Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN (AP) — The Republican race for governor has mostly been a heavyweight showdown, with the senior U.S. senator from Texas trying to knock out the state's longest serving governor.
But Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry aren't the only Republicans in the race. Fiery GOP activist and gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who has strong libertarian views and does not rule out seceding from the union, could affect the contest, even if she loses, as experts anticipate.
But Medina is unswayed by the experts.
"I feel it in my gut," said Medina, a registered nurse from Wharton, just south of Houston. "I am not quitting. I am not taking my foot off the pedal. Not one inch."
Medina has been waging a low-budget guerrilla war against Perry and Hutchison — at the last reporting in July, she hadn't broken past $50,000 — using the Internet, social media and the heady enthusiasm of her volunteers to raise her profile. The strategy paid off last week, when Medina snagged a coveted spot in the upcoming statewide televised debate in Denton Thursday with the two GOP stars.
That has caused her Internet traffic to spike and brought more attention to her candidacy. Analysts say she still has virtually no chance of actually winning, but her attacks on the establishment candidates could take a toll on them and the party, and if she gets enough traction she could trigger a gubernatorial runoff election.
Polls have shown Medina in the single digits, but even a few points in a close race could be enough to spark a runoff. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in the March 2 primary, the top two contenders have to face off on April 13.
If there is a runoff, experts believe it will again be Perry and Hutchison, engaging in a costly do-over played out over an intense six weeks. Medina has a different scenario in mind: she gets into a runoff with Perry and wins in a David-vs-Goliath battle.
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