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By Sarah Foster
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
February 17, 2010

Last week a major public opinion research firm based in North Carolina posed the heretofore unthinkable question: “Could the Republican primary for governor in Texas end up in a runoff between Rick Perry … and Debra Medina?”

This was astonishing. Debra Medina, a 47-year-old registered nurse who owns a medical consulting and billing service, is a political neophyte with less than a million dollars for a war chest, who has dared challenge Gov. Rick Perry the longest-serving governor in the state’s history (two terms, going for an unprecedented third), and three-term U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican gubernatorial primary on March 2.

“Think about it,” Medina’s campaign staff declared in a media release. “A nurse, mom and small-business owner from little ole Wharton, Texas, taking up a political battle against a senior Senator and sitting Governor with all of their millions of dollars. A David up against two Goliaths – and we remember how that story turned out, right?”

The grassroots activist and former GOP county chair, is a fast-rising star in the tea party movement, the 10th Amendment movement, and similar efforts aimed at limiting the scope of the federal government and restoring state and personal sovereignty. Conservative/libertarian, strongly pro-life (she opposes not only abortion but euthanasia and the Texas “futile care law”), a property rights advocate who seeks to eliminate the property tax, solid on gun rights – Medina is repeatedly described as a “real deal” conservative.

She and her husband Noe Medina have been married 28 years; their two children whom they home schooled are now grown.

Until recently Medina was regarded by establishment Republicans as a “fringe” candidate who at worst could pull conservative votes from Perry, forcing a runoff between him and Hutchison.

Medina Surges in Polls

Overnight everything changed. On Feb. 9, Public Policy Polling released a survey indicating that among Republican primary voters not only does Perry not have the 50 percent or more votes needed to avoid a runoff in April, but the runoff might not be between him and Hutchison.

The telephone survey of 423 Republicans likely to vote in the primary, conducted Feb. 4 – 7, showed Medina having the support of 24 percent of those polled, just four percentage points behind Hutchison. The poll also showed major splits within the race along ideological lines, with Medina particularly strong among those “angry with Washington.” While Hutchison scored points with “moderate” Republicans, among conservatives Medina outpolled Hutchison 25-23 percent.

Medina is “riding the wave of discontent with the political establishment,” and leads the race 37-32 [percent] over Perry, with the third of the primary voters who disapprove of Washington politicians.


“The big question for Debra Medina is whether there’re enough unhappy voters out there for her to get into a runoff with Rick Perry,” said PPP president Dean Debnam. “That would rank up there with the results of the Massachusetts Senate election as an early shocker in the 2010 political season.”

That was bad news for the two major candidates, particularly for Perry since the governor has courted the Tea Partiers and tried to convince them he’s one of them – despite (for starters) his being the lead proponent of the Trans-Texas Corridor, his mandating vaccination of sixth-grade girls for HPV, his appointment of industry lobbyists to his staff and other positions in government. The bottom line: both Perry and Hutchison are widely perceived as “country-club Republicans” and members of the corporate elite.

As Medina put it: “Together they’re a pair of economic tricksters intent on destroying our freedoms and selling Texas to the highest bidder. We deserve better. We need a governor who understands the proper role of government – to protect our God-given rights and freedoms.”

The PPP poll showed Perry holding a double digit advantage at 39 percent, but both he and Hutchison had slipped in their percentages as Medina surged 20 points in just one month – if you take into account three earlier polls by the national political newsletter Rasmussen Reports. The first, conducted in November, showed Medina at a mere 4 percent support among Texas Republicans.

The second poll, released Jan. 18, gave Perry 43 percent, Hutchison 33 percent and Medina 12 – a gain of 8 percentage points. The third, released Feb. 2, showed Perry with 44 percent, Hutchison with 29 and Medina with 16 percent.

Medina’s rise in the polls owes much to her performance in two televised debates in which she bested both Perry and Hutchison and established herself as a contender to be reckoned with. For months she had been speaking at rallies and tea parties and similar venues, but while she was able to develop a huge base of support at the grassroots level, she remained a voice in the wilderness. And the power elite were anxious to keep it that way.

