Lisa Fritsch, Candidate For Texas Governor, Wants To Bring About 'New Day For GOP'

Lisa Fritsch has hosted her own radio talk show, written a book about the tea party and agitated for conservative causes. In the Texas gubernatorial primary Tuesday, she hopes to be known for something else -- winning enough votes to force a runoff for the Republican nomination against Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Abbott is the favorite in the race -- he has a nearly $30 million war chest and recent polling shows him with the support of 90 percent of likely Republican voters. But Fritsch thinks that her message of returning the Republican Party to basic principles of "hope, faith and charity," plus her emphasis on inclusivity, could work in her favor.

"It's such a big state, and unfortunately, politics have become so much more about fundraising than they have about winning the hearts and minds of people," Fritsch told The Huffington Post in an interview Friday, as she prepared for a weekend of campaigning near her home in Austin. "My campaign represents a new day in the GOP, everything it should be and needs to be relevant in the 21st century."

Fritsch's candidacy has garnered national attention, much of which suggests that her campaign is a quixotic attempt in a state that has never seen a black woman seek the governorship.

And yet Fritsch is optimistic about her chances, due in part to what she sees as a misstep of Abbott's -- aligning himself with conservative activist and musician Ted Nugent.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, the race's presumptive Democratic nominee, has relentlessly criticized Abbott for appearing at campaign events with Nugent, given the rocker's statements about past relationships with underage women -- and for calling President Barack Obama a "subhuman mongrel." Fritsch agrees.

"Ted Nugent is not running for governor, he can be himself. What was wrong with that is you can't expect to win over women, single mothers, Latinos, blacks, and then expect people to take that outreach seriously if you're going to be out parading with someone who loves guns but says untrue, disrespectful, un-Christian things. It has no place in our party," Fritsch told HuffPost.

In the past, she hasn't shied away from championing the conservative movement.

Fritsch noted that her support for immigration reform -- she favors work permits for undocumented immigrants and a guest-worker visa program -- sets her apart from her rivals.

"I talk about the 18 percent of people who live in poverty in our state, I talk about immigration reform from a place of dignity and respect and I don't campaign with people who put our party in a bad light," she said.

But the biggest case that Fritsch makes for why she should be the GOP nominee is her ability to talk about abortion, were she to run against Davis.

Davis gained national fame for her 11-hour filibuster of a package of legislation restricting abortion access in the state Legislature, though she said earlier this month that she could hypothetically support a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is earlier than the 24-week cutoff established by the Supreme Court.

Fritsch suggests that she approaches reproductive issues differently from Abbott, and frames her candidacy as a spiritual calling.

"Republican men have botched this over and over again," she told HuffPost. "If anybody thinks that in this general election, a man is going to be able to avoid addressing the life issue, address women's rights, they are wrong.

"One reason I was called to this race is the life issue," Fritsch explained. "From a standpoint of legalese, SCOTUS cases, you are not going to win the women's vote back that way. We've gone into these communities, we're invested in these women's lives, that's how you win their hearts and minds."

Much of her criticism of Abbot's campaign has to do with the rhetoric his staff has used against Davis.

"His campaign started to mess up from the beginning," Fritsch told HuffPost. "His chief adviser tweeted out that she's too stupid to become governor. It's 2014, we don't address women in that way, we don't talk down to a woman who has gone to Harvard, you don't do that. You can disagree with the person, but that's unacceptable."

Fritsch's emphasis on rhetoric belies the fact that she agrees with Abbott's policies. For instance, she said she supports Abbott's appeal of a federal judge's ruling striking down the state's same-sex marriage ban.

"I support that simply because I don't believe in the notion of same-sex marriage," Fritsch explained. "Marriage is a holy covenant, it's something that government should not be involved in."

But when asked about support for civil unions, she was ambiguous: "It isn't any of my business. I don't believe the government should intrude in someone's private, personal life in that way."

And Fritsch supports legislation restricting abortion access. Women who live in Texas' Rio Grande Valley -- where there are no clinics performing abortions after legislation requiring admitting privileges at local hospitals shut them down -- are now forced to either travel 240 miles to San Antonio or cross the border into Mexico. Some are even purchasing misoprostol at Mexican pharmacies or flea markets in order to -- dangerously -- self-induce abortion.

Fritsch calls this trend an "unintended consequence," rather than a reason to have opposed the legislation, which shut-down 37 of the state's 42 abortion clinics.

"The intention of the bill is to make these procedures safer for women. If they do have an abortion, to not put their lives at risk," she told HuffPost. "The unintended consequence, I don't believe that the bill was passed for that reason. That wasn't the intention of the law, to make it burdensome for a woman to make a poor choice. You're never going to legislate people's choice away."

Fritsch's candidacy is considered a long shot bid, but she's nevertheless challenging the way fellow Republicans talk to voters.

"If conservatives want to, as Margaret Thatcher said, 'win the argument and win the vote,' we've got to be the party that shows up at these clinics not with signs but with blankets and love," Fritsch said. "At the end of the day our point is to be the party that returns to 'hope, faith and charity.'"

"I always hope we represent that and can return to that."

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