Talking Texas At The Dairy Queen

What’s more Texan than going and talking shop at a Dairy Queen in rural Texas? With some pretty hot topics brewing for Texans during this midterm election and some out of state “scientific” polls showing victories for both sides, I decided to take a trip across Texans and learn what is really on their minds.

Mostly, the talk lingers to the race for United States Senate between Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz. It seems like everywhere you go somebody is talking about it and you see Beto bumper stickers sitting the highways and byways of the state.

Our first stop was in Refugio, an area devastated by Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago.

Photos of the Refugio high school football team for the walls of the Dairy Queen in Refugio. (Matt Briscoe)

Here in Refugio, people are still working towards a recovery and one they know first hand is that their little community was nearly forgotten in the shuffle.

Ray Gomez, a local truck driver says that the was more than lightly appalled at the federal and state response in his community.

“I remember that while everybody was getting taken care of, we were living out of the parking lot of the Catholic Church” Mr. Gomez says, pointing towards the location of the church. “We had Hell and it took longer for us to get help than anybody around.”

Mr. Gomez blames state and federal officials for the lack of help that came during the initial wave of the storm and he vows to do all that he can to send a message to Washington D.C., that places like Refugio won’t be forgotten. Gomez insists that his vote is firmly for O’Rourke and doubts that anything could change his mind. He is tired of the talk.

Alfred Miles, another Refugio resident says that he will likely cast his vote for Ted Cruz. “Yeah, it was Hell for sure. But how can we blame Cruz for that?”

The talk moves to education where both men agree that something had to be done and the state legislature is firmly to blame.
The sentiment is the same around the state.

Up the road in Floresville, the debate over education is wild and lively. After getting some comments on the Cruz/O’Rourke race, the conversation quickly turn to property tax reform and school funding.

“They always want to raise our taxes for the children but we see little return on the investment” says Tina Billings. “Our taxes go up and our kids still suffer.”

Poth resident Jimmy Dawson says he feels the same way. He feels like taxes are being raised every year and that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to protesting them. “They have all kinds of information on me to use against me and all I get is the option to go last.”

Dawson is one of the many who says that he is tired of hearing promises from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick when it comes to solutions.

“Whoever is lined up across from him will certainly get my vote” Dawson says with a firm, Texas look. “He might lie his ass off to Houston voters but to us out here in this part of the state, we know his game and we will certainly put a stop to it—if we can beat Houston.”

The folks in Floresville are not alone.

Over in Stockdale, Arvin Wojescki agrees. Wojescki feels like he has been lied to by Patrick on every angle and though a lifelong conservative voter, he insists that Mike Collier seems to know more about the real Texas than Dan Patrick will ever know.

“I didn’t vote for a man to take his church to Austin. I voted for a man who would lower my property taxes, fix our schools and really do some great things for Texas, not give us out here more bullshit” says Mr. Wojescki. “And that’s all we hear from Dan is bullshit, bullshit and bullshit.”

Wojescki says he is still voting for Ted Cruz.

The road on our great Texas Dairy Queen tour continues to San Antonio, the biggest city yet in the tour.

In the Alamo city, the cries are the same. They feel that Dan Patrick had lied to them and had no clue what Texas really is. The dichotomous political environment is odd as it is a good mix of Democrats and Republicans. After spending over an hour here you quickly learn that names like Patrick, Collier and Abbott are less important. The talk goes to O’Rourke and Cruz, who here split the vote 50/50 among the 40 people who chimed in with their opinions.

From San Antonio the road takes us to Burnet, a Republican stronghold where Patrick and Cruz seem to be near to God. These were die hard Trump supporters, manipulated in nearly every way by what some would say is nearly criminal local bureaucracy from the well established political machine.

In Lampasas, Brady and Brownwood the opinions are split right down the middle, though most seemed to be Patrick leaning. The further west we went, the deeper the conversation became, leading more and more to the idea that Dan Patrick was all for Houston and less for them. The problem for Mike Collier was that only few even knew his name and even less about where he stood on issues.

In places like Snyder and Tulia the conversation pointed towards Patrick and his near obvious ignorance and distance from the “real Texas”, as they call it.

Michael Winters of Lubbock says he is likely to vote for Patrick and that he has heard very little about the Democrat Mike Collier. “Is he a real Texan?”Winters asks. “If so I’d like to know more about him.”

Childress and Shamrock are no different. These strong GOP powerhouses are more and more disgusted with Trump and his trade policies, but they are unsure what to do about it. They damn sure were not voting for Clinton, or any democrat for that matter.

Making the circle, we stop at points near and far.

Way out west it is obvious that O’Rourke handily has the lead. Further east in places like Woodville and Jasper, Cruz is only second to Jesus Christ.

Along the border, names like Cruz and Valdez sound strikingly familiar. But among likely voters it is a toss up between Cruz and O’Rourke.

All in all, I talked with over 2,300 Texans over lots and lots blizzards. The overall idea of this informal poll was to get a real feel about who might be the winners and losers in the upcoming midterm election. It is by far not scientific nor is it anywhere exact, but it seems like the numbers are on point—at least from where I sat.

Poll numbers

Number of registered voters: 2,893

United States Senate:
O’Rourke      1,042
Cruz              1,851

Valdez                376
Abbott               1,897
Don’t know          620

Lt. Governor:
Collier            1,147
Patrick           1,464
Don’t know       282

Did the 85th Lege do enough to fix property taxes?

Yes                  518
No                   2,256
Don’t Know        119

Is Dan Patrick out of touch with rural Texas and Texans?

Yes                1,652
No                    745
Don’t Know       496

Are you happy with the Texas Legislature?

Yes                  1,754
No                   1,083
Don’t know           56

Do you feel that the Texas Legislature represents you and your interests?

Yes                 1,535
No                     903
Don’t know        455