When Roman Pérez first spotted the Kandy Kaye Horn for Governor billboard looming above a Brownsville cafe that’s a popular political hangout, the conservative podcaster experienced a kind of sensory overload: a mix of curiosity, confusion, and amusement. First, he noted, the entire billboard is a Texas flag, with “SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN BUSINESSWOMAN: READY TO SERVE TEXAS” printed in block letters on the white portions. Second, his eye was drawn to the flag’s center, where a sixtysomething woman with hair that looks like it was colored with a burnt sienna crayon—the type of character Pérez said he meets at tea party meetings—wears a big smile. Third, and not least, he was taken aback by her dress, which appears to be made of cash money.
Pérez, who teaches a Texas history course at Wayland Baptist University and has been immersed in local politics for twenty years, said the billboard scanned immediately as one for a Republican candidate, even though there is no mention of party. But he had never heard of Horn and wasn’t sure why a Republican candidate for statewide office would spend money to advertise in Southmost, the Brownsville neighborhood where the sign looms and where very few residents vote in GOP primaries. “This all went through my mind,” he recounted, “because I’m thinking, what is she trying to tell me, because there is so much in there.”
Later that day, Pérez took a picture of the 14-by-48-foot sign and tweeted it with words of bewilderment. He soon heard from other politicos who had been startled to see similar signs elsewhere—in Alamo, Harlingen, Mercedes, and Mission. Indeed, it turned out, Horn’s Brownsville billboard is one of 160 she paid to erect across the length and breadth of Texas in January, from El Paso to the Rio Grande Valley and from Amarillo to the Louisiana line. Horn’s message, never more than nine words, varies from place to place. In downtown San Angelo, instead of “SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN BUSINESSWOMAN,” she’s “A DIFFERENT KIND OF REPUBLICAN: READY TO LEAD TEXAS.” In Austin, she’s “READY TO DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA: READY TO SERVE TEXAS.” But no one who responded to Pérez had ever heard of Horn, a retired Houston mortgage broker, philanthropist, and “baroness.”
Horn may be a novice candidate running a DIY campaign, but she is a well-funded (and self-funded) one. In an eight-candidate GOP primary field, she is spending on par with former Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West, a serious challenger, and behind only former state senator Don Huffines and Governor Greg Abbott. She’s already poured $1.4 million of her money into the race: a million on the billboards, a quarter million for a February blitz of newsprint …….