Picture this race: Candidate A, a retired military veteran, is a political newcomer that has obtained enough support to win their party’s nomination, ousting from office the party’s current incumbent representing the district. Advocating for violence and promoting xenophobic views among supporters, Candidate A has received large praise and support from highly-visible, well known radical members from within the party. Candidate A has a complicated past, and has resorted to lies when addressing these problems. Candidate B, a local business person, is also a political newcomer. Using a logical approach to issues important to the district, Candidate B has received the endorsement and support from numerous key organizations and groups. Candidate B is focused on ensuring the needs of the district and its people are met first, which has enabled them to garnish support from voters of both parties. District voters will decide which candidate will represent them next month. A current poll shows the district race a statistical tie.
Common sense would tell us Candidate B should win the race. They seem to be the most qualified, and perhaps even more importantly for a candidate running for public office, the most stable. But this is Texas, and Candidate B is a Democrat running in a red district that has not elected a Democratic official in decades. Candidate A is a Republican candidate and Tea Party extremist with a complicated past, and a tendency to promote violence and xenophobia in his campaign speeches. Common sense has now a 20-year history of failing in our state, so this race remains competitive. Even when it shouldn’t.
The HD 94 race in west Arlington perfectly embodies the current political climate and struggles in Texas. The race has come down to a fight between Tea Party ideals and Democratic ideals, much like everywhere across the state.
Tony Tinderholt, Tea Party extremist running as a Republican candidate, managed to win the party’s nomination over the current incumbent using heavy Tea Party support. Tinderholt is replacing moderate Republican Rep. Diane Patrick, an official many would agree showed credibility as a member and integrity in representing her district. The previous member Diane Patrick defeated and replaced, Kent Grusendorf, was also a credible member. Both Patrick and Grusendorf built their reputation around their knowledge of public education.
It seems no longer is it just Democrats who are fighting an uphill battle to win races in Texas, but now so are moderate, centrist-leaning Republicans ousted from office by Tea Party radicals.
Tinderholt, who has no experience in public education, health care, transportation, management of natural resources, tax laws, or public policy in general, successfully managed to outsmart Rep. Diane Patrick using typical Tea Party talking points. His campaign priorities include militarizing our border, gun rights, passing more strict anti-abortion laws, and preventing federal mandates on medicaid expansion. Tinderholt has essentially mirrored his campaign on Tea Party talking points used by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and state Sen. Dan Patrick — both strong supporters of Tinderholt.
What are Tinderholt’s plans for public education, transportation, agriculture, and creating sustainable water resources — in other words, issues that directly impact House District 94 and its people? That remains to be seen. Tinderholt, however, has had a lot of disturbing things to say about our border, including: “People are gonna die … It’s the only thing that’s gonna stop this infiltration of our country.” He also has a plan to invade Mexico.
The problems with Tinderholt don’t just stop with his campaigns speeches. His personal and financial history are also troubling considering that, yes, this guy is an actual candidate running for public office. Tinderholt’s history includes “four wives and five marriages, exposing children to drug-abusing day care providers, allowing a minor to drink and drive and lying about his employment status and history.” The thought that a candidate like him can get this close to our state’s legislative body is alarming, to say the least.
Businessman Cole Ballweg shines a stark contrast to Tinderholt. Just like Democrats across the state, Ballweg is the underdog of this race fighting on behalf of HD 94, Texans, and reason.
Ballweg is a successful businessman from south Arlington. Much like Rep. Diane Patrick, Ballweg is seen as a credible candidate, with the ability to work across party lines. Ballweg has received important endorsements from groups that previously backed Diane Patrick, including the United Educators Association, Texas State Teachers Association, and American Federation of Teachers.
Ballweg has also received the endorsement from the The Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND, organization that commonly supports Republicans:
“Cole grew up in the same farmhouse where his grandfather was born,” said Kenneth Dierschke, president of Texas Farm Bureau and AGFUND. “He understands and appreciates the importance of farmers and all those who work hard to provide the food on our tables.”
For over twenty years, Texas Republicans have taken for granted minority voters, women voters, young voters, and every other group of voters not part of their immediate voting base. It seems now, too, Republicans are taking for granted their more moderate, centrist-leaning members, abandoning them in favor of their more radical party members.
Yet, alienating even more voters is not exactly a winning strategy for Republicans, not for the future, and not with Texas’ ever-changing demographics. Texas is on a clear path towards becoming blue again. Because if it’s not demographics that flips Texas, it will be the destructive path Republicans have chosen to follow, energizing both Democrats and moderates against them. All across the state Texans are fighting to make sure common sense becomes a Texas value once again.
Follow Omar on Twitter at @AraizaTX.