Randy Neugebauer’s Replacement Roundup: Finding the 19th’s Next Rep

Note: The following thoughts about TX CD-19 were written in August. Thoughts on further developments will be coming.

U.S. REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER’S PEOPLE are said to be making rounds recruiting a replacement in Lubbock. Randy’s Replacement Roundup—in the biggest small town in Texas.

Simultaneously over the past two weeks, Lubbock GOP leaders have made rounds recruiting a replacement as well. Meetings of this sort haven’t happened before, and certainly couldn’t happen without the congressman’s knowledge.

State Senator Charles Perry, I’m told, has participated in such leadership meetings, and has informed others he’s uninterested in pursuing the congressional seat. Which is surprising because Perry’s senate district overlaps much of the 19th Congressional District—a district Perry won in a special over five challengers without a runoff. What’s more, Perry foes and supporters alike would rather him be jousting federal windmills in D.C. rather than the floor of the Texas Senate.

Perhaps there’s a pending 2016 Texas shakeup whereby Perry could find a statewide office opening—or, perhaps, Perry is perfectly content in his present position. Any way about it, if Perry sticks with an uninterested position, his reluctance will be notable.

But back to the roundups.

What’s prompting Neugebauer, 65, is unclear— whether the decision is based on health concerns, re-election concerns, far-fetched preparations for an appointment in the next potential administration, or a six-term congressman who’s ready for retirement.

If it’s health concerns, he’s in my prayers—and all political stripes, political friends or foes, should personally support the decision and the man.

But whatever the basis, whether it be soon or a few months from now, despite his office’s denials, private conversations in Lubbock– conversations that have been going on for some time in many different rooms– suggest one thing: Neugebauer’s out.

This sets up a conversation frustrated West Texans are glad to have. An abridged explanation of this frustration follows.

THE 19th DISTRICT HAS HAD FOUR REPRESENTATIVES in its 80-year history. Each of Neugebauer’s predecessors—George Mahon (1935-1979), Kent Hance, and Larry Combest—made significant contributions to the agriculture, education, and medical sectors on which the region is situated, a region forged on hard land by tough people.

Within West Texan DNA is a prudence-based conservatism. A prudence that makes shrewd and cautious decisions in order to protect and enhance ultimate West Texan concern: the posterity of the region and its economic sectors.

But each sector (fortunately, with the exceptions of the Texas Tech and Dyess Air Force Base regional grails) has declined over Neugebauer’s tenure. Each marking the “Not Better Off Now Than 12 Years Ago” column. Especially cotton, which has a $3-5 billion annual impact within the region surrounding Neugebauer’s Lubbock.

Neugebauerian conservatism has proven deficient in prudence. And it has fostered a two-part frustration— one philosophical, the other political.

Philosophically frustrated in that during sector declines of the last decade—while Brazil was raising Cain at the World Trade Organization putting forward a cotton case that would shape a presently cussed 2014 Farm Bill, while a once I-27 corridor Ports-to-Plains pet project fell by the wayside—Neugebauer was ascending ranks, in congressional subcommittees. On Finance. Addressing K Street concerns on Capitol Hill while the district and the nation’s interests slid.

An Introduction to Neugebauerian Conservative Philosophy has been an expensive tuition for prudent West Texans—more expensive the more rural the constituent is.

A political frustration is implicit in the oft stated “you just can’t beat Randy, no matter who you are.” A pessimism that respects how, despite his deficient representation in comparison to his predecessors, enormous Neugebauer wealth prohibited any able candidate from mounting a serious campaign (in a congressional district where an incumbent has never been defeated, and was never primaried until 2012 and 2014). Certainly this wealth was a significant factor when a very popular Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson backed down from a primary challenge early this year (a potential run first reported on West Texas Drive).

A concomitant of his wealth’s stronghold on the district was Neugebauer’s unique political knack to whip the vote of an enormous bloc of social conservatives (i.e., a majority of Republican primary voters) over the duration of the liberal Barack Obama administration. As key as personal capital is to explaining the anomaly of the 19th District’s fourth representative, personal capital was subsidized by a political capital earned by jousting with (but rarely defeating) Obama. That Neugebauer’s apparent departure comes at the conclusion of the Obama administration (a politically necessary foe) isn’t surprising in this respect.

BUT FOR NOW THE ROUNDUPS RESUME. If Neugebauerian conservatism blows out of Lubbock, and the wind is presently stirring, the prudent 19th moves forward to elect its fifth representative— with frustrations in mind, guided by tough philosophical and political lessons learned from the last time around.

My hunch: The fifth representative will look much more like the first three than the fourth.


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