AUSTIN, Texas — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry thinks the president stole the election.
No, he's not talking about President Donald Trump, Perry's new boss as the former governor leads the Energy Department. He's talking about Bobby Brooks, a kid from Belton, Texas, who just was elected student body president at Perry's alma mater Texas A&M University.
Brooks is the first openly gay student to be elected to that position, news that was hailed as a huge move forward for the college when it first broke. But Perry, in a Houston Chronicle op-ed posted Wednesday, said he believes the election was stolen from student Robert McIntosh.
"Brooks' presidency is being treated as a victory for 'diversity,' " Perry wrote. "It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for 'diversity' is the real reason the election outcome was overturned."
McIntosh, a senior, is the son of Dallas-based Republican fundraiser Alison McIntosh, who worked on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign and Mitt Romney's 2012 run. Perry, twice a presidential hopeful himself, is featured in photographs with McIntosh's other children on Facebook.
According to A&M's student newspaper, the Battalion, McIntosh received more votes than Brooks (approximately 5,000 to 4,200) but was disqualified, first after accusations of voter intimidation surfaced, and then, after he failed to provide financial documentation for glow sticks he used in a campaign video. McIntosh appealed to a student court, which dismissed charges of voter fraud but upheld those of incomplete financial disclosure, awarding the election to Brooks this week.
Perry questioned this outcome, saying McIntosh and Brooks were held to different standards. Each used "visual props" in their campaign videos, wrote Perry, but just McIntosh was disqualified after "a series of dirty campaign tactics" from Brooks' supporters.
"Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks?" Perry asked in his op-ed. "We all know that the administration, the SGA and student body would not have permitted such a thing to happen. The outcome would have been different if the victim was different."
Energy Department Spokesman Bob Haus said Perry "did this is in his personal capacity and DOE has no official comment on this op-ed."
A 1972 Texas A&M graduate with a degree in animal sciences, Perry was twice elected yell leader, a coveted role akin to a male cheerleader. He was Texas' longest-serving governor from 2000 until 2015, then moved to a home he built in rural Round Top, Texas, near his alma mater's campus in College Station.
Perry took an active role in A&M policy as governor, pushing the school to implement a plan devised by a conservative Texas think tank seeking greater scrutiny on faculty productivity that university officials charged put ideology ahead of academics. University System Chancellor John Sharp was once Perry's roommate.
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Reached for comment late Thursday, an A&M official said the school was caught off guard by Perry's op-ed, which they received just before it went live online.
"He's always been a great proponent for Texas A&M. I'm surprised that he's weighing in. I'm surprised he would have the time to do that," said A&M communications officer Amy B. Smith. "There's rules here. Somebody lost and somebody won, and that's always tough, but it was just a surprise to see this.
"But we respectfully disagree with Secretary Perry."
Smith rejected Perry's implications that Brooks was treated differently because of "political correctness," adding the op-ed reflected a lack of understanding about how student elections work at A&M. McIntosh's second disqualification was upheld unanimously by the student court, Smith said, but she hopes he remains a campus leader regardless of the outcome.
"The candidates who ran for the student body president — they're leaders. And the person who got disqualified is still a valuable part of our campus," Smith said, adding, "All I know is that the judicial court ruled that Bobby Brooks is the winner."
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, blasted Perry's accusations via Twitter saying, "Some advice for @SecretaryPerry: Kids like Bobby Brooks are the future, and should be encouraged, not harassed."
Brooks takes office next month but has declined to comment since the publication of Perry's op-ed. He posted on Facebook after being declared election winner: "To those of you who spoke poorly about me based upon my sexual orientation or personal religion (and talk gets around, my friends), I forgive you. I really do."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.