Political ad

A campaign advertisement paid for by Republican tax assessor-collector candidate Jackie Peden shows an MS-13 gang member among messages about illegal immigrants voting in Galveston County.


The newest political ad from a candidate seeking to unseat Galveston County’s longtime tax assessor-collector bears a striking image. A man with a tattooed face and tattooed bare chest, standing arms crossed.

The words accompanying the photo are meant to create fear about the man and what he represents: “Texans can thank Cheryl Johnson for having illegal immigrants vote in this November’s Election!”

The ad was paid for by Jackie Peden, a Republican running against Johnson in the primary race for Galveston County tax assessor-collector.

The man in the picture is not, in fact, a Galveston County voter. Nor was he, at the time of the photo, an undocumented person living in the United States. He is not a model hired to pose for the advertisement or a piece of stock photography, Peden said

The unnamed man is an MS-13 gang member who in 2012 was an inmate in a prison in El Salvador. The photograph, which was uncredited in the advertisement, was taken from a photo essay published in The Guardian, a British newspaper.

It’s one of the first pictures that appears under a Google Image search for “MS-13.” MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is an international criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Peden said she approved of the advertisement that was sent to homes across Galveston County this week. It was meant to wake people up about the threat of undocumented people voting in the county, she said.

“It outlines that we don’t want non-citizens on our voter rolls,” Peden said. “That was the point. We have non-citizens on our voter rolls, and it’s scary.”

Peden said she believes the picture is an accurate representation of what undocumented people in Galveston County look like, and she thought it was possible that the man in the photograph was now, in fact, a Galveston County resident.

“He could be; I don’t know. I don’t have those facts,” Peden said.

On Friday, Johnson called Peden’s advertisement racist and discriminatory — as well as inaccurate about the way she handled a controversy around an attempted purge of voter rolls across Texas last year.

“It is despicable, it is vile, and it’s a lie,” Johnson said. “When I looked at this, I was offended because it makes it appear that every Hispanic male or somebody with tattoos is an illegal immigrant.”

In January 2019, the Texas Secretary of State’s office distributed a list of nearly 100,000 registered Texas voters to county-level election offices. The secretary’s office had flagged the names on the list for citizenship review, after comparing voter rolls to a list of names provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety of people who had said they weren’t citizens while getting a driver’s license or ID card.

Johnson’s office was among the voter registrars’ offices that moved quickly in response to the list, sending letters to local people on the list demanding they prove their citizenship or else be removed from the rolls and face potential criminal charges.

The process was stopped after civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, sued and claimed, correctly, that the review was flagging naturalized citizens who were legal voters and who should not have been questioned about their status.

State officials would later admit that nearly a quarter of the 100,000 names were citizens.

Peden’s ad blames Johnson, who was named in the civil rights lawsuit, for ruining the voter purge effort.

In the months that followed the controversy, much of the blame has been piled on the secretary of state’s office. Secretary of State David Whitley, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, resigned in May, after it became apparent that he would not be confirmed by the Texas Senate.

On Friday, Peden, whose campaign website pledges to clean up the county’s voter rolls on “day one” in office, said Johnson should have been more cautious about using the information supplied by the secretary of state’s office.

“Because of her lack of due diligence, she targeted the wrong ones,” Peden said. “I think it would be up to her to verify before you go sending out letters and making accusations.”

Peden said her plan if she was elected would be to create a task force to investigate undocumented people voting in the county.

For her part, Johnson defended her actions in responding to the list. The letters were part of the verification process, Johnson said. The problem was the state sent an inaccurate list.

She and other county officials agreed to stop using the DPS list to get out of the lawsuit, Johnson said.

“The counties were asked to stand down from sending any additional letters in order to be removed from the lawsuit,” Johnson said. “Knowing there was nothing we could do, we did not want our taxpayers to be obligated to pay for the suit, which really involved the state. We were simply doing our jobs.”

Johnson believes there are hundreds of undocumented people still on county voter rolls but said the settlement from the lawsuit prevents her from using the DPS-based list to continue to try to identify them.

Johnson has continued to urge the secretary of state’s office to take up the effort again and has forwarded the names of some people she suspects of being undocumented voters to state officials, she said.

As of Friday, there have been no verified cases of undocumented people voting in Galveston County.

