Wendy Davis speaking
Patrick Michels

‘Redneck’ Democrat Packs it in Over Open Carry

Wendy Davis' recent talk on abortion and gun rights has irritated some of her base. But it's led one Democrat in Limestone County to close up shop.


Above: Wendy Davis speaks at her gubernatorial campaign announcement October 3 in Haltom City.

Rancher, bookstore owner and 79-year-old iconoclast Bill Bond has been sticking it out in Limestone County for a long time, waiting for Texas Democrats to take back control of the state. He thought Wendy Davis had a good chance to do it. But the lifelong liberal activist says he’s so pissed off by Davis’ open carry talk that he’s shutting the Democratic Party storefront in Groesbeck, housed inside his bookstore. Bond swears that he’ll sit out the rest of the campaign—and that nothing will win him back.

Lately, Wendy Davis has been fleshing out her policy portfolio—drawing clear, bright lines around issues she may have only touched on in the Senate. She recently told the Dallas Morning News that she personally supports medical marijuana, and she’s endorsed recent efforts to challenge Texas’ gay marriage ban in court.

But other policy positions she’s adopted run counter to those held by parts of her liberal base—like her willingness to consider restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks, and her endorsement of “open carry,” which would allow Texans to carry unconcealed guns in public. She told the AP she “supports expanding gun rights in Texas,” before, on Monday, she partially walked back her comments, saying municipalities should have the ability to set gun laws for themselves.

A lot of Democrats will take those policy positions in stride, arguing that the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. Bond, who lives in Groesbeck, about a hundred miles south of Dallas, couldn’t disagree more.

“I’m a 79-year old rancher and I’ve got guns. I’m not afraid of guns,” he says. “But I think Texas as a culture is not with history, and I think Texas as a gun culture is in the wrong place. I’m not for shooting people. I’m not afraid of anything. I don’t carry guns. I’m tired of killing game, even.” When he thinks about the rest of the country seeing pictures of Gov. Perry shooting and posing with guns, he says, “that image of Texas is abhorrent to me. And I’m a redneck!”

Bond believes Texans should want to live in a place with less guns, not more. “My wife works at a little medical clinic here [in Groesbeck] and she sees gun accidents all the time,” he says. And he feels so strongly about it that he contacted the county’s Democratic Party chair to notify him the party could no longer roost in the back of his shop, Bill Bond’s Books.

The loss of Bill Bond’s Books doesn’t mean much for state Dems, who are stuck in a sprawling, brawling election that will consume tens of millions of dollars by the time it’s done. And rural Limestone County certainly isn’t fertile ground for Battleground Texas. Mitt Romney won nearly 70 percent of the county’s votes in 2012, but that wasn’t, Bond says, for lack of trying. Obama’s Waco headquarters sent two volunteers out to work in Groesbeck. “Bless their hearts, they were so green,” Bond said. “But it was a lot of fun.”

But it’s heartbreaking for Bill. He’s even shipping the pair of Mizunos he bought after Davis’ filibuster to her headquarters.

He knows politicians have to choose their fights carefully. But he can’t understand why Davis worked so hard against laws that would allow guns on college campuses in the 2013 legislative session, but is so willing to support open carry laws now. He also doesn’t see the political utility. “Where does she get votes from this? NRA members don’t trust her.”

And more than that, having been a lifelong Democrat in a crimson-red county—he recalls the cross that was burned on his lawn, and says he’s the laughingstock of Groesbeck—he places a high degree of importance on losing with your principles intact.

“She’s probably gonna lose this. We’re used to losing our battles here in Limestone County,” Bond says. “Sure, she’d be better than Abbott, but she won’t beat him. But she has a future. And it shouldn’t be a future with a pistol on her hip.” He sighs. “I would have put so much energy into the general election, and I don’t have that energy anymore. And I can’t get it back.”