Will TX House 19 race prove 'Tuffy' for Hamilton?

Texas House District 19: Deepest of Deep (South)East Texas.

Since I do research of some form or another in both my profession as a writer and in my part-time job as a federal government data geek, I sometimes would rather not dig deep into some topic to find something that might or might not be significant or insignificant. So I don’t know whether Texas Republican State Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton of Mauriceville is the first GOP member from Newton, Hardin and Orange counties to ever serve in the Texas House. There always is that period in history my irritated grandparents (or for you younger folks — great-, or great-great or you get the picture) called “Reconstruction.”

It is safe to say what now makes up Texas House District 19 had not been occupied for at least 50-some-odd years (since I am 50-some-or-perhaps-a-lot-odd) years by a Republican until Hamilton, who owns popular Mauriceville eatery “Tuffy’s,” was elected in 2003.

I grew up in District 19, or at least one of the counties. But I don’t live in that district now and haven’t since a brief stay in 1996. I really have no “dog in that hunt” as we rustic Southeast Texans say. I’ve talked to Hamilton a few times and he seems like a really nice guy. I also don’t know if Hamilton has done anything highly objectionable to me other than push for a law making certain prescription drugs harder to access which may eventually have some effect on my well being, or not. Nonetheless, the Texas Legislature has become a Republican institution and one that is seemingly more interested in partisan matters than helping the public. So, I am interested when a Democratic candidate comes along who might defeat the incumbent.

Attorney and former Vidor mayor Larry Hunter is expected to announce tomorrow he will seek the Democratic nomination for the District 19 House seat. And Vidor, is a name that sets off a number of bells for those friends of mine — black, white, brown, chartreuse, et. al. — who really are unfamiliar with this area.

The rather benign description of the town’s history in the “Handbook of Texas Online” pretty much obfuscates Vidor’s past as a hot bed of Ku Klux Klan activity. Hunter and other latter-day Vidorians have tried for years to sell Vidor as not being that redneck place. But it continues to happen because the town does have its rednecks. Most recently, CNN did a special devoted to racial relations and Vidor was a focus because of some remark made by some redneck chick in a local restaurant (Not Tuffy’s.)

A town hall meeting was held by CNN’s Paula Zahn, that took place in the larger and nearby city of Beaumont, which is just across the Neches River.

Vidor’s biggest problem is its image. It has been for many years. And it doesn’t help that it has a minority of truly ignorant, sometimes violent, redneck ass****s for residents. But just as black people pose the biggest threat to other people, so is it that dumb-s**t white rednecks pose the biggest danger for white people, not to mention their own well being.

What does this have to do with Larry Hunter? Not a thing. It’s doubtful that race, should both Hamilton and Hunter receive their respective party’s nomination, would be a major topic in their candidacy. Race is a topic I feel neither candidate would want to discuss should both seek the Texas House. It wouldn’t be bad for either to speak on the subject of race relations because Mauriceville and Vidor are only 10 or so miles apart from each other on Texas Hwy. 12 and if you believe your grandmother and football coach, the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. But either candidate will most likely not bring up any subject with the “r-word” unless some distraction surfaces forcing the candidates to do so.

Hamilton, like his longtime predecessor Democratic House water policy guru Ron Lewis, by and large, has followed the informal House rules and has been largely been seen and not heard in his early years in the Texas Lege. Hunter is just preparing to announce. So we don’t know if either will win their party’s nomination, much less be elected to the Texas House. But unlike the days of my youth when there was only the Democratic party in Texas, partisan government now reigns supreme in Texas and it is as rotten on the local and state levels as it is on the national scene.

If I still lived in either Newton or Hardin counties — two of the counties in District 19 and the two in which I have lived — I would take advantage of any opportunity given by the House candidates to ask them questions. And if you have the opportunity to ask, don’t be afraid to ask them hard questions, such as those on matters of race and rednecks. This is the 21st century. Such inquiries are okay. They might be unwelcome to those running for office, but one probably won’t have a cross burned in their yard anymore should one ask. That’s what I hope, at least.

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