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

WFAA TV: Brad Watson asks Craig James about senate race

Brad Watson of Channel 8 interviewed Craig James of Celina about the senate race, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy weighed in on his candidacy this week. Take a look at Watson’s interview by clicking on VIDEO: Craig James interview with WFAA’s Brad Watson on senate race

Reid Cherner’s article on USA TODAY, Dec. 27:
Only in politics is it possible for a former football star turned national broadcaster be able to make the claim how connected they are to ordinary people.

But that is the way Craig James will be trying to make it to the Senate.

The former SMU and Patriots running back stepped down as an ESPN analyst to run for office in Texas. He’ll be in next year’s Republican primary.

“Washington is off its rails. I’m living on real street,” James, 50, said on Fox and Friends. “I understand this. For 30 years I’ve been in business. I’ve started jobs and created jobs. I understand the economy and our world. I want to take that fresh perspective of reality to Washington.”

And then, showing he can play both sides of the ball, James went negative on probable opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

“In the past, many times people have been able to use their wealth to buy a seat at the table in Washington. We have to change that,” James said. “Having governmental experience, being a career politician just doesn’t work. It’s why we’re in the pickle we’re in right now.”

Read what Kennedy has to say from Fort Worth: Bud Kennedy column on Craig James

How will Craig James’ candidacy play in Lubbock?

Here is a look back to a March 2011 story by James Clark for (Channel 11 Lubbock):
Click for full article

ESPN Commentator Craig James continues putting his toe in the water to see if he can successfully make a run for U.S. Senate to replace outgoing Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. 
James is best known in Lubbock as the father of Texas Tech football player Adam James. Many blame the  [Craig] James for pressuring Texas Tech to fire football Head Coach Mike Leach in December 2009 amid allegations that Leach abused Adam James.  Leach denies any abuse occurred.
[In March 2011] on WBAP radio in Dallas, [Craig] James took questions from host Mark Davis and radio station callers.  The premise of the interview was that James is considering a run for Senate, but Davis made it a point to ask a few questions about Texas Tech and the perception that James is partly responsible for Leach’s demise. 
Davis asked, “Is it your feeling that you got to make this Tech thing go away if you have the slightest hope of success?”
Craig James responded, “You know what? I guess because I’ve lived it for over a year and I’ve seen the reaction around the country, Mark. Obviously it was a big deal. People come up to me from all over the country and say, ‘Hey, thanks for standing up for your son.'”   
Davis also asked about possible support, or lack thereof, in Lubbock.  James was on record in January saying most folks in Lubbock supported him, but James says he was quoted out of context. 
James said, “Basically most folks in Lubbock and the good people of Lubbock understand the situation.  They understand supporting your son.”
Click for full article
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, Mark Davis of WBAP was talking about James’ candidacy said on his radio show with Bud Kennedy. …Davis said these one-liners to Kennedy: “The thing about Craig James is what does he bring to the race? … I’m not saying he [James] is Bin Laden, but 50 percent negatives? … The only person in the Senate race with [statewide] name recognition is David Dewhurst. … In the past year, what is the number of people that have come up to me and said they want to see Craig James in the Senate race, that number of people is zero. … Where is there room for him in a race that contains David Dewhurst, Tom Leppert and Ted Cruz? … “

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