The campaign of Debra Medina for the Republican nomination for governor may put a kink in the presumption that the GOP isn't all that kind to people with Hispanic surnames.
Medina, of Wharton, has now gotten herself included in the second televised debate with the two major candidates: nine-year Gov. Rick Perry, trying for 14 years, and his challenger for the nomination, 16-year U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Medina had managed to get herself included in a Jan. 14 TV debate put on by Texas public television stations and also shown on some commercial stations, and C-SPAN.
But a debate sponsored by the Belo Corporation, which owns WFAA-TV in Dallas, a handful of other Texas TV stations, and the Dallas News, was to have excluded Medina on grounds she didn't meet the criteria necessary to participate in the debate.
After a company honcho put that in the newspaper and on the internet, a significant number of readers in their on-line responses went ballistic.
Several said in no uncertain terms that if Medina indeed were excluded, they were going to come down there and whup your you-know-what.
So Belo did an about-face, saying that a more recent poll had shown Medina in double digits, and so she met the threshold of earning a lectern at the debate.
A Jan. 17 Rasmussen Poll of 831 likely Republican primary voters gave Medina 12 percent to Perry's 43, Hutchison's 33 and Undecided's 11 percent.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent. (Some other pollsters sneer at Rasmussen's method of using automated telephone calls.)
The chances of Medina getting into a runoff against either of the two longtime Republican heavies is considered unlikely. But she could draw enough to throw Perry and Hutchison into a runoff on April 13.
The presumption that Hispanics have an uphill battle in Republican primaries is because most Hispanics tend to vote strongly Democratic.
While there are definitely some devout Hispanic Republicans, in heavily Hispanic areas most local races are decided in the Democratic primary.
With rare exceptions, the general election in those areas is generally regarded as a foregone Democratic conclusion.
So there's a greater incentive by the local politicians to get people out to vote in the Democratic primary — which conversely means there are fewer Hispanics available to vote in the Republican primary.
At least, that's the conventional political wisdom about why candidates with Hispanic surnames have tougher sledding in Republican primaries, not to mention the party's stance on immigration.
But Medina doesn't fit the traditional Hispanic surname model.
First, she's not Hispanic — just her surname. She was born Debra Parker 47 years ago, in the South Texas town of Orangedale. Medina is the name the rancher and businesswoman adopted when she married rancher Noe Medina more than a quarter century ago.
Second, she is a constituent and devotee of and worker for libertarian-oriented Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Clute. She agrees with Paul that the government ought to defend our shores and deliver our mail, and was probably relieved that the government outsourced mail delivery, and has competition from the likes of UPS and Fed-Ex.
After Medina had called on Paul's extensive e-mail network to help put on pressure to get on the first debate, the general take was that she did better than expected - partly because no one knew what to expect. And she tripled the 4 percent she got in a November Rasmussen Poll.
Medina's past GOP activities included engineering a renegade takeover in 2004 to become chairman of the Wharton County Republican Party, and making an unsuccessful attempt in 2008 to capture the Republican Party of Texas chairmanship from incumbent Tina Benkiser. Benkiser has since left to join Perry's campaign.
Some other Hispanics on the ballots that could be of interest, and about whom we'll prognosticate later:
On the GOP side, Railroad Commission member Victor Carrillo is opposed by David Porter of Giddings.
On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Hector Uribe is running for land commissioner, opposed by Bill Burton of Athens. Uribe represented Brownsville while in the Senate, but hails from Austin since he lost the Democratic nomination in 1990 to Eddie Lucio.
And former labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson of San Antonio is seeking the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination against former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and Austin restaurateur Marc Katz.