“I have a lot of respect for Dr. Campbell’s integrity and truthfulness. I have not found one time when Dr. Campbell said something about me that’s not true.” ~ State Senator Jeff Wentworth, Austin American Statesman, May 2012
I showed up rather late to the Texas Senate District 25 race, having just moved to the area this Spring. Initially, I donated a nominal amount to Elizabeth Ames Jones, based on her campaign literature, and at the advice of my realtor who was a personal friend of hers. At the time, I wasn’t even registered to vote in Texas yet.
After the primary results showed Jones coming in last place, I put more effort into learning about the two candidates that would face in the run-off. I met both at the Kendall County Republican Women’s Club luncheon in June, where I found Wentworth to be rather stiff and Campbell anything but. Campbell bounced from table to table with energy and enthusiasm, squeezing my hand tightly when introducing herself and looking me right in the eye. When I told her I had helped start a tea party group back in Virginia, she abruptly stopped squeezing my hand – and gave me a hug.
In contrast, Senator Wentworth sat at the front table, and let people come to him. As I was leaving, I went to Wentworth’s table and introduced myself as a new resident in his District. His tepid response bordered on disinterest. Usually you’d expect a question or two from a candidate, even if their eyes dart around looking for more “important” folks, — but, I registered pretty much nothing.
I saw Campbell later at the Boerne Tea Party meeting, where she sat in the crowd like a normal person. I’ve seen how politicians operate. Lots of times they stand around, surrounded by staffers as if they’re something special. Not Donna Campbell. I was impressed by that, as well as the positions taken per campaign literature, and based on my meeting with Wentworth, too, it motivated me to donate $100 bucks to her campaign.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meet the candidates night at Kronkosky Place in Boerne, arriving early. Not knowing a soul, I was uncomfortable doing the pre-dinner gossip circuit, so I found an empty table, sitting by myself for 5 minutes, until a group of three joined me. Turned out they were Wentworth’s staffers. We engaged in easy conversation; his staffers were all very young, attractive and sociable. I asked one of them, who sat next to me, why she chose to commit so much of her time to work for Wentworth.
“Because he listens to his constituents, and then gets things done,” was her earnest response. I recognized that as Wentworth’s campaign slogan, it’s on his yard signs. And it is a good thing, no doubt, listening to the voters and getting them results out of Austin. A clear, simple message that shows an understanding of what people want to hear: Dude — You work, For me.
Wentworth spoke at the meeting that night, Campbell was at another meeting. Passion is a good thing, he said at one point, but experience is better. (Wentworth’s experience: Seven terms as State Senator. Campbell is an Emergency Room physician.)
“What did you think?” asked the Wentworth staffer, after he spoke.
“I thought it was pretty good. I like that he co-authored the Photo Voter ID bill,” I told her. True that. And then I admitted that I had given a small amount of money to Campbell, and that I hadn’t heard anything fron Wentworth that would cause me to change my support. Isn’t Passion a sign that you think your job is important, and that you are giving it everything you’ve got?
At that point, the staffter threw up the question about Campbell’s residency, the supposed “fact” that Campbell was renting a home in the district just to run for State Senate. And all that.
Gosh and wow, I said. “How much does a State Senator make in Texas?” I asked the group.
“$7,200 a year,” I learned.
OK. Let’s get real. Donna Campbell is a physician. She obviously isn’t running because $7,200 a year is going to change her lifestyle. She’s running for a bigger purpose, because she has seen firsthand how “experience” in government is often a metaphor for crony-capitalism and good old boy, politics as usual. That kind of governance does not equal good governance.
Maybe it’s because I just moved to San Antonio, but the Carpetbagger trump card that Wentworth is desperate to play — it’s as phony an issue as his claims about Campbell’s supposedly “phony” residency. (He also tried to play that card against Ames Jones, it is one of his favorites, I guess.) If voters are looking for representation, and Campbell is engaging, warm, enthusiastic, smart, accomplished, and shares their views, isn’t that what matters? Consider this: if a guy has served 7 terms as a state senator, earning $7,200 a year, who do you think really has his ear by now – and do they live in his District?
Then this came out:
State Sen. Jeff Wentworth personally apologized to his GOP re-election opponent, Dr. Donna Campbell, for releasing opposition research regarding her husband that she called trashy, tawdry, sleazy and out of bounds.
Wentworth called disclosure of a 1985 DWI conviction before their marriage a “regrettable incident” in the July 31 runoff campaign.
Wentworth’s hit piece referred to a 25 year old incident relating to Campbell’s husband, 15 years before they were married, which has got to make the record books for the most desperate campaign hit in modern times. In fact it is so “out of bounds” – not to mention irrelevant – that it should disqualify Wentworth completely in voters’ minds. Is Wentworth the kind of person they can trust, or just another sleazy politician using the power of incumbency to keep his seat?
Seriously — what kind of person puts together a 29 page “dossier” about their political opponent in a state senate race?
Campbell handled Wenworth’s flailing in a classy way, showing an understanding that voters are sick of the political gamesmanship:
She said she didn’t do any “personal” opposition research on Wentworth and wouldn’t have known what to do with any damaging information.
“This race is about issues,” she said. “It’s not about Mr. Wentworth’s closet or anybody else’s,” she said.
It comes down to this. Donna Campbell is an accomplished physician who has seen first hand the failure of our government to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants in our hospitals, and gaming of the Medicaid system. She is a hard worker, proven by her willingness to hit the road on the campaign trail after a full shift in the emergency room. She relates to the grassroots, and they relate to her.
She is honest. Even Wentworth praises her for that.
And she’s not a big jerk.
I’m thinking that when Wentworth loses his Senate seat, he can add a new career doing private investigative work for people who are getting married. He will dig up all the dirty dirt you need to know about your betrothed. Once he’s told you about it, if it is completely irrelevant, you won’t have to pay for it. But you’ll still know it, of course.