Debra Medina finished third in this year's Republican primary for governor behind incumbent Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. But the former Wharton County GOP chair spooked the two veterans with a populist campaign that in some ways paralleled the Tea Party movement, whose key element, here and elsewhere, is a deep antipathy toward incumbents of either party. Months later, she's still hoping some of her ideas will catch traction in the remaining weeks of the election season. And while she hasn't decided whether she'll seek office again, she told the Tribune last week that she's working with lawmakers to pass laws that "protect life, liberty and property."
Medina was interviewed by phone; audio and an edited transcript follow.
TT: Do you plan to vote for Gov. Perry in November?
Medina: I doubt it. That's a tough place for me to be. I've certainly been a longtime Republican and a staunch supporter of those political ideals. But I think I made it pretty clear during the primary and before that I just don't see the policies that are being supported by the governor [as] those that are going to protect life, liberty and property. [There is a] proverbial political voice in the wilderness [that] I hear saying, "Whoa to us, look where we're on the wrong path."
TT: Are you going to vote for [Democratic nominee] Bill White?
Medina: Oh, no.
Audio: Debra Medina
TT: So will you vote for the Libertarian [Katherine Glass]? Skip the race? What do you plan to do?
Medina: I haven't decided that yet. I've got to look at the Libertarians a little bit closer. I think that some folks are making some pretty good arguments for undervoting [voting in some races and not others] and not voting at all. And yet, you know, the political establishment would say, "Oh, God, no, you can't do that." But I think we'd better start doing that. We'd better start saying, "You are not getting my vote. You're not listening to me. Do you hear what I'm saying? I'm not voting."
TT: If you don't vote, do people hear what you're saying?
Medina: I don't think they do. I think that most rank-and-file citizens are still of the mind that they've got to hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. And I was one of those folks for a long, long time. But I'm kind of moving on past that and saying, "You know, we've been doing that." In fact, I had a conversation with a state rep just recently who was advocating that very thing, and I said, "You know, we've been doing that for 20 years, and you know where it's got us? It's got Texas [to] No. 31 on the list of states that are the most economically free." So if you want my vote, I'd love to be able to give it to you, but you're going to have to protect life, liberty and property. I'll be at the poll, and I will vote, but I'm gonna skip a few races.
TT: Do you see the ideas of the Tea Party and candidacies like yours in any of the general election campaigns?
Medina: I think you see some candidates around who are espousing those sorts of ideals. The thing that's more disturbing to me, coming through the last year and a half or two years of the political cycle, is [that] you have this increased passion around the country about public policy ideas. People are very unhappy with the direction of government. I think that's probably a pretty accurate assessment. Unfortunately, I'm not sure as a society that we fully understand what government ought to be doing and what it ought not to be doing. By and large we're unhappy, but we're still supporting the people and ideas — or the people — who have enacted the ideas that got us where we are. You talked on your TribCast about the Joe Drivers of the world who are found to be in very compromising positions and yet are likely to win re-election. Those two things ought to be inconsistent.
TT: Tell me what you think is going on in the GOP, both in the state and in the country.
Medina: There is this grand philosophic idea that we really want candidates who will be principled, who will be straightforward and honest, who will take a position and stick to it. And yet when you find those candidates, immediately people start to nip away at their heels about this, that or the other little thing. It's unfortunate the Republicans have not been more sincere about their stated ideas. You know, they say, "We want these kind of candidates," and yet when they get them, they tend to be some of the first to attack or to back away. The thing that's been the most disturbing to me recently is the defense of the indefensible, or the failure to come out and objectively say, "That behavior is inexcusable, and it's unfortunate that one of our elected officials conducted themselves in such way. We expect better than that." And yet the party, and leaders within the Republican Party, want to do that as well. Quick to point out the splinter in the eye of the Democrats, slow to acknowledge the log in our own eye, and I think the public sees that.
TT: What do you think about the political dialogue right now?
Medina: We're absolutely not focused on the right stuff. The right stuff ought to be, "What's the role of government? Isn't it to protect life, liberty and property? And how do we best do that? And why is that important, anyway?" Instead, we get off on these rabbit trails. All the Republicans know that the politically correct thing to do is to be anti-9/11 Truth and to be anti-mosque on the site of the World Trade Center. We're looking at candidates for how presentable they are on a 30-second sound bite, and not looking at what their philosophical core is, and whether they understand the role of government.
TT: What do you do with something like the mosque? How do you think that ought to be handled?
Medina: You get to the heart of the matter politically. What is the issue here? It fundamentally ought not be a religious issue. It ought to be a property issue. I'm an advocate of private property rights. That means you get to do with your property what you want to do with your property as long as you don't violate the rights of your neighbors. And that's true whether I'm a Christian building a cathedral or a Muslim building a mosque. Is [the mosque project near Ground Zero] ill advised? I would say: Absolutely. Is it neighborly? Absolutely not. If I owned the property and were a devout Muslim, would I want to put the mosque there? No, I think I would want to be a little more sensitive to my neighbors. But do I have the right to do it, if I have clear ownership? Yeah, ultimately I do.
TT: What would you have done differently [in the governor's race]?
Medina: Certainly you've got to go back to that Feb. 11 interview with Glenn Beck. Probably the Debra-Medina-in-her-living-room reaction there should have been, "Bullshit." You know, I already threw that card. I had already said BS on what some of the governor was saying, and I should've said the same thing to Glenn. That had nothing to do with this race, and I should've called his hand on that and moved on. You saw the momentum of the campaign hit a ceiling at that point. I did the best I could with what we had, and that's what I committed to from the very beginning of that race. But, yeah, you have to look back to that one interview and think, "Man, what — darn it." You know?
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.