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02-20-2010, 11:00 AM

Republican of the People
Can Debra Medina's grassroots rebellion dethrone Texas' Republican royalty?

by Bob Moser Published on: Thursday, February 18, 2010


photographs by Brandon Thibodeaux

On a Saturday afternoon in Burleson, even the hottest politician in Texas has trouble scoring a table at Babe’s, a popular fried-chicken joint.

Her name is called after 15 minutes huddled around an industrial heater against the frosty, early-February breeze. Then there’s a snag. “Is your whole party here yet?” the young hostess asks sternly. “We can’t seat you until all four are here.”

“Then it’s a party of three,” Debra Medina says, flashing a grin at husband Noe and the reporter—me—who’s been chasing her around North Texas. “Good Lord,” she says, hustling us through the door while peeking at the time on her BlackBerry, “let’s get inside while we can.”

A member of Medina’s skeletal staff, the fourth in the party, is mired in Metroplex traffic. As usual, it’s up to Medina to keep things on track. She’s used to it. The first-time candidate has been running a shoestring campaign for a year now—fueled by little more than a wing, a prayer and a radical libertarian platform. She’s running against two of America’s most powerful and well-funded Republicans, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. As late as December, her grassroots insurgency looked predictably hopeless, with Medina sittting at 4 percent in polls of likely GOP voters. But commanding performances in January’s two televised Republican debates have vaulted her into contention, confounding every political expert in Texas. A few days after lunch at Babe’s, a new poll would show Medina just four points behind Hutchison for second place and an April runoff with front-running Perry.

It’s been a dizzying, meteoric rise for this trained nurse and small-business owner from Wharton County. Asked earlier in the day what her last week had been like, she’d flashed a smile and said, “I don’t know where I’ve been, literally. We’re getting invitations from all over the state.” Then she tackled a Dallas forum in her trademark style: strident, folksy and bookish, all bundled together into an oddly compelling package. “This is, really, a war. I think we use the word ‘campaign’ a lot without realizing that that’s a military term. But that’s where we are in this race, trying to prosecute this war in a way that’s going to result in victory on March 2. I am going where the fires are hottest and talking to people and recognizing that this really isn’t about me. We are where we are today because there are a bunch of Debra Medinas across the state who’ve had enough, and they’re engaging in the battle.”

Medina had $68,000 cash on hand on Feb. 1, compared with her opponents’ war chests of more than $10 million apiece. She drew donations in January from some 1,400 Texans—more than three times the number of folks who gave money to “Kay and Rick,” as she likes to call them. “I absolutely believe that we’ll make the runoff,” she says. “This race is going to be won with shoe leather and elbow grease.”

The right-wing fairy tale that is Medina’s campaign began in late 2008. While her only elected office had been chair of the Wharton County GOP, Medina had attracted attention from hardcore conservatives around the state with a guerilla run at the state party chairmanship in 2008, which ended in a lawsuit and a restraining order against her by party leaders. She also helped run Ron Paul’s Texas campaign in 2008 and chaired the state chapter of his Campaign for Liberty in the aftermath. In that capacity, she starred at an “End the Fed” rally in Houston in late 2008. There she hollered eloquently through a bullhorn, organizing the troops behind Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve—a move that, she said, would be the logical first step toward abolishing the “illegal” federal bureaucracy.

Soon afterward, dissident Republicans and libertarians began pressing her to run. She was skeptical, but says that her daughter Janise, a 24-year-old interior designer in Houston, talked her into playing David to the two Goliaths of Texas Republicanism. “She said, Mom, you’ve been talking about these things for 20 years,” Medina recalls. “Why not step up and fight the good fight?”

continued... (http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/republican-of-the-people)

02-20-2010, 11:43 AM
that article was very well written.
it seemed very objective and complimentary.

how big is the texas observer? it looks like its a cover story.

02-20-2010, 01:06 PM
Splendid article. And that picture, alone, is worth a thousand words.