You want evidence of ticket-splitting, here it is.
LUBBOCK – Cotton farmer Don Langston has voted Republican for more than three decades, but this year his livelihood will steer his congressional vote.
Mr. Langston is among West Texas Republicans who say they will cross party lines and vote for Democratic Rep. Charlie Stenholm of Abilene, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
"If we lose Charlie, we've lost all our presence on the ag committee," said Mr. Langston, 64, who farms 1,300 acres in Lubbock and Lamb counties. "The farm economy is the only thing that keeps us going out here."
Support for Mr. Stenholm appeared to be shrinking in his old district as it became increasingly Republican. He was re-elected by a 4 percentage point margin in 2002, his lowest ever.
Mr. Langston and dozens of traditionally Republican farmers and businessmen say they're behind Mr. Stenholm because of his experience. Mr. Stenholm has more than 23 years experience on agriculture issues and worked on several farm bills with Mr. Combest, who was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee when he resigned.
It's not so unreasonable for GOP farmers to support Mr. Stenholm, said Brian Gerber, an assistant professor of political science at Texas Tech University.
"I think that gives a chance a Democrat wouldn't normally have," he said. "It's not that they'd be voting for a liberal Democrat, so ideologically he's very much in line with a big chunk of the district."
Many Republicans who say they are Stenholm backers said they were angry about the way state GOP leaders handled redistricting. Democrats in the state Legislature fled the state twice to avoid votes during three special sessions.
"To lose Larry [Combest] and turn around and have the GOP deliberately get rid of Stenholm, that's the problem," Mr. Langston said. "We sure feel like we're getting the short end of the stick."
Regardless of who wins, Mr. Bearden said he's concerned about the future.
"I think either way, whether [Rep. Randy Neugebauer] wins or Charlie wins, West Texas loses because we're going to lose one seat on the House Ag Committee, and we're going to lose one vote for rural Texas," he said.