Neither Perry nor Hutchison wanted to share the limelight with Medina; and both KERA, a public TV channel that sponsored the first debate, and Belo Corp., the commercial network that sponsored the second, agreed and initially refused to allow Medina to participate. It took a concerted effort by Medina’s campaign staff and grassroots supporters to get her over that hurdle and onto the stage.

“KERA didn’t send us an invitation until Jan. 5, and we worked tirelessly for that,” Freeman told NewsWithViews. “Our supporters were hammering them, calling their sponsors, vowing never to give to PBS ever again.” KERA ignored them.

In early January Freeman learned that KERA was a non-profit with 501-c-3 status, and the game changed. “We wrote and told them ‘we are filing with the IRS tomorrow. Our attorneys will be writing you a letter. We are going to take this to every court there is.’ The invitation arrived the next day.”


The first debate on Jan. 12 allowed Medina to shine as a debater, boosting her from 4 to 12 percent -- enough to secure her a place in the Jan. 29 Belo debate, where she went to 16 percent. A few days later, the PPP poll placed her at 24 percent.

“Fastest Way Back to 4 Percent”

Two days after the release of the PPP survey, Medina was interviewed by Glenn Beck on his radio show. Responding to what seemed routine questioning she gave some background information, focusing on the issues facing Texas – like private property ownership and gun control: “They are as essential to freedom as air and water are to life.”

Suddenly, Beck told her he’d received a number of e-mails saying she was a “9/11 truther” – someone who believes the official version of the attack on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon is incomplete, with many questions still unanswered.

Medina said it was the first time she’d heard that “accusation,” which she characterized as “an interesting one.”

Pressed for an answer she didn’t say no, but she certainly didn’t say yes.

“I have not been out publicly questioning that. I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard,” she stated. “There are some very good arguments, and I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there. So I've not taken a position on that.”

Beck said the American people “could take that as a yes.”

In answer to another question, she said she didn’t know if any 9-11 Truthers were on her staff, and she wouldn’t “disavow” (Beck’s term) anyone for their opinion on that topic.

Said Medina: “Well, you know, that's a federal issue. We're very focused on issues in Texas, on Texas state government. I'm certainly not into mind control or thought policing people. … We've got a very diverse team in this state and that's because Texans are standing shoulder to shoulder to support and defend the Constitution. I frankly don't have time, you know, to go through and do psychological testing on people and know every thought or detail that they have.”

After a brief thank you, Beck quickly shut off further discussion.

Beck, who as a talk-show host doesn’t endorse candidates, did just that, with a jab at Hutchison as well. Here’s the exchange between him and producer Pat Gray:

GLENN: I think I can write her off the list. Let me take another look at Kay Bailey Hutchison if I have to. Rick, I think you and I could French kiss right now.
PAT: Let me tell you something. He's a damn handsome man.
GLENN: He's a damn handsome man.
PAT: Looks good in a pair of jeans.
PAT: He's a handsome man.
GLENN: Wow. The fastest way back to 4 percent.

Should People Question Government?

The Internet began buzzing immediately. Within minutes of the interview Perry’s campaign was robo-calling Republican voters and playing a recording of the supposedly incriminating interview, and both rival campaigns were releasing press releases condemning Medina for remarks she hadn’t even made.

Medina issued a statement saying she had no doubt that Muslim terrorists flew planes into those buildings on 9/11. “I have not seen any evidence nor have I ever believed that our government was involved or directed those individuals in any way.” However, she emphasized, the real issue is whether people have the right to question our government. From her statement:

“I think the fact that people are even asking questions on this level gets to the incredible distrust career politicians have fostered by so clearly taking their direction from special interests instead of the people, whether it's Rick Perry and his HPV mandate or Kay Hutchison and voting for the bank bailout. It is absolutely the right and duty of a free people to question their government. … I fully expect to be questioned and to be held accountable as Governor, and that's the underlying issue here: should people be questioning their government. And the answer is yes, they should be.”

