The U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has taken time out of his schedule to weigh in on a student election in his home state of Texas. Perry, the former governor of the state, says that Bobby Brooks’ victory in the Texas A&M student body president election was rigged. Brooks was elected as the school’s first openly gay president on March 9. Perry attended the school and graduated in 1972 with a degree in Animal Science. In a Houston Chronicle op-ed, Perry said, “Now, Brooks’ presidency is being treated as a victory for ‘diversity,’ It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for ‘diversity’is the real reason the election outcome was overturned. Does the principle of ‘diversity’ override and supersede all other values of our Aggie Honor Code?”
Here’s what you need to know about Bobby Brooks:
1. Brooks’ Opponent Is the Son of Dallas-Based Republican Donor
In his Houston Chronicle piece, Perry writes that Brooks’ opponent, Robert McIntosh, was unfairly disqualified in from the election. There were allegations of voter intimidation against McIntosh. He was later reinstated in the race but his campaign was mired in more controversy when he failed to produce receipts for glow sticks used in an event. For the two accusations, McIntosh’s disqualification stood.
Perry says other candidates did similar things but were not equally punished.
Perry also notes that McIntosh won the popular vote. The former governor writes, “Brooks did not win the election. He finished second by more than 750 votes.”
The Washington Post reports that McIntosh is the son of a Dallas-based Republican donor. McIntosh’s father campaigned for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
McIntosh the Battalion, Texas A&M’s student newspaper, of his surprise at Perry’s column. McIntosh said, “I did not at all expect his editorial and I’m humbled to have his support. He made a compelling case which I fully support and continue to fight for. Our campaign team won the election and was subsequently disqualified unfairly. Diversity, at its heart, is equal treatment of all, and we hope this situation is resolved in a way that ensures a fair and more transparent process now and in future elections.”
2. Brooks Came to Terms With His Sexuality While Studying Abroad in Paris
Brooks told the Battalion, that he first came to terms with his sexuality while studying in Paris. He told the newspaper:
My sexuality was something that I never wanted to particularly address growing up. I had a strong history of suppression with my own feelings toward that. I had known for a very long time but I didn’t want to accept that and thought it would just get better.
He adds that while running for student president in high school, Brooks “took his first steps” towards embracing his sexuality. Brooks also said that when he returned to the U.S., “It started out with me kind of being afraid of [my sexuality] in general because I was back in this Texas kind of pressure, but there was something new to it in that I was now my own person, more than I was back in high school.”
The Battalion later reported that Brooks had not made his sexuality an issue.
3. Brooks Says ‘the Success of Each Student is Paramount’
Brooks will official take office on April 21. His focus will be diversity and inclusion, according to the Battalion. While on his official website, Brooks wrote:
My candidacy is about projecting your voices, your experiences, and your hopes at a greater scale at this university.
The success of each of our students at Texas A&M is paramount to me. Helping students grow their passions is what I am proud to do, and I have happily contributed countless hours to do so.
Each year, a new Student Body President is required to address the challenges that our university faces so that we can remain one of the best in the world.
I will be that Student Body President for you, Texas A&M, and I look forward to serving you.
4. Perry Says the Outcome of the Election Would Be Different if Brooks’ Opponent Wasn’t a White Straight Male
In a scathing paragraph on diversity, Perry wrote, “How would they act and feel if the victim was different? What if McIntosh had been a minority student instead of a white male? What if Brooks had been the candidate disqualified? Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks? Would the student body have allowed a black student body president to be disqualified on anonymous charges of voter intimidation?”
Perry adds, “The quality of diversity on a campus depends on fair treatment, rather than preferred outcomes or engineered results. McIntosh’s treatment suggests that A&M is choosing preferred outcomes over equal treatment: that the ends justify the means, and that not every student is deserving of the same treatment.”
Texas A&M’s senior vice president of marketing and communication, Amy Smith, told the Texas-Tribune of her surprise that Perry cared so much about the election. “Honestly, we were just surprised to see that the secretary of energy would take the time to weigh in in detail and we respectfully disagree with his assessment of what happened,” Smith said. Smith also said that Perry’s op-ed’s “understanding of the election rules of student body president elections doesn’t reflect the facts.”
5. Brooks Was Endorsed by the Corps of Cadets at A&M, the Group That Perry Had Hugely Credited With Helping Him Graduating
Perry’s academic record while at Texas A&M was severely criticized during his first presidential campaign in 2012. While at the school, Perry credited the Corps of Cadets for giving him the discipline to graduate. Perry told the Texas Tribune in 1989, “I was probably a bit of a free spirit, not particularly structured real well for life outside of a military regime, I would have not lasted at Texas Tech or the University of Texas. I would have hit the fraternity scene and lasted about one semester.”
On February 22, Brooks posted a message on his Facebook page saying he had received the endorsement of the Corps of Cadets. He wrote, “I am thrilled to announce that their values of HONOR, COURAGE, INTEGRITY, DISCIPLINE and SELFLESS SERVICE line up with my campaign, and that I have received the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Endorsement!”