himself as an evangelical Christian slow to trust politicians.

“Rick was unknown,” he said.

“I believed he was a born-again Christian. But I wasn’t sure.”

Blackard didn’t tell Santorum’s answer. But the Texan stayed, working and sometimes helping carry suitcases.

“I didn’t want them to know much about me, because if he wasn’t the right guy, I wasn’t staying,” Blackard said.

“He was the right guy.”

Blackard offered to bring Santorum to Texas, where Republican leaders have been stifled by Gov. Rick Perry’s devotion to Newt Gingrich.

The developer opened his wedding chapel and invited pastors for an event that made CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times. He helped plan Santorum’s euphoric visit to staunchly evangelical Collin County.

A Fort Worth visit is in the works, Blackard said.

He proudly read a news clipping with a quote from McKinney pastor Michael Gamble, who said Santorum “completely won me over. I think he represents the kingdom of God.”

A month after his stealth trip to South Carolina, Blackard sees a message:

“If you believe in something — get off the couch.”

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Read more of Bud Kennedy’s columns at

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