For many candidates, their differences with their opponents are ideological. For a Democrat candidate for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, he said his differences are personal.

Hank Gilbert, the Democratic Party’s nominee for ag commissioner, spoke to the Cooke County Democratic Club Thursday night at the Neu Ranch House.

Gilbert accused Republican nominee, Sen. Todd Staples, of not having a strong agriculture background and being a political opportunist.

“All his life he’s been a punk. And he still is,” Gilbert said, adding that he was reared 30 miles from Staples near Palestine.

Gilbert said the Staples family are “real good people” but that they “disowned” the state senator.

Gilbert, the president of the Walnut Grove Water Supply Corp. in east Texas, said he is “not a career politician” and was motivated to run for the office due to the Trans-Texas Corridor and other issues which he said would negatively affect the agriculture industry.

“I got into the race because I believe in agriculture,” Gilbert said.

He said he missed his childrens’ livestock show for the first time due to a busy campaign schedule. He said he spends 12 to 24 hours at home per week and the run has been a personal sacrifice for him.

He said Staples is “out one day a week” and only attends fund raisers.

According to the Aug. 8 Register, Staples came to the Fried Pie Co. and Restaurant to speak with a handful of those interested, after speaking to a group of Young Republicans in Young County.

“I don’t give a damn about politics. I care about agriculture,” Gilbert said. “And I can fix it.”

Gilbert, a resident of Whitehouse, Texas, spoke at a Texas Department of Transportation public hearing in Gainesville July 14 regarding Trans-Texas Corridor 35, identifying himself as a candidate and encouraging those present to “remember the Alamo” and vote.

Gilbert said when he approached the Texas Democratic Party headquarters about his run, he was told by a consultant that he “didn’t have a snowball’s change of winning this race.”

Gilbert said he disagreed, and that he noticed on the campaign trail many former Republicans are questioning their political affiliation.

“The Republicans of this state are tired of their own party,” he said.

He said there are more Democrats in Texas than Republicans.

“Anyone who believes Texas is a Republican state is out of their flippin’ minds,” he went on to say. “There are more Democrats — It just doesn’t show up in the polls.”

Gilbert said he expects the Democrats will win enough seats in the U.S. Congress in November to “put on a valiant effort to win back the Texas House.”

His predictions met applause from the room full of local Democratic party activists.

He said with a win statewide and in the Congress, voters can “screw the Republicans twice in the same day.”

Election day is Nov. 7.

Gilbert addressed the Trans-Texas Corridor project, and said he “traced it back to Old Man Bush,” meaning former President George Bush’s support of a North American Free Trade Agreement and increased trade between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

He accused Bush and former President Ronald Reagan of leading the country in to an economic recession and high deficit.

“It took Clinton to straighten it out,” he said.

He said under President George W. Bush, whom he referred to as a mouthpiece of his father, the deficit has risen “almost to the point of no return.” Gilbert said the main countries to which the U.S. is indebted to are Japan, China and Iran. He predicted that if the trend of indebtedness to those countries continues, those nations may attempt to take the U.S. by force.

“They can just walk right into our country, rip our flag down, and put their’s up,” he said. “... It’s that serious. I hate to sound like the Grim Reaper, but Roger knows what I’m talking about.”

He was refering to Roger Waun, a candidate for U.S. Congressional District 13, who also spoke at the meeting.

District 26 Democratic candidate Tim Barnwell was not present. Barnwell’s chief opponent is incumbent Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound.

Gilbert took another jab at Republican leaders, saying the economy suffers when there is a Republican majority.

“It has never, in the history of this country, prospered under Republican leadership,” he said.

Gilbert tipped his cowboy hat to a grateful audience and sat down to pinch some chewing tobacco and answer questions.

Preceding Gilbert, Waun said his opponent, incumbent Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Amarillo, “rubber stamps” what is handed to him by the Republican Party.

“They (Republicans) are bought and paid for by corporate America. They don’t represent us anymore,” he said.

Waun voiced his opposition to lifting the estate tax and supported minimum wage laws.

Following Waun, County Commissioner Precinct 4 nominee, incumbent Virgil Hess, said he is campaigning this weekend in Lindsay and asked for assistance.

“Anyone who wants to wear out shoe leather is welcome to join me,” he said.

Hess’ opponent is Republican challenger Drew Springer of Muenster.

Scott Davis, president of the Cooke County Democratic Club, said the next meeting, Oct. 19, will feature Hess and Nathan Hansard, Democratic nominee for Precinct 2 County Commissioner.

Hansard announced a fund-raising dinner Saturday night at the senior center in Valley View.

Hansard’s opponent is Republican nominee Steve Key of the Mountain Springs area.

On the Net:

Gilbert campaign: www.hankgilbert.com

Staples campaign: www.toddstaples.com

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]ntin.net

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