The interview caused confusion and created a firestorm on the Internet among Beck’s admirers, many of whom had been urging him to have Medina on his show in order to promote her candidacy to a wider audience.

Paul Walter, one of the editors of NewsWithViews, expressed astonishment upon listening to the interview and said he is “extremely disappointed” that Beck conducted it as he did.

“Doesn’t he realize he’s actually helping Rick Perry and Kay Hutchison?” Walter exclaimed. “Both of them are establishment politicians and their values are the exact opposite of what Beck claims he promotes. I can’t imagine why he would do this to a candidate like Medina who supports the Constitution and ideals of limited government as he says he does. I just don’t get it.”

Beck apparently disagrees. The following day he told his audience that the most important question to ask anyone is whether they think “our government blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. … There’s no bigger question you can ask,” he said. It’s a “deal breaker” -- right up there with abortion, healthcare reform, and the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“We’re In This to Win”

Contacted for comment, Penny Freeman in an email told NWV there had been no list of questions, but Pat Gray, Beck’s producer, had sent a list of topics to be discussed and her beliefs about 9/11 wasn’t among them. She said it was too soon to judge the impact of the interview on the campaign, but Google hits for Medina “went through the roof, as did our donations and store sale.”

“I think Glen’s rudeness and comments about French kissing Perry made a lot of people really angry – angry enough to look into the campaign,” she said.

In a phone conversation earlier this month, Freeman outlined some shifts she’d noticed by the opposition in their campaign strategy.

“We know that there’s a pattern in campaigns,” she said. “First [the opposition] ignores you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you – and then you win. Right now we’re on the edge of laugh-at-you – like Debra was a Ron Paul or Tea Party person -- and the edge of attacking. They’re beginning to direct punches at us, but we’re in this to win.

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“And we’re fighters. We’re fighting with everything that we have. We’re telling people we’re going to win this on principle and honor because we believe as the Founders did that if you don’t stand up and fight you’re going to get whatever you deserve."

Earlier Articles

1 - Chuck Baldwin: A Warning to the Tea Party Nation. Feb. 12, 2009
2 - Sarah Foster: Texas Governor Vetoes "Take Away Your Child Act” June 24, 2009
3 - Sarah Foster: Coalition Asks Gov. Perry to Veto "Take Away Your Child Act” June 18, 2009
4 - Devvy Kidd: FLDS Raid and the NAFTA Super Highway. June 13, 2008
5 - Jim Kouri: Critics: Feds and Media Stoking Up Repeat of Waco. Apr. 12, 2008
6 - Devvy Kidd: Texas HPV Vaccination: Parents Can Opt Out. Feb. 8, 2007

Videos of Gubernatorial Debates

1 - The KERA Debate: Thursday, January 14
2 - The Belo Debate: Friday, January 29 (in four parts): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
3 - Clips of Debra Medina in KERA Debate

Sources / Articles

1 - Medina for Texas: Official Website
2 - Debra Medina For Texas: Unofficial Website
3 - Public Policy Polling: Medina Becoming a Factor in Texas. Feb. 9, 2010 (17 pages)
4 – Transcript: Glenn Beck - Debra Medina Interview. Feb. 11, 2010
5 - Debra Medina: I Will be a Governor for the People. Alex Jones Interview: Jan. 28, 2010 Discusses State Sovereignty, Gun Rights, Trans-Texas Corridor and more
6 - Joe Holley: Neophyte Medina May Not be Widely Known but she's Starting to be Heard. Houston Chronicle, Feb. 2, 2010 (Profile)
7 - Phillip Martin: The Debra Medina Show: How She Unveiled Rick Perry's Fake Tea Party Persona. Burnt Orange Report, Jan. 29, 2010
8 - Leslie Eaton: Old Guard Caught Off Guard. Wall Street Journal: Jan. 29, 2010

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Sarah Foster is a researcher and freelance writer:











Medina is “riding the wave of discontent with the political establishment,” and leads the race 37-32 [percent] over Perry, with the third of the primary voters who disapprove of Washington politicians.