Early voting in the primary election for the tax assessor-collector and other offices began Tuesday and continues through Friday. There are no Democrats running in the tax assessor-collector race.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


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(54) comments

Ted Bellow

More Republican attempts at bullying, voters have the right to make the choice whom to vote for with the without this kind of blatant unnecessary false advertisement. Do we want a representative of this caliber holding any office in the state of Texas?

Felipe Silvas

Peden said she believes the picture is an accurate representation of what undocumented people in Galveston County look like.

WOW! How messed up is it to think that all undocumented workers look like this? There are plenty of undocumented workers who do not look like this and have absolutely nothing to do with MS-13. What a slap in the face to Mexicans. There are many undocumented workers that are not of Mexican descent.

George Caros

Jackie just lost my vote. Was thinking a change would be a good thing but not now. Will vote for someone who has integrity.

Michelle Aycoth

“ Johnson’s office was among the voter registrars’ offices that moved quickly in response to the list, sending letters to local people on the list demanding they prove their citizenship or else be removed from the rolls and face potential criminal charges.”

I was one of those who got a letter and I have lived in the same house since 1993 and my family has been citizens since the late 1600’s.

One piece of mail returned to her office will trigger such a letter which thanks to our fine Post Office I suspect happened in my case.

Andy Aycoth

Gerhard Meinecke

That was a State supplied list for State mandated action. The list had too many errors. But, there is nothing wrong with one having to verify one's registration.

James Lippert

The FACTS do matter in Politics. The fact of the matter is that Peden failed the Public by failing to appear at the most recent Public Debate hosted at the College of the Mainland. While Mrs. Johnson appeared before the Public and bravely answered ALL questions put to her by the debate proctor, an empty chair was the only evidence of Peden.

The fact is that many people, including myself, have firsthand knowledge of Mrs. Johnson's extensive and tireless efforts, going above & beyond the average county tax assessor, to work on many issues, including protecting the Citizens of Galveston County against voter fraud and keeping the Voter's roll in Galveston County free of illegal aliens, felons and others who are not legally qualified to vote in our elections.

Shame on Peden!

Bailey Jones

lol. Using MS-13 and undocumented voters as scare tactics is pretty standard Republican fare. I don't know why this is news.

Carlos Ponce

"I don't know why this is news." Because Democrats usually do this. Remember the ad having Republicans through grandma off the cliff?




Using a fake video of Paul Ryan off the cliff as scare tactics is pretty standard Democrat Party fare.

Plenty more examples like this - ALL FROM DEMOCRATS.

Remember the one about GW Bush not signing the hate crime bill while Governor of Texas.....

Remember Al Gore saying Republicans will put Blacks "back in chains"?

Remember when they claimed electing Republicans would mean Black churches would be burned?

Scare tactics are pretty standard Democrat Party fare.

Paul Sivon

Another typical “but what about Johnny?” response. Grow up

Bailey Jones

If you'd like to respond to my comment, Carlos, please explain how MS-13 and undocumented immigrant voting hasn't been a constant theme of DJ Trump's last 1713 days of campaigning.

Carlos Ponce

Not a scare tactic, Bailey. It's fact. Do you consider, "December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, " a scare tactic from FDR?????

Bailey Jones

If you'd like to respond to my comment, Carlos, please explain how MS-13 and undocumented immigrant voting hasn't been a constant theme of DJ Trump's last 1713 days of campaigning.

Carlos Ponce

Admit that it is NOT a scare tactic.

Gary Scoggin

LOL - Carlos never answers hard questions. He just deflects.

Bailey Jones

I can't admit it Carlos, because it's not true. It is a scare tactic. Most political advertising is simply fear mongering. Fear is the great motivator of the feeble minded, the ignorant, and those who either can't or won't think for themselves, the mob - that big meaty part of the Bell curve that every politician wants to capture. All parties use it - because they all subscribe to the same marketing theories that have been so successful in the past.

Please read The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert H. Lustig. It details the rise of psychological advertising - in all aspects of marketing, but politics in particular.

