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Rip that bodice!

I suppose I should congratulate Fred Head for getting a story about his campaign for State Comptroller on the front page of the Chronicle. I’m not sure this is the kind of story one wants to have written about said campaign, however.

Since the Texas Democratic Convention in June, Head has repeatedly attacked a steamy romance novel Combs published in 1990, and even features excerpts from it on his campaign Web site. Head says it was hypocritical of her to write such a book and then support abstinence education as a Republican politician.

Once word of Head’s attacks hit the romance trade press, cyberspace buzzed with the news.

“Out of the blue I had e-mails from England, Canada, California, all over Texas,” said Combs, Texas agriculture commissioner and author of the 1990 romance, A Perfect Match. “Women all across the United States and foreign countries are very angry at what they see as an attack on women.”

Combs launched a $3.2 million political advertising blitz Tuesday. The TV spots, which end with the words “experience we need, values we trust,” stress Combs’ roles as a small-business owner, former state legislator, agriculture commissioner, wife and mother.

Head, with $0 in campaign money, remained defiant, repeatedly calling Combs’ book pornographic.

“I think the romance novelists should endorse my opponent,” he said in response to their criticism of him. “That could probably get me elected. I just don’t agree with writing what I believe is pornographic and not good for the young people.”

Outraged romance writers first flooded Head’s campaign in-box with angry e-mail.

This week, they vowed revenge at the ballot box.

“I told him I was a Texan, a Christian, a voter, a grandmother and I have written 46 novels,” said Houston romance writer Patricia Kay. “I said, ‘You are not going to get my vote.’

“The truth is,” added Kay, 69, “I probably would have voted for him because I’m a registered Democrat.”

Mission accomplished, I guess.

It’s not really clear to me why anyone would care about Susan Combs’ sideline as a romance novelist. I don’t really understand how that affects her fitness to be Comptroller, even if you think there’s a moral issue at play. (As Tiffany has a fondness for the occasional “trashy romance novel”, as she likes to call them, I’m certainly not going to go along with Head’s characterization.) If Combs had made a career out of moral crusades, then I could see the salience, but if there’s anything in her legislative history to suggest such proclivities, then at the very least Head has done a poor job of connecting those dots into a coherent argument. I find myself puzzled as to why he thought this was anything more than a laugh line during his convention speech.

I also find myself annoyed that a campaign for Comptroller has been reduced to this foolishness when there are real issues that should be brought up. Like the fact that Combs sees the Comptroller’s office as little more than another step towards the Governor’s mansion, or the fact that she’d be a rubber stamp for Rick Perry if he wins again. Say what you want about Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s flipflops, opportunism, and showboating, she at least provided some kind of counterweight to Perry over the past four years. I guarantee you that Combs won’t rock the boat in any meaningful way, but will instead be a good team player, at least for as long as she thinks that’s advantageous to her next campaign.

But alas, talking about that sort of thing doesn’t get you on the front page. Talking about sex does. For what that’s worth in this case.

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  1. Dennis says:

    Fred Head makes me utterly ashamed to be a Democrat. I guess I won’t be casting a vote in the race for State Comptroller.

  2. Mark says:

    I’ve had a bad impression of Fred ever since an event I attended in Galveston right after the primary. I was standing in a crowded hallway with Muslim Democrat Farhan Shamsi, a Hindu activist, and a Jewish attorney.

    He approached and handed us each a weird card that said something like “JESUS IS THE ANSWER TO WHAT’S WRONG IN YOUR LIFE” with an optical illusion of the Ichthys (the Christian fish symbol).

    Now I’m a Universalist and believe all paths to God are equally valid, but uninvited proselytizing and conversion attempts rub me the wrong way, especially in a party whose members are so rightfully proud of our rich spiritual diversity.

    His penchant for wearing a tuxedo at events and in ads is somewhat bizarre as well. I also thought the decision to let him speak at the State Convention while denying the floor to VaLinda Hathcox was a mistake.

  3. […] a danger in that if there is a vacuum, it could get filled by a clown like Fred Head, whose buffoonish presence would be a drag on a ticket that had, say, Watson, West, and Earle/Radnofsky as the headliners. You […]

  4. […] the Novelist. I wonder if he collaborated with Susan Combs on any of his sex scenes (and wow, that sounds way dirtier than I intended it to […]