Opinion

Opinion

Democrats face tough foe: college title game

Posted January 5, 2018 2:42 p.m. EST

AUSTIN, Texas -- For much of Right-Thinking America (defined as those who accept college football as a deity), attention on Monday night will be firmly fixed on Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the hated University of Alabama Crimson Tide, led by the hated Nick Saban, will take on the beloved University of Georgia Bulldogs for the college gridiron national championship. So that's where much of the nation's focus will be. Except maybe for Texas Democrats, bless their somebody-get-them-a-calendar hearts.

Their attention might be trained on 1 Love St. in San Angelo. That's where the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts is located. One of the current exhibits is called, "I Once Was Here: Ghosts and Memories."

The unkind among you might think that's an appropriate exhibit for Texas Democrats. But that's not the reason their attention will be on the art museum.

The real reason is the museum is the venue for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate forum, starting at 7 p.m. and hosted by the Tom Green County Democratic Party, in which eight of the 10 contenders are expected to participate. This is always subject to change.

If all comes off as scheduled, the forum will be the first face-to-face meeting of former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the candidate favored by the party machinery, and Andrew White of Houston, son of late Gov. Mark White and a political rookie banking on convincing Dems he's the more moderate candidate with more of a chance of beating GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November.

Either would be a long shot of significant proportions against Abbott.

Be that as it most assuredly is, the Monday night forum should be interesting to the extent that it sets a baseline for the tone and tenor of the Valdez-White faceoff. I'm guessing things will be fairly cordial Monday night in this early round. Or not. One can only hope for some fireworks, including those of us so twisted as to give up watching the football game to make the drive to an art museum about 200 miles northwest of Austin.

Valdez is cranking up her campaign with a kickoff event Sunday in Dallas. The Valdez campaign on Thursday was pleased about a recent Los Angeles Times profile of her.

"Over lunch at Norma's Cafe in Dallas, Texas, with the LA Times's Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Lupe talked about her life of service, core values and campaign to fight for everyday Texans," the campaign said in a statement.

White has been upbeat on Twitter about the reception he's been getting.

"Watching the year end contributions come in and if I could do a cartwheel, I would!" he tweeted on Dec. 30.

On Thursday, I checked with White to see if he'll be in San Angelo for the Monday forum or somewhere else watching the football game.

"San Angelo!" he responded via Twitter. "But I just realized that this is during the national championship. Oh man. Painful."

A football-loving nation feels your pain, sir.

Across the aisle, Texas Republicans seem eager to push a message of fiscal desperation and underdog status in a state in which they haven't lost a statewide race since 1994.

"Unlike the Democrats, who can consistently rely on the mainstream media and Hollywood to espouse their misguided beliefs and create their false narratives, Republicans have to be creative and work harder to reach as many voters as possible with our message," the party said in a fund-raising letter.

And there was this dire GOP warning involving marauding invaders from the left: "Tens of thousands of liberals are moving here from states where their socialist experiments failed, and they are working hard to enact those same socialist policies in our state."

Perhaps we need to build a wall and make New Mexico (and Arkansas and Oklahoma and Louisiana) pay for it.

FYI, the Tom Green County Democratic Party plans to livestream the Monday night forum on its Facebook page, according to Kristin Hanggi, the county party's friendly and helpful communications director who told me she's from Minnesota, is more of a hockey fan and was unaware that the event is at the same time as The Big Football Game.

One other FYI note if you plan to make the drive to San Angelo to watch the forum up close and personal: The locals tend to pronounce it S'nangelo.

OK, one more FYI and another reason it might be worth the trip: After 88 years of serving the community, San Angelo's Sears is closing on Jan. 14.

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. Email: kherman(at)statesman.com.

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