It works very simply - and this ad is a textbook example. The first thing you notice in this ad is the scary brown skinned individual. Your fear response causes you to need to read the ad to determine the nature of this threat. The text of the ad associates the threat with the political opponent, using a dichotomy of subjects. Trump and Abbott = good, since they are well liked by Galveston Republicans. Lawyers and the ACLU = bad. Johnson is associated with the bad. The dubious logic of blaming Johnson for the problem is made more palatable by the "official" news media blurb. But it really doesn't matter because the scary brown skinned guy has already caused the more highly evolved part of your brain to switch off and surrender to your more primitive "lizard brain". You've been reduced from a rational thinking individual to a fearful and feeling individual - and you never even noticed.

Don't believe for second that this technique isn't purposeful. Your president is a master of it, but all politicians use it.

Carlos Ponce

It is not a scare tactic. It is a current news event which the President of the United States should be concerned.

Bailey Jones

You can lead a man to knowledge but you can't make him think.

Evelyn Timmins

I have never in over 23 years received such slimy campaign literature as from Jackie Peden, each one worse than the last and full of lies, but this one takes the cake. Confirming that her depiction of an illegal immigrant voting in Galveston County is accurate is a real slam on any immigrant. Don't forget to being your hood to the rally tonight!

Wayne D Holt

Ms. Johnson should grab a beach chair and some popcorn and relax. With campaign tactics like this, her win over Peden should be of epic proportions.

This ad is everything we as Americans should refuse to support: incendiary, inaccurate, contradictory, zero-calorie content. Ms. Peden should look for a new campaign strategist. She'll have several years to find someone who understands the times are changing and We The People want more than what is on offer here.

Jose' Boix

There are many ways to debate your platform and position; one is using civility, respect, evidence and facts. It helps define the moral character of the individual. define without douThe political approach used as referenced herein, should be valued as worthless and obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation, helping make our voting selection clear. Just my thoughts.

Kelly Naschke

Well said Mr.Boix.

David Hardee

As an 80-year-old property owner and taxpayer for over 50 years, I have experienced the terms of many Tax Assessor Collectors. I have had direct confrontation with Ms. Johnson’s office. My experience is that her office functions with the tax payer’s best interest intentions – whether she is in the office or not. If turnover is an issue the office is being effectively staffed and managed. It would be more informative and give credibility to the “turnover” claims had presented facts of deficiency or delays.

It is the Tax Assessor Collectors' prevue of responsibility broader than simply administering the property tax accounts. Since Tax Collector is the primary interface - I instigated a verbal complaint on the State Auto License renewal procedure (2- step) as inefficiency and overly complicated. I was called back by Ms. Johnson – she understood and would raise the issue to the responsible entities - waiting for a legislative response. I also raise the issue of the TCISD requiring that the previous LMISD taxpayers are now required to submit a separate payment. Ms. Johnson understood and I am waiting for either action or response. It is indicative of the good efficiency of Johnson’s administration that my payment made and mailed to her cleared my bank within 7 days of mailing on 1-31-2020. That efficiency on payment processing is compared to the inefficient payment processing by the TCISD which has yet to clear my bank ( it has been 24 days and counting).

Cheryl Johnson is an asset to the county and deserves re-election.

Gary Scoggin

David... I agree. Since Ms. Johnson has run the show I have had nothing but good service from tax office employees.

Ron Binkley

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It's just an issue of poor taste at it's finest. Do we really want somebody with such absence of moral character like Jackie Peden in any governmental position? This is a perfect time for Jackie Peden to stick her tail between her legs an bale out of the race!

Don Schlessinger


Kimberley Jones Yancy

This is a very racist ad and the fact that Peden and her team didn’t realize that is sad. What are they doing and saying behind closed doors if you are bold enough to distribute ads like this?

Donald Glywasky

This is the same type of smear campaign used on Lonnie Cox. This type of nonsense is a total embarassment for the Republican party

Carol Dean

Donald, so, do you think the same people who worked for "king Henry" during his last run, could possibly be the same ones working behind the scenes for peden?

Kimberley Jones Yancy

Carol, word on the street is that "King Henry's Men" are the culprits behind this horrible ad. So very sad. Someone needs to go!

Joshua Moore

Polliticans like Johnson are exactly why we need term limits. Must be nice to draw a 120K salary while only showing up to work 3 days a week. What does she do that benefits us? She doesn't train her employees well. They are off limits to move to other departments in the county. There are other things that I could go on about that I've heard over the years from someone who works for her. I'm voting to get rid of her.

Carlos Ponce

Does she show up only 3 days a week? Do you have any PROOF of that? Repeating things you heard is called HEARSAY. Now back it or back off.

