She is barely a blip in the polls, and the odds of her securing the Republican nomination for Texas governor are viewed as vanishingly small.
But Lisa Fritsch, a conservative activist, author and former radio show host, suddenly has bragging rights among second-tier candidates trying to make a respectable showing against the overwhelming primary favorite, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
In a recent poll, Fritsch came out ahead — just barely — of the former Texas Republican Party chairman, Tom Pauken, once an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry on the Texas Workforce Commission. She was also the top Republican vote-getter in a Tea Party straw poll in Austin last weekend, although Kathie Glass, a Libertarian, won the poll, with 48 percent. Fritsch was second at 27 percent, and Pauken had 21 percent.
Abbott, a no-show at the New Revolution Now Tea Party forum, had 4 percent.
Fritsch, 38, who said she had faced long odds all her life, took inspiration from Texas history to size up the battle ahead.
“What if Davy Crockett had said, ‘How could we compete with the Mexican Army at the Alamo?’” she said. “Should they have given up? Absolutely not.”
Fritsch, who is black, said she could bring more women and minorities to the Republican cause at a time when Texas — the only reliably Republican state where whites do not make up a majority of the population — is facing its first open race for governor since 1990.
In a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, was within single digits of Abbott among registered voters. In the same poll, Abbott was crushing Fritsch 50 percent to 3 percent, with 42 percent undecided, in the Republican contest. But Fritsch argues she would be a better match against Davis who, like the senator, was raised by a single mother.
“The Democrats have a woman; they have their single mother; they automatically have Latinos and the black vote,” she said. “We need an inclusive candidate.”
A Tyler native and seventh-generation Texan, Fritsch said she unwittingly became a Republican in the second grade. After asking her mother why they did not sign up for federal welfare benefits so she would not have to work so hard, Fritsch said her mother abruptly pulled her car over to the side of the road.
“She looked me in the eye and said, ‘I would rather us both starve than for me to put you on a path where you didn’t have dignity and you would feel like a victim,’” Fritsch said. “At that moment, I was transformed.”
At the University of Texas at Austin, Fritsch said, she “tried to be a liberal” but kept returning to her conservative roots. She joined the college Republicans in the mid-1990s and, in more recent years, became active in the Tea Party cause. She was recently host of a radio talk show on KLBJ in Austin.
In her 2012 book, Obama, Tea Parties and God, Fritsch writes of the “painful moment” when she had to vote against “a beautiful black man” for president in 2008.
“Obama took tens of millions of delusional lovers with him and left us all in a doleful haze of what could have been,” she wrote.
Dean Wright, the Austin Tea Party activist who organized the recent straw poll, said Fritsch was popular among Tea Party activists, though he described her as a bit naïve and not thoroughly informed about property taxes and gun issues at the forum.
“She’s pretty well-spoken and a pretty dynamic person. There’s potential there,” Wright said. “It’s still a real long shot.”