By Blake Neff - 03/31/14 06:00 AM EDT
Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) has vowed that nobody will “out-conservative” him, and he shows no signs of letting up now that he’s made it to Washington.
He still proudly trumpets being named the most conservative Texas state representative by the Texas Conservative Coalition in 2009. In January, he drew attention (and raised eyebrows) when he attacked President Obama on Twitter as a “socialistic dictator” and “Kommandant-in-Chef.”
Weber’s approach sets him apart from his famously idiosyncratic predecessor, Ron Paul (R). Paul held the 14th District for some 16 years, using the safe district as the base from which he pushed a distinctly libertarian strain of Republican politics that often bucked broader party trends.
While Weber is quick to point out that he is not in lockstep with Republican leadership, he has the political priorities one would anticipate from someone who presents himself as a representative of the party’s rightmost flank.
“Smaller government, a balanced budget, lower taxes, less government intrusion into our lives … [and] leaving everything we can to the states,” Weber offered when asked about his beliefs. He is a hawk on defense, and on the divisive issue of government surveillance he leans toward empowering the National Security Agency.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is … there’s 100,000 cyberattacks on this government institution every month,” he told The Hill.
Weber’s office is adorned with Bible verses, prayer placards and other markers of a proud faith in evangelical Christianity, a faith Weber credits with turning his life around.
As a young man, Weber was by his own admission an indifferent student going nowhere in life.
“I spent the first two years at Alvin Junior College pretty much drinking and playing spades,” Weber said, adding that in his first term he failed four courses.
Weber’s life was transformed, he said, on his 20th birthday, when he saw a group of Christians in church and had a conversion experience after realizing “they had something I didn’t have, and I wanted it.”
From that point on, Weber was close to a straight-A student, and he completed both his Alvin degree as well as a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He married and in 1981 founded his own heating and air conditioning company.
In the early years of his business career, Weber identified as conservative but was otherwise uninvolved in politics. When asked what prompted his change of heart, Weber pointed to a bust of Ronald Reagan he keeps in his office. He was inspired, he said, by the release of American hostages from Iran shortly after Reagan’s inauguration.
“Try as he might, Jimmy Carter could not get those hostages out of Tehran. The day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, they released those hostages, because they knew he would not jack around with them,” Weber said. “I told my wife Brenda, ‘When he runs for reelection, I’m gonna work for him.’ ”
Weber stuck to his promise, and quickly became deeply enmeshed in the local Republican Party. “I became precinct chair, election clerk, election judge … I wasn’t just a Republican name, I was a worker,” he said.
Weber’s first political office was serving on the Pearland City Council from 1990-1996, but for years it seemed that would be the high-water mark of his political ambitions. In 1996, he ran for County Commissioner of Brazoria County, and lost.
Undeterred, in 1998 he made an effort to become a county drainage district commissioner, but lost by 58 votes. A 2006 run for Texas state representative resulted in a primary defeat, his third loss in 10 years. He was discouraged and figured he had made his last run.
However, the person who beat him in 2006, Mike O’Day, decided to step aside after a single term, opening up the seat once again. The local Republican Party lobbied Weber to run.
“I thought, ‘Holy cow! In 10 years I’ve lost three races, and I spent $70,000 on this last race, and you want me to run again?’ ” Weber said. He only grudgingly agreed to run when the state party consented to handle his fundraising. This time, however, he won, and quickly entrenched himself on the right wing of the Texas House.
When Paul announced his retirement, Weber vanquished eight other Republicans in the primary battle, boosted by the endorsements of both Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).
For 59 years Weber never lived more than 15 miles away from his childhood home in Pearland. Adapting to the constant travel and fast-paced life of Washington has proven a challenge.
“My thought process has to be more focused,” he said. “I have to be really focused on my timing and on my priorities, and how I spend my time and my energy, and even my thought.”
In Congress, Weber’s favorite causes are familiar red meat for conservative activists. He fervently wants the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would terminate in his district, to be approved, and he aggressively touts the need to rein in federal spending.
While many Congressmen have bemoaned the increasing partisan division of Congress, Weber is far more willing to embrace the new order.
“We’ve got $17 trillion in debt, so the way it’s been rocking along for the last however many years … has not been working,” he said. “It is time for some stark comparisons … we can’t keep going down the path we are.”
Weber similarly defends the debt-ceiling clashes that have riven the Capitol repeatedly since Republicans captured the House in 2010, likening them to desperate measures to save a failing marriage.
“Maybe it’s like a marriage where one spouse says ‘We’re headed for divorce, if you will, and I’ve got to make a stark statement; I’ve got to get my spouse’s attention.’ ”
Already 60 years old, Weber said he wants to be able to retire and does not want to spend more than a decade in Congress.
“Would I want to be here when I’m 80 or 90? No … I want to spend time with my bride of 37 years, my kids and grandkids,” he said.