Less than 24 hours after his opponent’s concession, Blake Farenthold regarded his upset victory in Texas’ 27th district with humility.
“I’m not naive enough to believe that Blake Farenthold won that election,” the Republican said this week. “I think a good chunk of my votes were for anybody but Ortiz.”
Despite his low national profile and limited support from national GOP leaders, Farenthold managed to oust Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz from the southeast Texas seat he has held since its creation in 1982.
Before Nov. 2, the lawyer and small-business owner might have been best known outside the district for a photo showing him in duck-print pajamas, a scantily clad woman leaning on his arm. After Nov. 2, however, Farenthold became known as one of the most unlikely Republican victors in a cycle dominated by unlikely Republican victors.
In an interview Tuesday, Farenthold credited his victory with voters’ impatience with Ortiz. He said he believes that voters decided Ortiz had been in office too long and he traveled to places other than his district too often. When unofficial results from Nov. 2 showed the Congressman losing by fewer than 800 votes, Ortiz requested a recount. He conceded to the former radio talk-show host Monday night.
Because Farenthold’s campaign was largely on its own, he had to get creative. “Nobody’d really come close to Ortiz ever, and I certainly didn’t have the funds he had at the interim points,” said Farenthold, who will turn 49 next month. “We ran a real grass-roots campaign. He wouldn’t debate early on, so we got corny and got a guy in a chicken suit and mailed rubber chickens to his office.”
“I kind of call it the fowl race because we did the chicks, and he found the pictures of me at a party in the ducky pajamas,” he said, laughing and explaining the photos were from a charity event. “All we were missing was a goose.”
Farenthold is hoping for more support from Texas Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2012. He didn’t fault them for keeping their distance, noting that he didn’t have nearly as much money as Ortiz, the Democrat had been easily winning elections for a long time and polls didn’t indicate the race was close. He said local donors to the NRCC, however, questioned the committee’s absence from a race they believed Farenthold could win.
“I would’ve loved to have had their help earlier,” Farenthold said. “I don’t think it would have been nearly as close if they had jumped in earlier, but I understand that groups like the NRCC have limited resources and need to spend their money where they can win.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.