Once upon a timeâ€”U.S. Reps. Charles W. Stenholm of Abilene, a 25-year Democrat veteran of Congress, and Rep. Larry Combest of Lubbock, a Republican, somehow worked together and the result was the 2002 Farm Bill that governs crop years 2002 through 2007. But Stenholm told the South Texas Cotton and Grain Association annual meeting, in conjunction with the Beltwide Cotton Conference, bipartisanship is in danger nowadays.
Combest was from the worldâ€™s most concentrated region of cotton on the High Plains, and Stenholm, a former executive vice president of the Rolling Plains Cotton Growers, also was from cotton countryâ€¦.and cattle and wheat land.
Being "representatives"â€”the two found a lot of mutual interests in benefiting people back home. They didnâ€™t get the current Farm Bill by the White House the first time, but working together, they eventually did.
But Combest has since retired, and the highly controversial redistricting maps in Texas have repeatedly threatened to merge districtsâ€”essentially leaving Stenholm without his 17th districtâ€”and forcing him to run against either U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (Combest successor) of Lubbock of the 19th District, if Stenholm runs as an Abilene candidate where his residence is, or making him go against U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry from Amarillo of the 13th District, if Stenholm runs with his Jones County farm as his home.
Before redistricting lines were even decided, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made a trip to Abilene in a fund-raising effort for the Republican competition.
"He (the Vice President) came to my home district and drummed $150,000 in Abilene," Stenholm says of his opposition.
The Republicans were really pre-mature, Democrat Stenholm notes, because he hasnâ€™t decided whether to run from his Abilene home (against Neugebauer) or from his Jones County farm residence (against Thornberry)â€”"but I will run."
Stenholm says he voted with President Bush on invading Iraq. He would do it again, he says, noting, "We must stop terrorists."
"Iâ€™ve been with the President of the United States two-thirds of the time," Stenholm allows. "But nowadays, you have to be with him all the time."
The Congressman says some time in the next 50 years the national debt will be $44 trillion, which isnâ€™t a Republican or Democrat problem but a national tragedy.