Democrats See Boost From Lubbock Judge’s ‘Civil War’ Remark
Even better, the local Republicans have been reluctant to throw Head under the bus. As one prominent Repub told me, “He’s saying what a lot of people here believe, but don’t have the guts to say in public.”
AUSTIN — West Texas Democrats don’t consider Lubbock County Judge Tom Head’s recent comments God’s gift to their party, but they’re something close to that.
Since Head, a Republican, remarked that the county must be prepared for civil war if President Barack Obama is re-elected, some West Texas Democrats have said the ensuing controversy is boosting the party in the region, the reddest in the state.
Head has said his remarks were taken out of context, and he meant them as a worst-case scenario.
“Obviously it was embarrassing,” said Lubbock County Democratic Party Chairman Kenny Ketner. “But his comments have certainly helped our party because we have moderate Republicans scratching their heads wondering how people like Tom Head get elected.”
Equally important, the party has been getting contributions from even outside the state, Ketner said.
Ketner said he is confident that, starting with the 2014 election, his party will recruit strong candidates for all legislative races in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains.
Yet, Ketner is the first to acknowledge that a good number of West Texans might be skeptical that the Democratic Party can rebound in such a short time.
“I hear that all the time,” Ketner said when reminded that his most recent predecessors used to say the party would recruit strong Democratic candidates for legislative seats but — with few exceptions — couldn’t do it.
“But this time we’ll convince the skeptics because we’ll be able to recruit candidates who can win.”
Former Potter County Democratic Party Chairman Abel Bosquez, who is running against Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo — a rematch of 2010 — said Democrats’ long range future looks promising.
“The demographics are in our favor,” Bosquez said, alluding to the fact that in West Texas, as in the rest of the state, the Hispanic population is rapidly growing and most Hispanics vote Democrat.
Head’s comments were welcome news for West Texas Democrats because in the Texas Panhandle, as in the South Plains, more and more voters want a choice, not a referendum on Republicans, Bosquez said.
Currently, “the reason we can’t find candidates is because we can’t raise the money to run a viable campaign,” he said.
But if Head’s comments keep helping the party raise money, it’ll be a different story in 2014 and beyond, Ketner and Brink said.
“I think some people in Lubbock and everywhere in West Texas are fed up with people like Tom Head and they’ll be looking for an alternative,” Brink said. “We are the alternative and we’re going to prove it with strong candidates.”
Ketner said he and other Democrats already are working on identifying solid candidates and the place to start is in House District 84, which freshman Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock, represents.
“I think John Frullo is the weakest of all the legislators from our area,” Ketner said. “Although he hasn’t said or done anything controversial, he hasn’t passed any meaningful legislation.”
Frullo dismissed the criticism and stressed that he passed eight bills in last year’s session. He said he would welcome any Democratic opponent.
“On the last election I received 68 percent of the vote,” Frullo said, referring to his win two years ago over former Lubbock teacher Carol Morgan, a Democrat. Frullo also defeated former Texas Tech Regent Mark Griffin in that year’s Republican primary runoff, though by a smaller margin.
“I am taking one election at a time,” said Frullo, who is only facing one opponent this year, Green Party Candidate Leann Lamb-Vines.
Like Frullo, Price said he welcomes a Democratic opponent because a contested race makes him not only a better candidate but a better legislator.
“You connect with the voters and you hear the issues that are important to your constituents,” Price said.