Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R)
Texas 19th District
Until water was discovered in the giant Ogallala Aquifer that lies under Lubbock and its environs, this was Indian country, then a land of Army forts and cattle ranches. When the water was tapped, well into the 20th century, what had been grazing land suddenly became cotton fields, with green crops grown in circles where the sprinklers reached, surrounded by parched land. Lubbock became a regional center, the home of Texas Tech University, and grew rapidly at mid-century. Lubbock County’s population increased from 101,000 in 1950 to 156,000 in 1960. Since then, the regional economy has grown more slowly, as the aquifer seemed to be going dry. In 2007, Lubbock County’s population reached 258,000 and populations of neighboring, much smaller, counties declined. Cotton growers have struggled with international competitors and adverse trade rulings, as well as pressure to reduce agricultural subsidies. However, wind power has become a source of energy, with hundreds of towers between Abilene and Sweetwater. This area has the most wind energy capacity in the nation. Lubbock also has made an outsized contribution to American popular culture. The city and nearby counties have produced a slew of fine musicians: Buddy Holly, Tanya Tucker, Jimmy Dean, Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Joe Ely, Roy Orbison and Don Williams. Lubbock native Natalie Maines and her band the Dixie Chicks took a lot of heat when she criticized Republican President George W. Bush in 2003, both locally and throughout the South. They responded by recording the song “Lubbock or Leave It.”
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Lubbock is separated from the great metropolises of Texas by hundreds of miles of mostly, but not entirely, empty land. Nearly 200 miles southeast of Lubbock, over gully-ridden territory, are Abilene and the surrounding Big Country, with ranches specializing in Angora goats and sheep and exotic animals like ostriches, emus and aoudad sheep. There also are cotton fields and pecan trees and mesquite, and many oil wells, which yielded a temporary economic boom during the 2008 price-spike. Archer City, the boyhood and current home of novelist Larry McMurtry, was chronicled in The Last Picture Show and Texasville. Some of the nation’s B-1 bombers are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene.
The 19th Congressional District of Texas connects these two wide-open regions. The population of Lubbock and its surrounding area is about twice as large as the Abilene area population. The two areas combined account for about 60% of the district’s population. As recently as 1978, these parts of West Texas were Democratic enough that in an open-seat election, they rejected the candidacy of a young Midland oilman named George W. Bush in favor of Lubbock Democrat Kent Hance. Today, they are heavily Republican. Bush received 77% of the votes for president in this district in 2004. Republican candidate John McCain won the district with 72% in 2008.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R)
Elected: June 2003, 3rd full term.
Born: Dec. 24, 1949, Lubbock .
Education: TX Tech. U., B.B.A. 1972.
Family: Married (Dana); 2 children.
Elected office: Lubbock City Cncl., 1992-98; Mayor pro tem, Lubbock, 1994-96.
Professional Career: Mgr., Sentry Property Mngt., 1972-75; Instructor, South Plains College, 1975-78; V.P., First National Bank, 1975-82; Pres., Prestige Homes, 1983-87; Pres., Lubbock Land Co., 1987-present.
The congressman from the 19th District is Randy Neugebauer, a Republican who won the seat in a June 2003 special election. Neugebauer (NAW-ga-bower) graduated from Texas Tech, became a banker and then ran his own land-development company. From 1992 to 1998, he was a Lubbock city councilman. His chance for a House seat was prompted by the unexpected resignation, announced a week after the November 2002 election, of Republican Rep. Larry Combest. In the all-party primary, the four leading contenders to succeed Combest were all Republicans. They were Mike Conaway, a Midland accountant, plus three candidates from Lubbock: Neugebauer, state Rep. Carl Isett and former Lubbock Mayor David Langston. Neugebauer was the biggest spender and emphasized his positions on national defense. He focused on his business connections to oil and farming and was helped because Isett—the only active office-holder—was tied down by legislative business in Austin. Langston, who previously won election as a Democrat, pitched himself as a Bush-like “compassionate conservative.” Neugebauer finished first, with 821 more votes than Conaway. Neugebauer won in Lubbock while Conaway swept the Midland and Odessa areas. The runoff featured few differences on the issues, and regional patterns held firm. In the combined vote from Midland and Odessa areas, Conaway won 85% of the vote. In Lubbock County, which cast 47% of the vote, Neugebauer led 71%-29%. Overall, Neugebauer won 51%-49%.
|Randy Neugebauer (R)||168,501||(72%)||($1,052,072)|
|Dwight Fullingim (D)||58,030||(25%)||($41,374)|
|Richard Peterson (Lib)||6,080||(3%)|
|Randy Neugebauer (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (68%), 2004 (58%), 2003 (51%)
He barely had a chance to get settled in the House before the Texas Legislature drew up a new plan for congressional districts in October 2003. The new lines placed the home of 13-term Democratic Rep. Charlie Stenholm in the new 13th District, but that district was almost entirely unfamiliar territory for him and heavily Republican to boot, so Stenholm decided to run in the 19th against Neugebauer. Stenholm was arguably the last conservative Democrat from Texas in the House. He and party-switching former Rep. Phil Gramm were leaders of the “Boll Weevils” backing Republican President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 budget and tax cuts. Stenholm was also one of only five Democrats who voted to impeach Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998. In their 2004 showdown, most of the advantages—the district’s partisan tilt, the fact that Neugebauer had represented 58% of its residents and Stenholm only 31%—favored the Republican. Both candidates promised to protect farm subsidies. Stenholm emphasized his social conservatism, his dedication to West Texas constituent services, and his independence as a Democrat. He criticized Neugebauer’s ads that suggested he supported abortion rights and sought to link Neugebauer with then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who was increasingly mired in an ethics scandal. The Texas Farm Bureau, which earlier honored Stenholm as “one of the giants of Texas agriculture,” endorsed Neugebauer. He won 58%-40%, capturing 22 of the 27 counties. In Lubbock, Stenholm trailed 65%-33%. In his base of Abilene, which cast half as many votes as Lubbock, Stenholm led 50%-48%.
In the House, Neugebauer has been a reliable conservative, and he has seats on the Agriculture and Financial Services committees. In 2009, he was named the ranking Republican on the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee. In 2004, the House passed his amendment to add $3 billion for drought assistance to farmers, which was offset by a reduction in payments for a farm conservation program. The measure was added to the disaster aid bill for hurricane victims that President Bush signed into law in October 2004. During debate in 2007 on the 2008 farm bill, he introduced amendments, knocked down by Democrats, to prevent indexing food stamps to inflation and to bar members of Congress from directing Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds to specific industries. He has defended farm subsidies for his district after the Environmental Working Group listed it as the nation’s fourth-highest recipient of crop subsidies. On Financial Services, Neugebauer said in 2006 that post-Katrina reconstruction of public housing in New Orleans would be “the second worst disaster” in the city’s history. With Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., he passed an amendment to the housing rescue bill in 2008 that strengthened the regulations of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage giants.
Neugebauer easily won re-election in 2006 and 2008.