Thursday, June 24, 2010
Sputnik had over the years developed personal access to the most influential people in the capitol, with the ability to garner meetings with the Lt. Governor, Speaker and committee chairs that were frequently the envy of his allies. At the same time, though he knew how to play the insider game consummately, he portrayed himself as virtually an outlaw presence at the capitol, an image enhanced by his trademark mohawk, leather vest, missing appendages, and the word "Free" tattooed across his forehead. Most importantly, his base was large and well-organized, as demonstrated by Biker Day at the Lege when riders converge on Austin from all over the state for a lobby day preceding an annual weekend of partying.
My favorite Sputnik story from my own limited contacts with him over the years came during the push in 2005 to allow Texans to legally carry guns in their personal vehicles, a bill which never resulted in the predicted spike in road-rage deaths that naysayers direly anticipated. Sputnik believed carrying a gun was a constitutional right and that, for example, requiring a concealed carry permit turned that "right" into a "privilege" which could be then be taken away at the government's whim. I'll never forget him telling then-Chairman Terry Keel and the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee that he'd carried at least one gun wherever he went since he was nine years old, and that if he expected trouble he carried two! Pure genius. What's more, he announced, "I'll do that forever." (See his testimony here beginning at the 6:52:50 mark; FWIW, my own testimony on the bill immediately followed his.)
Sputnik was an unsung Texas hero and an American original. The capitol won't be quite the same without him.