Joshua Moore

There really is no way to prove she works three days a week because she doesn't have to clock in to a time clock. She is not held accountable for her time there, like all county officials. It's my opinion that if you serve the public, as in you are an elected official, you should be held accountable for the money you make by having to clock in those hours. But that's another argument for another day.

As for her working three days a week, majority of the time she comes into her office at about 9:30 am monday through wednesday, and leaves at about 3 pm. Thursday and friday she's working in our "north county", other-speak to mean she's at home. And of course she would deny those claims to save face but in all honesty it works in her favor because there's really no way to prove it. She does not go to the different branches daily or weekly, only during those peak property tax payment days of december 31st and january 31st.

I will say this: she sits in her ivory tower, a tyrant. I worked for her for years and could not take it any longer. And many of my most current and former colleagues would back me up on all of these claims.

Don Johnson

Salaries of elected officials are public information and the salary of commissioners are $125,000 - not the other countywide officials. I know for a fact she works 50-60 hours a week and her employees are very well trained. Consider who you are listing to - some who left couldn't do the work, did not like being accountable, and wanted a typical government job (instead of one as demanding as the Tax Office). Other departments love getting Tax Office employees because they know what it means to be accountable - show up for work, follow policies and procedures and treat customers right. Tax Office employees really WORK!

Carol Dean

If your friend who has worked in the Tax Office is so dissatisfied, why hasn't she "moved on"? The information that you have posted is totally baseless. BTW, Johnson has to spread herself between HOW MANY satellite sites within the county?!?

Gerhard Meinecke


I would hate to see my taxes in the hands of a liar who is trying to trick us.

Cheryl Johnson did NOT manipulate her appraisal. Her home at 810 Myrtlewood is appraised at about a third of the mentioned $ 799,000 home on 804 Myrtlewood and the $ 750,000 home at 904 Myrtlewood because their value by size and amenities combined ARE triple that of hers. Look it up: http://www.galvestoncad.org/ > Property Search > Advanced > Street Name ‘Myrtlewood’ > Search > Select the adress > Details > Improvement / Building.

Cheap distortion trick!

And Ms. Johnson’s attempt to clean the voters roll was exactly for what she is accused of not doing. If people don't maintain their registrations up to date, notices to them end up in the wrong places. And this issue is a Texas State matter anyway.

Second cheap trick

And Illegal = Tattoos = Illegal??? All you County Citizen who have a tattoo, show Ms. Johnson's opponent on March 03 what you think of that!

Third cheap trick.

But most importantly: Do you want a Tax Assessor who can't keep His commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness" ???

Charles Douglas

This is one thread, I feel very unqualified to post about, for I know very little about Ms Johnson or Ms Peden. My "DOUGIE" senses is screaming at me that something must be up though, when you see a CARLOS PONCE & MR.HARDEE, locked in agreement with a MR. MEINECKE! We don't see that often on this forum! However, as a responsible voter, I will continue to weigh and seek the truth. Proverbs 19:5 says, "A False Witness shall not go UNPUNISHED, ..And He who speaketh LIES shall not ESCAPE!"

David Hardee

Mr. Douglas - Unfortunately finding the "truth" in the current political atmosphere is near impossible. The only recourse is to ignore the candidate's speech, the lawyers twisting opinion, the pseudo journalist reporting, and editorial endorsements. If you have first-hand experience trust yourself. If you are without personal experience the evaluation of the BIO with particular attention to the family, private sector work experience and age serve as reliable insights. We need to shun those that have a BIO demonstrating their selfish self-interest. Our leaders should have proven they have a stake (progeny)in the future of society and humanity. If they have successfully parented children into young adults it is a very reliable indication of good character. There must be a reasonable conviction that qualifies your vote. Meer respiration is not a qualifier.

Carol Dean

So, why don't you and Mr. Douglas watch the I-45 interview between the candidates. Poor peden is just "pitifull". "You just can't fix stupid"! Also recent questions if the peden business has even been keeping up with their business license. It's pretty evident that j. peden is NOT a CPA as they have been portraying in their adds.

Charles Douglas


Gary Scoggin

“ Peden said she believes the picture is an accurate representation of what undocumented people in Galveston County look like, and she thought it was possible that the man in the photograph was now, in fact, a Galveston County resident.

