Bud Kennedy

December 7, 2013

Behind Abbott, two Republican women make a point

From opposite factions, Fritsch and Martinez call for more GOP roles for women and minorities.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott are all but set for the Republican ticket.

But two Republican women remain in the gubernatorial race, not so much against Abbott as for a chance to be heard.

With the start of voting 10 weeks away, Lisa Fritsch of Austin and Miriam Martinez of Edinburg won’t raise money to overcome Abbott’s 20 years in office.

Yet they share a similar message: Republicans must change with Texas.

“Electing a governor has to be more than just passing a baton,” said Fritsch, 38, a Tyler native and now an Austin author and radio talk host.

“Somebody said we should elect [Abbott] governor because ‘It’s his turn.’ That snapped me awake. That’s not the way my state or my party should work. So I thought, what can I do to stop this?”

Martinez, 41, a Reynosa native and former Rio Grande Valley TV anchor who switched to the Republican Party in 2012 but lost a Texas House race, said she wants the party to welcome more women.

“I’m very proud of Lisa and I think we’re both important to the party,” she said.

Without naming Abbott, Martinez complained about “career politicians” and said the party’s success is at risk in a state where the “scenery is changing.”

Fritsch and Martinez complimented former candidate Tom Pauken. The Port Aransas Republican and former state party chairman withdrew Friday, explaining he saw “no realistic path to victory.”

Fritsch won a Tea Party straw poll over Pauken Nov. 10 in Austin after the only candidate forum of the campaign. Abbott declined the invitation.

“Tom made a lot of important points about the cronyism in Austin,” Fritsch said, noting the Friday indictment of a former executive of the state’s $300-milion-per-year cancer research fund. (Abbott used to be on that oversight committee but sent aides to the meetings.)

Martinez said she admired Pauken as a champion for South Texas.

“I was sorry to hear he dropped out,” she said.

“I think it’s better for the party to have more candidates, not just one. Voters get more involved when there’s a choice.”

Fritsch and Martinez come from different directions — Fritsch from Tea Party activism, Martinez from a Democratic past — but both say the party can’t stand pat.

“The whole problem with the Republicans nationally is that they’re unable to field candidates people get excited about,” Fritsch said.

“When we wonder why the party’s seen as not inclusive, or unable to reach beyond the base, that’s what it’s about. Republicans have to have candidates who can communicate about everyday life.”

Martinez said much the same, adding that the party needs more working mothers like her who are “closer to the people.”

Both want to start at the top.

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