As construction crews finish work on the 60,000-plus-square-foot Buc-ee’s Travel Center on Interstate 45 in Texas City, the popular stop for Texas travelers is creating buzz for something other than clean bathrooms and Beaver Nuggets.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, who is in the Republican Party primary runoff for lieutenant governor with incumbent David Dewhurst, posted a Facebook photo on Sunday of him standing with one of the company’s 6-foot-tall Buc-ee’s Beaver mascots at one of the company’s travel centers.
In his post, Patrick praised Buc-ee’s owners Beaver Aplin and Don Wasek for creating “a great business by responding to what customers want and doing it better than anyone else in their industry” and thanked them for their support of his campaign.
On Tuesday, Buc-ee’s corporate counsel Jeff Nadalo emailed media members explaining that, while Aplin and Wasek have contributed to the Patrick campaign, the company has made no endorsement or given money. He said the company’s stores are open to all and that its staff reflects diversity.
State election laws prohibit certain businesses or corporations from donating to campaigns.
“Buc-ee’s doesn’t support political candidates,” Nadola wrote.
The state Democratic Party joined the fray on Wednesday, calling Patrick out for the post.
Before all of that, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, tweeted that he wouldn’t shop there “since they support a fear-mongering immigrant basher.” The post started an online furor.
Castro’s tweet was soon joined by others and ignited Boycott Buc-ee’s and Back Buc-ee’s campaigns via social media.
For Galveston County residents questioned by The Daily News, support was clearly on the side of the Beaver. The vast majority of the 50 people who commented sided with Buc-ee’s even if they don’t support Patrick.
“If they were supporting a liberal candidate, the left would be calling them courageous,” Donnie Head of Santa Fe said. “Boycotts are a waste of time. Those games don’t work anymore.”
Galveston resident Daniel Guidry doesn’t have time to be bothered.
“I like Buc-ee’s because (the stores) have cheap gas, cool shirts, big drinks and awesome food,” he said. “I don’t need someone to tell me what I need to buy or boycott. I’m a grown, self-sufficient human being. I make my own choices.”
James Oberg of Dickinson likens a boycott to bullying.
“I can support boycotts for human rights or labor protection, but for merely expressing a political opinion — that’s bullying,” he said. “Calling for it deserves mockery and contempt.”
There are those who do support the boycott on political grounds.
“If Buc-ees wants to endorse someone as far right as Patrick, then they must endorse his attitude toward women, Hispanics, poor people, Muslims, Union workers, non-Christians and old people,” John Cobarruvias, a Bay Area Democratic activist and blogger, said. “They could do without my money.”
Susan Criss, the Democratic candidate for state representative, District 23, posted on her Facebook: “Buc-ees. You broke my heart.” She didn’t respond to an email from The Daily News asking whether she supported a boycott.
Galveston County has seen boycott calls becuse of a political stance or support of a political candidate backfire. When groups called for boycotts of Chic-fil-A because of the company’s owners stance on gay marriage, the local store in League City was overwhelmed by supporters.
Two weeks ago, when Arms Room gun range owner Brandy Liss complained that Galveston County Judge Mark Henry’s assistant Roxanne Lewis, a Republican Party activist, suggested Liss would lose business because of an event hosted by Henry’s primary opponent was to be held there, dozens of supporters showed up. Even Henry, who distanced himself from Lewis’ comments, and his wife went to the gun store that day to show their support.
Endorsements and calls for boycotts are a two-way street of public speech, others claim.
“Owners of companies can support who they want politically,” Raymond Lewis of Galveston said. “Personally, I think they should separate themselves individually from all of their employees. There also are consequences to be considered, which they should anticipate, such as calls for a boycott. How effective a boycott may be (or not) to the economic bottom line is almost irrelevant since the call for one has its benefits to the caller, no matter.”
Others see the boycott as a call to arms.
“My kids would be very upset if I stopped (shopping at Buc-ee’s),” Renee Ayres of League City said. “I’m smart enough to research who I’m voting for and don’t need a business or person telling me what to do. I think I will stop there when I leave the doctor.”