I’m sure you’re aware, this time of year is…just a couple of months before the primary election. That’s why this past Saturday, a week and a half before Christmas, a crowded roomful of people met at our local tea party meeting to hear from candidates.
In addition to local candidates, we heard from two more candidates for Texas governor: Republican Lisa Fritsch and Libertarian Kathie Glass. A few months ago we heard from Tom Pauken, a long-time grassroots Republican activist. I’m not sure what the full slate of candidates will be. We may not get a personal visit from Greg Abbott in this statewide race, although I’m still leaning his direction. But I enjoy hearing the conservative message—the only message that is viable among the interested grassroots conservatives of Texas. It’s kind of like Texas barbecue—everyone’s entitled to their own favorite flavor of sauce, but it’s still the long-time roasted meat that people line up for.
However the vote goes down eventually, it’s worth noting a few things we heard from the candidates.
Lisa Fritsch had an interesting story. I’m including her photo, because, if you listen to the media, people like her don’t exist—and certainly wouldn’t show up at a tea party meeting. Yet we find that stereotypes don’t match reality. She fits in with us just fine. Her mother taught her some basic ideas that have stuck, and they're our ideas too.
|Lisa Fritsch, GOP candidate for TX Governor|
at Cypress Texas Tea Party
Fritsch says she became a Republican in second grade, although she didn’t know it for a while. She grew up with a hardworking single mom in a low income area—in “a sea of Democrats.” But they never went on public assistance. Her mother said she would rather starve. At one point the young Lisa suggested her mother could give up her third job, which was paying for tap lessons she was willing to give up, but her mother refused.
In high school (if I’m getting the details right), she did less than stellar work in a class, and gave the complaint going around that the particular teacher graded blacks lower. Her mother called around, found another smart girl in the neighborhood in that class, and learned from her mother that the girl had gotten a 95% on the same test. And she told Lisa that being black would never be a good excuse for not succeeding.
In college at University of Texas, she tried to think of herself as a liberal, getting in arguments with her conservative roommate. The trouble was, sometimes her roommate’s line of reasoning seemed to make sense. So she got this idea that, if she could get a clearer idea of the opposition’s reasoning, she’d better be able to refute it. So she found the campus meetings for the Young Republicans, and sneaked in the back to listen, “as well as a six-foot-tall black woman can sneak in the back.” And the more she heard, the more it made sense. She has been an active Republican for the past fifteen years. She has been a radio show host, a writer and commentator. She occasionally appears on Fox News. Her opinions can be found on YouTube speeches and her candidate website Lisa4Texas.com.
When asked about her ideas for Texas, her priorities were to secure the border before reforming immigration. She probably didn’t win over a lot of people even talking about the next step—finding a path to citizenship, especially for those here as no fault of their own (children of illegal immigrants). She wants to eliminate the underground economy, get them to pay taxes, play by the rules, stop them from getting benefits. All of this she insisted was completely separate from dealing with the drug and human trafficking elements of illegals, which should be shut down. It’s a difficult conversation to have, because both sides make negative assumptions about what the other side really means.
Kathie Glass is about opposite in looks—a short, blond, middle-aged woman. She’s fiery, with a down home Texas accent. She’s about taking back power to the state—power that’s there in the US Constitution and should never be ceded just because of unwillingness to stand firm. Sometimes with a bully all you have to do is say no. Sometimes you have to get more aggressive, but you don’t know that if you don’t even try to say no.
|Kathie Glass, Libertarian candidate for TX Governor|
at Cypress Texas Tea Party
She used the scary “N” word: nullification. The last candidate I brought that up with said he thought that was a settled issue back in the 1800s. I disagree. Kathie Glass doesn’t think it was settled either. And, while she’s not afraid to use the word, she actually refers to things we’re already doing. The states (including Texas) that refused to set up health care exchanges just because the federal government told them to—that is nullification. Whenever and wherever the federal government oversteps its constitutional limits, just say no. Don’t put all your eggs in the basket of the courts, risking that they might not agree with you; better to just act according to the way you read state vs. federal rights without asking permission.
Glass also talked about the border. She proposes using the Texas Guard on the border, which is already part of the state budget. I asked her, since protecting international borders is actually one of the few appropriate roles of the federal government, but they’re not doing it, what do we do about the money they’re taking and not using for that purpose when we have to spend it ourselves. She said to just consider sunk costs sunk. Referring to money already spent, in practicality I agree; we won’t get that money back. I’m looking for a pre-tax mechanism to divert federal tax money from ever getting to Washington, if we have to use it to protect our own border, or for any other misuse of Texas money. I thought that was something a libertarian might take on, but she didn’t go there.
Glass talked about public education being corrupt. We might not be able to fix it by tweaking it here and there; we might have to knock down the whole thing and start from scratch. I cheer along with that. But it would take more time from her to hear practical steps to accomplish something that drastic without depriving students of options during a year—or a few years—of total disarray. But in the meantime, we at least need to get everything locally controlled.
Both candidates subtly (maybe not so subtly) jabbed Attorney General Greg Abbott for fighting the federal government through lawsuit after lawsuit. While I agree that there are plenty of ways to stand up against the federal government, when your job is to advise the state on legal issues and represent the state in courts, you don’t say, “No, let’s not bother with the judiciary.” Abbott has been doing his job, and doing it well. Abbott describes his job as, “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.” It makes me smile.
|Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott|
photo from Wikipedia
They also jabbed him as a “career politician,” which I didn’t think was fair. Abbott was a private practice attorney from 1984-1992. He then served as a trial judge in Houston for three years before being appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by then-Governor George W. Bush. Judges are appointed in Texas only to fill openings, and then they are elected. But it’s not typical to refer to a judge as a career politician. He became Texas Attorney General in 2002—only the second Republican since Reconstruction to have that position—when John Cornyn went on to the Senate.
Abbott is probably best known for successfully arguing the case for displaying the Ten Commandments on the State Capitol grounds. The main argument in that case, as I recall, was about the culturally historic (rather than religious) tradition of the Ten Commandments monument, showing that the display did not “establish” a religion, nor a specific religious preference. It was an argument that worked, even though I personally didn’t believe it was the right argument—which is that we the people have a right to display whatever we want, religious or otherwise, on our own state property, without any interference from the federal government—so get out of our faces and leave us alone! Nevertheless, Abbott knew the practical argument that would win the day in the particular court where he was arguing. I don’t know of another time I’ve disagreed with him.
I’ve heard him speak a number of times—first time at the state GOP convention in 2004. He’s one of my favorites. From what I’ve seen, he’s a man of exceptional integrity. I want to hear more from him as a candidate for governor, but knocking him as a “career politician” because he’s the most prominent law advocate for Texas looks to me like there’s nothing else to knock him with.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate other candidates stepping up and giving it a good try, and taking the opportunity to spread the conservative message in the meantime. Let’s all keep doing that.