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Bexar Republicans Sizing Up Presidential Candidates

Shelley Kofler
Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Republicans cheer for a Texas candidate during the first presidential debate.

Bexar County Republicans gathered for Thursday night’s presidential debate applauded Donald Trump’s brash, unfiltered comments. But many were more interested in the performance of a fellow Texan. 

The hype leading up to the first Republican presidential debate was all about the irreverent, colorful, sometimes insulting front-runner, Donald Trump. He had Bexar Republicans howling as he fielded an early question about his credibility with female voters after he’s referred to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

"Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump responded, as the TV and Bexar Republican audiences laughed.

“I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness” Trump added.

Paula Moore, a San Antonio Republican, says she likes the fact Trump isn’t worried about being politically correct.

“I like what Donald is doing right now. He stands up to these stuffed shirts who are saying this and saying that.  I’m proud he (Trump) loves America,” she said.

Patricia Fridley likes Trump’s outspoken opposition to illegal immigration

“Many people are coming in illegally.  That is very unfair for people who come in a legal position,” said Fridley.

But many of the 70 or so Republicans at this local watch party found Trump’s shock value entertaining though they said they couldn’t imagine voting for him.

I don’t think we’d fare well with a president who doesn’t control the thoughts coming out of his mouth,” said Charity Farrar.  

Texas Candidates

The odds-on favorite candidate here was one of their own. A Texan. Not Jeb Bush who was born in Midland. He’s considered a strong candidate to win the nomination.

But in this debate Bush angered Karen Rodriguez and some others when he acknowledged his support for the federal education program known as Common Core.

“I could not vote for anybody who agrees with Common Core,” said Karen Rodriguez, a retired teacher.  “It’s a boondoggle for education.  It is tied to federal dollars.  They’re giving up quality education to buy into a federal program.”

Support for Sen. Rand Paul who grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas, barely registered with the Bexar Republicans. There was sympathy for former Gov. Rick Perry whose low ranking in political polls kept him from being invited to participate in the prime time debate

But Sen. Ted Cruz had a seat at the table.  And when it was his turn to field a question his supporters cheered loudly and waved their homemade signs.

“I like Ted Cruz,” said Charity Farrar.  “He has great ideas.  He is not afraid to stand up.  He does not back down.”

Ginger Bright believes Cruz scored some points with the TV audience, as spoke forcefully on hot-button issues.  

“We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism as long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words: radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz said as he criticized Obama as being weak on fighting terrorism.

“I think he did fantastic. I think we got to see exactly who he was because he was standing up for everything he believes,” said Bright.

Texas Influence on Choosing the GOP Nominee

Texas’ Republicans voters may have a bigger than usual impact this election season. Texans have often voted so late in the presidential primary process that nominee had already been decided.  But in 2016, Texas will be the most influential Republican state voting on March 1, Super Tuesday. Only Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and the Nevada caucuses come earlier.

Rick Fridley says having that clout is already generating excitement

“It makes a big difference, finally, to have a say in the outcome of who our nominee will be.”

With just one debate down and many to go, Bexar Republicans like others are anxious to see if Donald Trump continues to lead the pack.  Or whether someone else, maybe a Texan, knocks him out of first place.