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Commentary: Texas congressional race becomes an extreme Obama hate-fest

Roger Williams has gone extreme, and he had to.

After years as a genial local car dealer, he's knee-deep in a Central Texas congressional runoff that amounts to an Obama-hating contest against a Tea Party leader aligned with the John Birch Society and Constitution Party.

That's why Williams' newest campaign e-mail Tuesday included a shadowy monochrome photo of President Barack Obama labeled: "SOCIALIST!"

The e-mail also complains about the Austin newspaper: "Will you help me fight back against the liberal media?"

Newspapers aren't Williams' problem.

Wes Riddle is his problem.

Riddle, a retired Army officer from Gatesville, wants to impeach Obama for "giving away" seven Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea islands near Siberia to Russia.

(Yes, even though those islands were ceded in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush.)

A year ago, Riddle invited Facebook friends to his Belton theater for a rally promoting the Constitution Party, a third party that calls for restoring government "on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Riddle's Web list of supporters openly includes the Constitution Party state chairman, Collin County banker Bob Eoff.

Eoff said Tuesday that Riddle gave the same speech at a John Birch Society meeting in Richardson.

"He's running as a Republican, but he's more of a Constitution Party guy," Eoff said.

Riddle said Tuesday that his speech was just a "short welcome" to his theater.

"Please don't try to tar and feather me with that label, because it's not accurate," he said, adding that he covers "the whole conservative spectrum."

Riddle said the John Birch Society, a conspiracy-fearing group, is "in the mainstream." He has posted one of the Birchers' signs on Facebook: "Impeach Obama."

All this leaves Cleburne Mayor Justin Hewlett in a tight spot.

Hewlett finished third but won Johnson and Bosque counties, the second-largest bloc of votes after Travis County. (The district stretches from Burleson through Burnet and Austin to San Marcos.)

Johnson County knows local guy Williams better, but a Tea Party group backs Riddle and also U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz in his runoff against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Hewlett said he wants to meet with both Riddle and Williams before choosing.

"It's a lot like the Senate runoff," he said. "But then again, it's not."

It'd drive anyone to extremes.