In Democratic Senate Primary Runoff, a Clear Divide

In Democratic Senate Primary Runoff, a Clear Divide

Prominent Texas Democrats are backing David Alameel in a primary runoff for U.S. Senate. His opponent, Kesha Rogers, supports impeaching President Obama and argues that state party leaders are out of touch with their voters.

Addressing a group of veterans recently at a Mexican restaurant in El Paso, David Alameel spoke like a candidate with only one opponent: Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. It was only after Alameel was asked by a reporter about Kesha Rogers, his opponent in the May 27 Democratic primary runoff, that he spoke directly about her.

“Somehow she managed to get 22 percent,” Alameel said. “There must be people who don’t know what she stands for.”

Alameel is hoping the combination of his financial resources and the support of prominent Democrats like state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running for governor, will lead to victory against Rogers, whose unorthodox views include support for impeaching President Obama. Yet Rogers argues that she is being underestimated and that the voter support she has received is a sign of dissatisfaction among Texas Democrats with their party’s direction.

Rogers describes herself as a Democrat in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. In her opinion, Obama and virtually every elected Democrat in Congress and in Texas represent a subversion of those historic ideals. She rarely delivers a speech without advocating the impeachment of Obama, a photo of whom appears on her campaign website with a Hitler mustache added.

“Obama is right in line with the Republicans as he’s supporting Wall Street financial interests, as he’s supporting this drive toward thermonuclear war, and as he’s destroying the physical economy of this nation,” Rogers said during a recent speech in Houston.

Like her mentor, the controversial activist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., Rogers’ views defy simple categorization. She said she sought to “bankrupt Wall Street” by reinstating Glass-Steagall reforms that blocked commercial banks from engaging in investment services. She spoke favorably of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and accused Obama of encouraging “Nazi” forces in Ukraine. She hopes to replace his health care reform with a single-payer system. She favors nuclear fusion development over alternative energy sources, including solar and wind, which she called part of “the genocide policies” of Obama and Wall Street bankers.

The Texas Democratic Party, which typically avoids endorsements in primaries, is rallying behind Alameel, a businessman who developed and sold a chain of successful dental clinics and who has invested more than $4 million of his money in his campaign. On the campaign trail, Alameel is emphasizing his support for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and his view that Cornyn is out of step with Texas values.

Despite party leaders’ best efforts to marginalize Rogers, she has established herself as a surprisingly formidable candidate, at least among Democrats. In 2010 and 2012, she won primary races for a Houston congressional seat, only to lose to a Republican in the general elections. In the March primary, 110,000 of 510,000 Democrats picked her over four others, putting her in second place behind Alameel, who drew 47 percent support.

The source of Rogers' political success remains a matter of debate. Democratic officials and consultants have insisted that most of her votes came from those unfamiliar with her views, and suggested that she has performed well because of her gender or the position of her name on the ballot.

Rogers dismissed such theories. Though statewide campaigns in Texas historically have had trouble gaining traction without the resources to air television ads, Rogers said she reached voters through constant campaigning and targeted radio ads.

“People want to believe that you cannot move the population,” Rogers said. "So they say, 'How did you do it? You don’t have the money. There must be some kind of gimmick. Maybe it’s just your name.'"

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/05/05/democrats-rally-around-alameel-sideline-obama-crit/.

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