By DOUG McDONOUGH
As the lone Democratic candidate for U.S. representative for Texas’ 19th Congressional District, Lubbock resident Neal Marchbanks already is assured of a place on the ballot in the general election this November. He’s just waiting for the Republican Primary to resolve a three-way race for the GOP nominee.
“There’s a lot of people in our district who are dissatisfied with our current representative, including me,” Marchbanks said last Friday while meeting with local Democratic leaders.
“Randy Neugebauer, who considers me a nobody, has only passed three pieces of legislation in the 11-plus years he has been in office,” he said. That record shows a strikingly low level of performance for his constituents. Neugebauer has held the seat for more than a decade.
“I actually got to meet Randy Neugebauer at the Brownfield Chamber of Commerce Banquet last Friday (Feb. 14). I was passing out cards when someone said one of my opponents was there.”
When Marchbanks made it across the crowded room, he found Neugebauer with his back turned, also busy campaigning. “I introduced myself and he said, ‘Glad to meet ya’ ” as they briefly shook hands, then Neugebauer turned and continued greeting guests.
While that meeting was brief and cordial, Marchbanks has been receiving a much warmer reception from the vast majority of the district’s voters he’s met in recent months, both Democratic and Republican.
“I’m not a liberal or a conservative, but a moderate, much in the vein of George Mahon who represented this district for many years,” Marchbanks said. “I like to say that I’m part of Main Stream America — the great Silent Majority. We’re a different breed and much more conservative than the Democrats in California.”
Born and raised on the South Plains, Marchbanks is a U.S. Air Force veteran, including a year’s service in Vietnam. A graduate of Texas Tech, he holds a master’s degree of science in science management from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. A Lubbock resident, he worked for the National Weather Service for more than 30 years. He also has worked for the U.S. Census Bureau and as a private meteorologist.
He and his wife Christy have one daughter, who lives in Round Rock.
Styling himself as a pro-life Democrat, Marchbanks says that he has traveled more than 2,000 miles crisscrossing the district in less that six weeks and has been asked about his stance on abortion only twice.
“I can honestly tell them that my stance is the same as that of Bill Clinton, who said, ‘Abortions should be safe, legal and rare.’ ”
He also supports the Affordable Care Act, which is commonly known as Obamacare, as well as an increase in the minimum wage.
“My daughter has severe asthma, which is a pre-existing condition,” he explained. “If she changes jobs, she has to wait 90 days before she can sign up for medical insurance through her new employer. Not having coverage is not an option in her case, so she has to get COBRA coverage during the interim, which runs about $2,000 a month. Then if she goes into business for herself, she couldn’t afford the coverage.
Now, with the Affordable Care Act, she has the possibility of getting insurance. Being without the ACA stifles a lot of entrepreneurship.”
Stating that “I support the ACA completely,” he said the program has made a tremendous difference for lower income workers such as bus drivers at Texas Tech who have seen their schedules cut to three days a week to make them part time and not eligible for full benefits. “One of those drivers was making only $20,000 a year and needed two artificial hips, but couldn’t afford the surgery because she didn’t have insurance. Because of her income, she now has coverage at a premium of 1 cent per month.
Marchbanks is finding many voters throughout the district, both Democratic and Republican, who are dissatisfied with their current representative.
“They’ve had it up to here with him,” Marchbanks said, indicating up to his neck. “They realize that he was the one who voted to shut down the government, and then got into a shouting match with the park ranger who was trying to do her job.”
Although he has not held political office before, Marchbanks already has some clear plans once taking the oath of office.
“The first thing I will do is to pass a constitutional amendment on term limits for both the government and federal judiciary.” He also feels that significant budget cuts could be realized in the military by bringing all our troops back home.
“I don’t want to send troops to Syria, and think we never should have been in Iraq,” he said. “And we have spent the past 12 years in Afghanistan chasing around the people who we trained years ago to fight the Russians. We don’t belong in someone else’s civil wars.”
He also pointed out that the last time the federal budget showed a surplus was while Bill Clinton was president. “We’re spending too much time looking for ways of cutting back on the poor.”
Instead, Marchbanks said he supports increased educational opportunities, energy independent, loan support for independent businesses, infrastructure maintenance and increased benefits for veterans.
“At least people are beginning to listen,” he said.