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June 08, 2004

Ben Barnes is Back

By Byron LaMasters

The rising star of the Texas Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s is back in the scene. Ben Barnes wants his state back, and he's not afraid to say it. The Austin Chronicle reports:

It's taken nearly three decades, but former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes is slowly re-emerging into Lone Star politics. The Democrat, despite never being charged with any crime, saw his rising political career killed in the 1970s by his closeness to players in the Sharpstown scandal. He's kept a relatively low profile since then, but the reign of George W. Bush and the Republican takeover of the Legislature has inspired him in recent months to speak out. Last week, he whipped members of Austin for Kerry into a frenzy at Mother Egan's Irish Pub.

"I'm damned mad about my state," Barnes told the 60 or so cheering Democrats on the pub's outdoor patio. "I love that Capitol. I served where we had the best highway system, higher education. ... We took the University of Texas and Texas A&M to where they were in the top five universities in the United States; we raised teachers' salaries where they came from 37th to 18th in the United States; we got in the top five states in mental health and mental retardation; we were working on plans to insure every single child in Texas, and today we're ranked 50th or 47th or 48th in almost all the areas of state responsibility. The only thing we rank number one in is prisons.

"That Capitol is occupied by people that don't love Texas," Barnes continued. "They're up there for their own selfish benefit and gain, and we've gotta take back Texas for the Democratic Party."

Barnes went on to lavish praise on John Kerry, saying that he initially told Kerry he couldn't support him but changed his mind after one round of golf with the now-presumptive Dem presidential nominee. He also disputed that a Republican chokehold on Texas is a foregone conclusion: "This is not a Republican state; Texas is a moderate conservative state." And, he says, one that will become winnable by Dems when people see that "no new taxes" and "scrubbing the budget" means, in Barnes' words, that "they've scrubbed the budget where 25% of the people in Texas don't have health insurance, they've scrubbed the budget where 500,000 kids right now have been taken off insurance."

After his speech, Barnes told the Chronicle why he never followed the exodus into the other party nor joined the many Texas Dems who backed Bush. "This is a failed administration. I think the polls reflect what the American people think. Who would have thought that George Bush, who was at an 82% positive rating in this country, is now down to 41%?

I've seen Ben Barnes at UT basketball games, but I've never actually met the guy. Even so, it's good to see him back in Texas politics. We need everyone we can get ahold of, and Ben Barnes is one of the folks that has stuck with the party through good times and bad, and he ought to be commended for his work.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at June 8, 2004 03:05 AM | TrackBack


That's all good, but when can we expect Barnes to run for office?

FACT: The majority of Texas voters do NOT know what the Sharpstown scandal is/was.

FACT: Ben Barnes was a respected and almost-ethical Lt. Governor when George W. Bush was getting wasted every day - before 11 am.

Posted by: Jim D at June 8, 2004 04:18 PM

Ben Barnes was known as the "Fastest Zipper in the West" when he was Lt. Governor. He practically has sex with every young woman who worked in the Texas Senate in those days.

He was thrown out of office in 1972 for stuffing his pockets with cash from the Sharpstown Bank Scandal - he just never got caught (too slick).

And in th 1980's he declared bankruptcy becuase of defaulting on his wheeler dealer rela estate ventures, leaving us taxpayers with the bill.

Ben Barnes is now on his third wife, he was not faithful to the first two. He is not a man who needs to be the voice of our party.

Posted by: Ginger at June 9, 2004 03:17 PM

How would you know all of that stuff about Ben Barnes?

Posted by: Jeff Noon at June 15, 2004 02:26 PM

Ben Barnes. He was slick. Look up his bio on the web, Jeff Noon.

I have heard it said out here in West Texas that all a man has is his word, and if his word is no good neither is the man.

The truth is not in him. Check it out.

Concho Bill

Posted by: Bill at September 9, 2004 06:20 PM
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