Fetterman’s Debate Challenges: Selling Policies and Proving He’s Fit to Serve
When the Texas Legislature was in session this spring, Republican Representative Matt Fetterman was preparing for what could have been his last debate of his career.
A week earlier, he had told colleagues in the House, “I’m not interested in retiring, but I’m not going to defend a second term.” He faced little opposition. He ran unopposed in the primary election, and the most recent public polling showed him beating Democratic challenger Mary Mathews by a 2-to-1 margin in November’s general election.
But Fetterman got advice from friends who were watching his campaign and, apparently, listening to his voice mail. Some said they didn’t believe he was qualified to run for re-election due to his lack of experience and his opposition to same-sex marriage. Others worried about the impact of the 2012 presidential election on his re-election prospects, and suggested he reconsider.
After a summer of conversations with advisers and family members, Fetterman made his decision to retire. As he sat in his District 1 office on the Uvalde city council, he pondered his decision. He hadn’t spoken to his mother since the summer. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer. A few months earlier, he had helped his sister with school problems. Then, he had returned home and his parents had told him to take care of the mortgage on the house they owned in Houston. His mother, who had lived in New Orleans for the past 30 years, was a huge fan of his work on the Texas House.
“You can’t walk away because you’re upset and afraid,” Fetterman told his staff and family as they sat around his desk on a recent afternoon.
When the Legislature reconvenes in a few weeks, Fetterman will no longer be a lawmaker representing a House district that has traditionally voted Republican, a district that had voted for his opponent in the primary and that is a traditional bastion of the Texas GOP. The district is now 50% Democratic, and even before the results were in, Democratic candidate Mary