Branick switching from Dem to GOP

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

County Judge Jeff Branick is no longer a Democrat and is now a member of the Republic Party.

An email was sent from Branick on Wednesday afternoon announcing the change in parties and his reasons for doing so.

The letter says, in its entirety:

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I originally wrote this letter in October, but at the request of a friend, delayed sending it for 90 days. It is now shorter than it was originally.

I grew up in Port Arthur with a grandfather, uncle, father, brother and sister who were union members and then I went to law school. My earlier experiences led me to believe, as I still do, that collective bargaining and a fair civil justice system are good things. Those experiences also led me to become a member of the Democratic Party because I believed that a large part of the genius that is America is rooted in the strength of its middle class and the opportunity for individuals of every stripe to improve their lot in life.
Over the last few years, however, I have become increasingly more uncomfortable with my party’s stance on a number of issues such that I can no longer count myself among its membership. I do not believe that the most significant issue facing the U.S. is climate change. And while I do view ISIS and like groups as a clear and present danger, I also believe it is an issue that can be addressed with sufficient resolve and less political correctness from our national leadership. However, it appears that our foreign policy for the last several years has been to deny that evil exists anywhere in the world other than in the bosom of a Republican. But the thing that scares me more than anything else is the fact that we have doubled our national debt in the last eight years to almost $20 trillion dollars and we are facing unfunded liabilities (amounts for which the federal government has obligated itself but which are not yet due) of something more than $127 trillion dollars. That’s $1.1 million dollars of debt for every American taxpayer. And that scares the heck out of me. How can we “secure the blessings of liberty to…our posterity” if we refuse to deal with an issue of such manifest significance? I have lost all faith that the membership of my party will do anything meaningful to deal with this most worrisome issue.
Nor do I believe, as the leaders of my former party argued during this last election, that a confiscatory tax system can solve this crisis. According to my research, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. pay about 70 percent of the income taxes. I think that’s a fair share. And with U.S. corporate tax rates amongst the highest in the industrialized world, how can we raise those taxes without running even more jobs, and liquidity, overseas?
I would agree that income inequality exists, but I would think the better way to begin to address the issue is to release individuals from lifetime and intergenerational entitlement programs that subjugate them to the will of the state and allow them to use the talents for which they are uniquely gifted by their Creator. Since the passage of the Great Society legislation 50+ years ago we have experienced more poverty, not less. As a remedial measure it seems to me to be a failure that has only had the effect of incentivizing single parent households. I’m all for helping people who are down on their luck for a few years, but I want that help to equip them to travel down a path to productivity and self-reliance. I do not believe in a cradle to grave system of public entitlements. It is economically, and in my mind morally, unsustainable.
I am also one of those individuals that cling to my guns and religion. I happen to believe that the Second Amendment is every bit as important as all of the other guarantees in the Bill of Rights and I also believe that America was founded as a Christian nation. And while I do not wish to force others to accept my personal religious views, I also do not desire to be forced to set my personal beliefs aside every time I enter the public square.
During the last eight years we have seen a regulatory environment that has, with little or no scientific basis, killed many jobs in our local area (Keystone pipeline). We have also seen bureaucratically delayed multi-billion dollar projects that could have created thousands of high paying positions in our community. And I have been extremely dismayed to listen to leaders in my former party who have found it expedient to make law enforcement the enemy when, by and large, they are the glue that holds a civilized society together and are deserving of respect. And while I appreciate the way legal immigration has enriched our culture over the last 200 years, I find it appalling that we have ignored the rule of law with respect to illegal immigration and acted as if our borders and our sovereignty are merely suggestions devoutly to be ignored.
To my Republican friends I would note that I will continue to vote for a number of our local Democratic office holders because I know them to be honorable and hard-working public servants. To my Democratic friends I would say that I do not dislike you and do not think I’m better than you. You and others, regardless of political view, will continue to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness in my courtroom. And while I will not ask you to vote for me during my next (and last) run for county judge if it does damage to your conscience, I will ask that we remain friends. Because with age I’ve come to realize that friendships are more important than any position I might hold.


Dr. Garrett Peel, Jefferson County Republican Party chair, could not be reached for comment.

Cade Bernsen, chair of the Jefferson County Democrat Party, said he was very disappointed Branick switched parties. He added that he found out about the switch on Wednesday afternoon with no head’s up.

“I am proud to be a Democrat, I think when you run, you have a duty to your constituents to run under that particular banner,” Bernsen said. “He was afforded the luxury twice to run unopposed in large part because we’re strong in the county.”

Bernsen said he was surprised to hear Branick said he was running again because he heard he wanted to retire and he was spending more and more time at his ranch in Llano.

When it was thought Branick would be retiring, some people approached Bernsen about running for county judge. He added there are others who can run as well.

“We have many, many talented people who will be running in elections,” he said. “He’s joining the party of Trump. Maybe he’s (Branick) positioning himself to run against (incumbent U.S. Rep.) Randy Weber in the primaries.”

David Ball: 409-721-2427