Award-winning documentarian Paul Stekler (“George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire”) offers an intriguing ground-level look at Texas politics as a full-contact sport in “Last Man Standing,” a provocative pic likely to travel widely on the fest circuit before July 20 airing on PBS.
Stekler, a former political consultant, attempts to explain seismic shifts in the once heavily Democratic state that, even before Gov. George W. Bush was elected president, has skewed toward one-party Republican. Pic focuses on hotly contested “barometer race” for state representative in a district that includes Lyndon Johnson’s hometown. Incumbent Rick Green, a religious conservative and self-described “raised on Rush Limbaugh” Republican, initially appears the overwhelming favorite over Democratic challenger Patrick Rose, a 24-year-old political neophyte. However, Green’s pristine image is tainted by alleged financial improprieties, and, despite backing of a well-oiled political machine (and testimonials by, among others, Charlton Heston), incumbent’s star begins to fade as telegenic opponent rises in polls. Molly Ivins and Karl Rove are among interviewees who say the rising Hispanic population is an increasingly important factor in handicapping elections. “Demography,” notes Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, “is destiny.”