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The Herb 13, ui “Best place to cure r what ails you” Explore our Oasis of Earthly Delights! extensive array of natural health and bodycare products comprehensive collection of herbs great gift ideas and much more! 200 West Mary 444-6251 Mon.0Fri. 10-6:30 Sat. 1-5 CentralTexas Gardener KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates. KLRU-produced programs that air statewide on klru Texas PBS stations include Central Texas Gardener, Texas tv and beyond Monthly Talks and The Biscuit Brothers. Check your local listings. Because our government has created such a weight on our back that we can hardly take a step.” `Amen!” a burly man in a mud-streaked vest shouts. “You get the weight of that government off our back, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder and do as this sign says”Medina points to a “Nullification Now” sign held by a man”we start to nullify illegal federal actions. We begin again to stand as a sovereign state in this federal union that our founders established. You know, the one where we’re supposed to have a very limited government and 50 independent, sovereign states! We don’t all look the same. We are an independent state. Texas will take care of Texas. Texas agriculture! Texas energy! Texas health care! Texas will take care of Texas!” Just as she’s hit the heights of crowd-pleasing teaparty rhetoric, Medina veers into a lengthy story about a man she met in Austin named Bruzzone. The name, she says, was different from the many Hispanic names she encountered growing in Beeville: “the Garcias, the Gonzalezes, and eve few Medinas.” I look around the crowd, where I see only two nonwhite faces, and folks look a little surprised. What’s the punch line? Why are we hearing a story about Hispanic people? “He said he was from Cuba, his family had been there for four generations. I have often thought that when the -ismssocialism, fascism, communism, Marxismcome to America, we think they’ll come with purple spots, and we’ll recognize them. And here sat Mr. Bruzzone looking like any other average Texan. I said, Mr. Bruzzone, if I had taken a picture of you standing on the street in communist-dictatorship Cuba three years ago, and I took a picture of you today in the constitutional republic of Austin, Texas, tell me the difference between the man in Cuba and the man in Austin. And he said: ‘The man in Cuba had no dreams.’ “I think in Texas we’re perilously close to a place where our children have no dreams. We either stand arm-in-arm and we begin to defend again this constitutional republic, or our children have no dreams.” This is odd, I’m thinkingabout as far from classic right-wing immigrant-bashing as you could get. But the folks in the front lot of Forrest Chevrolet eat it up. When Medina finishes, dozens cluster around her, telling her their stories and asking questions as she smiles and nods and looks them in the eye and listens intently. Medina is not Palin, with her scripted zingers, or Perry, with his pandering swagger. She’s your rank-and-file Texan’s smart big sister, talking to you like she figures you can take in something a little more challenging than usual. “We always like to poke fun at the other side,” says Philip Martin, communications specialist with the Texas Democratic Trust and a blogger for the liberal Burnt Orange Report who was one of the first to recognize Medina’s potential. “But the really absurd and ridiculous people are the ones with blind loyalty to a leader like Rick Perry or Kay Bailey Hutchison. I give Medina’s supporters credit for not allowing Perry to pull the wool over their eyes. The Republicans who support Perry are sheep. I’m scared of Medina’s supporters, but they are independent thinkers.” There are more of them than anybody imagined possible. They love it when she calls Obama a socialist and warns of creeping fascism. They love it when she infuriates Republican regulars by saying she won’t support Perry or Hutchison if one of them beats her. “You walk FEBRUARY 19, 2010 the talk, and you’ve got my full support,” she says. “These folks have not been walking the talk for a long time.” Medina embodies a post-partisan conservative politicsparty loyalties matter a whole lot less than staunch, anti-government ideas and a certain earthy genuineness that no incumbent politician can hope to muster. She’s not framing a message; she’s speaking her truth. When I leave her in Cleburne, Medina is still chatting with well-wishers. The NPR reporter is still waiting. After she finally gives him that interview, she and Noe will drive five hours south to their small ranch in DeWitt County, where he’ll hay the cattle and they’ll stay overnight with an aunt and uncle. Then they’ll head back to Wharton and spend Sunday and Monday fielding requests, fine-tuning itineraries, and trying to catch up on their medical-billing business. On Tuesday she’ll hit the trail again for another series of 16-hour days, one small campaign event after another, andmost likelycontinue to climb in the polls, one aggrieved voter at a time. Her opponents will keep spending millions to assail one another on the airwaves and wonder: Where in God’s name did this Medina woman come from? El 2010 I411 PRIMARIES “We are where we are today because there are a bunch of Debra Medinas across the state who’ve had enough.” SEE A SLIDE SHOW CI of Debra Medina at