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Exchange Over ‘Purity’ of Vote Puts Texas G.O.P. Firebrand in Spotlight

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Ms. Perales questioned Mr. Cain’s professed unfamiliarity with the toxic racial history of the “purity of the ballot box” phrase. She noted that at least two prominent civil rights organizations had submitted written testimony to Mr. Cain’s committee condemning the phrase.

(In testimony emailed to the committee in late March, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the phrase “has deep ties to calls by white legislators in the state to ensure the ‘purity of the Anglo-Saxon race’ by, among other tactics, disenfranchising Black Texans.”

But Ms. Beckley said she too was unaware of the roots of the language. The day after the House debate, she recalled, Mr. Cain came to her desk and asked, “Did you know about this?”

“I’m not going to lie,” she said in an interview, “I did not know that history.”

In 2019, Mr. Cain revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome during a speech on the House floor during Autism Awareness Month. He also injected a humorous note: “I suspect many of you are thinking to yourself, so that explains it. And yes, your assumptions are correct — that’s why I’m highly intelligent.”

He lives with his wife and five children in Deer Park, where he grew up, and serves as a captain in the Texas State Guard.

Mr. Cain’s four-year tenure in the Legislature has been somewhat of a roller coaster, at least by outside observations. As a freshmen legislator in 2017, Mr. Cain was put at the top of Texas Monthly’s “worst legislators” list, which called him “uninformed and belligerent.”

The article cited an instance when Mr. Cain debated a member of his own party, Representative John Zerwas, who is a doctor, over funding a state council that promotes palliative care. Mr. Cain repeatedly referred to the practice as a “death panel,” though when pressed by Mr. Zerwas, he was unable to further explain the practice. Eventually he conceded, “I recognize that you know about this and my apologies.”

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