“He could be; I don’t know. I don’t have those facts,” Peden said.”

This silly statement alone disqualifies her.

Kimberley Jones Yancy

I agree. Totally unacceptable!

Carlos Ponce

Galveston County Tax Office Performance Award


Gary Miller

The Peden tactics look more like socialist or progressive norms. Texas doesn't require candidates to be what they claim. A socialist Democrat can file to run as a Republican and I think that is what Peden is doing. Her actions look like a stealth attempt to get control of our county tax system.

Dalton Logan


Carol Dean

Bailey, I didn't realize that you had a medical license to practice Psychiatry. You have NO way of knowing how we "think".

Bailey Jones

That's true, Carol. I don't know how you think, or even care. But political public relations firms do know and do care. They've spent over a hundred years studying how people think, and they've honed their techniques in thousands of national, state and local elections, and are paid $millions for their psychiatric expertise.

And if you aren't aware of their techniques you're likely to fall for them.

Carol Dean

LOL! I am probably a lot more worldier then you even have a clue. I also have a brother who was a Psychiatrist. Since you feel it necessary to "advise" me...A little secret...For every study, there is an Equal and Opposite study.

Yolanda Waters loves to throw her Phd. out there in front of everyone. I don't know if it is true or not, I've been told she got her Degree from an online school.

Also I did NOT vote for her re-election. She is one of the most biggoted and racist people I have ever met. We have NO room in the GOP for people like her!

Bailey Jones

Please ask your brother for his analysis of the psychological techniques employed in the ad in question - I'd be interested to know what he thinks about it.

Gerhard Meinecke

Seeing how far the pendulum has swung from too political correct to blatant lying and insulting there may need to be a campaign regulation as to what can be said about an election opponent, that allows a statement proven to be libelous to a commission that can apply a sanction, including disqualification, to the candidate endorsing it.

How about a bi-partisan citizen movement "Truth in Politics". Could all who are trying so hard to do good, to do the right thing, but differ so much as what is right, get past the anger at the 'Other' and work together to reintroduce some ethics into our public life?

I agree with a comment to another related articles that our tax dollars should not go to anyone who is expected to give us his all but rather only "...shows up to work for 3 days a week." I have asked the County Judge and the Commissioners the same question. What I have a hard time understanding is how the person making this comment, apparently expecting ethics, can be willing to let his/her tax dollars go to someone who so blatantly distorts facts.

Ethics are integral, cannot be compartmentalized. A moral compass should always point to TRUTH.

Talking about that little matter, truth, is it true that Ms. Johnson works three days only, considering that it is not only office presence that would count as work.

As to the tax reductions the challenger promises:

a) Taxes and required/expected service are a zero equation. And with badly needed flood control etc. I don’t like to pay taxes anymore than anyone, but that equation may fail if taxes are set too low.

b) There is an independent appraisal process that is guided not only by Ms. Johnson.

c) Wonder whose taxes would get reduced by her. Seeing her contributors may let ‘Follow the money’ reveal that. it’s her lapses in truthfulness that brings that thought to mind.

Carol Dean

It is obvious that peden has no moral compass in regards to telling the truth.

james gillespie

"Peden says she believes the picture is an accurate representation of what undocumented people in Galveston County look like ,and she thought it was possible that the man in the photograph was now ,in fact, a Galveston County resident?

Carol Dean

Stop right there! peden's staunchest supporters will say that John Wayne simply put his "spin" on what jackie said. I, like others, haven't seen any of them demanding a retraction. Problem is, they know that jacie's 4 campaign "Talking points" have been nothing more then documented lies.

Feel free to watch any of the recorded debates. There are also the times that jackie has been a "no show" and did not send a speaker. The time she sent her daughter to speak at the Mid-County Republican meeting was just "sad". She gave her daughter NO, ZERO, NADA talking points. The poor woman just could not do anything except giggle and use they word "awesome" almost everytime she paused to take a breath. I truly felt sorry for her.

james gillespie

WOW ...never in my life have i seen a guy that looks like this standing in line to vote.What is wrong with Peden? Does she really think anyone is going to believe her nonsense?

Reggie Barnett

I got this ad, and could not believe Peden stooped to this. I don't know either person, but have had no problems with the tax office ever, before Johnson or since. This did make up my mind.

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