Texas Democrats are scrambling to can stop a controversial pro-impeachment, anti-ObamaCare candidate from advancing in their party’s Senate primary.
Winning the general election is long shot for any nominee. But with Democrats optimistic about a resurgence in the Lone Star State and their chances in the governor’s race, Lyndon LaRouche acolyte Kesha Rogers could damage those hopes if she even advances to a runoff on Tuesday.
Such a scenario once seemed like a long shot, but a University of Texas-Texas Tribune Internet-based survey late last month showed the controversial candidate outpolling two better-funded and well-endorsed opponents, dentist David Alameel and attorney Maxey Scherr.
The poll of the five-way Democratic race didn’t have any candidate topping the 50 percent threshold to avoid a May runoff. But Rogers was leading Alameel for the right to likely face Sen. John Cornyn (R), by a 35 percent to 27 percent margin. Scherr was third with 15 percent.
A follower of LaRouche’s, Rogers shares many of the Democratic activist’s fringe positions such as impeaching President Obama, repealing ObamaCare and “crushing Wall Street.” She also advocates the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act to limit securities trading, and has a detailed plan for space exploration and harnessing thermonuclear fusion energy. In the past, she’s drawn Hitler mustaches on Obama posters and likened ObamaCare to practices of Nazi doctors.
Alameel has loaned his campaign $3.5 million so far and has been endorsed by state Sen. Wendy Davis, the party’s rising star and likely nominee for governor, and is the best funded candidate in the race. Scherr has raised just under $300,000 but has picked up endorsements from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and former Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas).
Rogers’s controversial views and surprising surge have spurred state Democrats to quickly distance themselves from her.
Appearing Monday on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) blamed her apparent rise on residual name identification the two-time congressional nominee has. She’s raised only $27,000 for her unlikely bid.
“The party is working very hard to make sure she’s not the nominee,” said Frost, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.
The Texas Democratic Party has been sending out anti-Rogers material and information to Democratic infrastructure and counties all over the state, Texas Democratic Party spokesman Manny Garcia said.
“With the possibility of a low information election, you always want to make sure folks have some information to make their decision,” Garcia said.
Alameel’s campaign dismissed the Tribune poll and its controversial methodology, saying their own surveys show a different scenario.
“That poll was, to put it bluntly, nonsense,” Alameel campaign spokeswoman Suzie Dundas said. “Our internal results are showing us doing very well.”
But other statewide observers warned that, with most of the focus in the state on the governor’s race and the GOP Senate primary, this Democratic fight has largely flown under the radar. And that makes any Tuesday outcome hard to predict.
“I suspect that nobody who answered this poll has any idea who any of these candidates are,” said Paul Stekler, professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “All the serious analysis is going towards gubernatorial election. Basically Democrats are giving Republicans a complete pass on the Senate election.”
Scherr told The Hill she didn’t give too much credence to the numbers.
“[Rogers] is a threat to Democrats and humanity all across the states and country,” said Scherr. “She is absolutely the wrong message for this country. It’s a concern that she’s even in this race to begin with.”
Rogers’s campaign manager Ian Overton defended the LaRouche candidate, arguing voters have been positively responsive to her ideas.
“The Texas Democratic party 30 years ago was directly in line with what Kesha stands for,” Overton said. “We think the Democratic Party has been hijacked by Wall Street interests. Kesha is trying to bring it back to what it believed in.”
Still, the low-interest race remains unpredictable. If Rogers does advance to a runoff, expect Democrats to go all out to stop her there, afraid she could roil their chances in other contests.
But their fears could still be eased on Tuesday. With light turnout expected, Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics and Government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin, says it will be knowledgeable voters heading to the polls who will likely know about Rogers’s controversial views.
“Unless you have a hotly contested primary race, the Democrats who go to polls are going to be well-motivated and well-informed,” Greenberg predicted. “I don’t think this one poll means she is going to win. It just means people have not been paying attention.”
--This post was updated at 7:17 p.m. to reflect updated campaign finance numbers.