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'Skewed and out of whack': Right-wing extremism flourishes in North Texas suburbs

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“When you let these people flood our borders, that’s our tax dollars” paying for public services, said Jenkins who, like Andrews, owns her home. “Once you’re a homeowner and you really see those taxes, it changes you.”

That sentiment and deeper conservative beliefs are shared by many, including Zach Barrett, president of the Collin County Conservative Republicans. The 42-year-old sales rep said that as Black Lives Matter protests spread during the past year, he worried about riots in Collin County.

“It could happen anywhere, especially in the suburbs of a major city. People who think they’re shielded from that are naïve,” he said, noting Dallas is just a half-hour drive away and, “There’s no wall to stop people from coming up.”

Barrett worries about Biden reversing Trump immigration policies that he said have protected Texas at a time when thousands of migrant children are being housed at the Dallas Convention Center and other federal shelters across the country.

“How many people around Dallas-Fort Worth would be willing to take those children on and say, ‘You can come live with me’?” he said. “If we dropped off a few migrant kids and said, ‘They’re going to eat your food, lounge on your couch and sleep in your bed for the next few years,’ they would never do it. It’s not racist. It’s just common sense and logic.”

Such issues played into McKinney’s municipal elections on May 1, which drew historic turnout. If it was a referendum on extremism, as Mayor Fuller suggested, extremism mostly lost. Fuller was reelected by a wide margin. Most of the candidates who attacked him were defeated, except for Stan Penn, a Trump supporter who forced his moderate opponent for City Council into a runoff but then quit last week, citing the nastiness of the race.

 

“I’ve been accused of wanting people to die to line my pockets. I’ve been told, ‘I hope you get COVID and you die,’” Penn said as he sat last week in The Celt Irish Pub, which he opened in downtown McKinney after retiring as a bank president.

Penn, 60, described himself as a “center-right, chamber of commerce Republican,” but said friends stopped talking to him during the election. Others boycotted his business and told him to leave town.

“It’s all tribalism, and it’s a cancer on our country. It’s destroying us,” he said of the infighting among conservatives that’s proliferated online.

Fuller agreed. He said the acrimony of the campaign marred his victory and split his family, including at least one sibling who is a QAnon believer. The bitterness in his family, in his state, is resonating nationally. That troubles him.

“I’m thoroughly concerned for our country,” he said. “We’re on a self-destructive path.”

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