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Milton Whitley’s gift to Texas was called twisted yam on a stick. You take a yam, cut it into a spiral, deep fry it, cover it in butter, smother it in sugar, coat it in cinnamon, eat. Is it healthy? Of course it’s healthy—yam is a superfood. The final product was a finalist at the 2009 Texas State Fair, before losing out to the eventual winner, deep-fried butter.
A native of Dallas County, Whitley started off as a catfish cook and worked his way up the comfort food chain to an appearance on national television presenting Oprah and Gayle with a homemade sweet potato pie. He now teaches science at a public school. But last year he set his sights on something more daunting than the fried-food contest at the state fair—getting elected to the Texas Legislature as a Democrat. Whitley, who’s running in the Dallas-area 113th state House district, is one of a dozen candidates selected as part of a trial program for Battleground Texas, the Democratic organizing project launched last spring by a cast of Obama campaign veterans who are hoping to turn the nation’s largest red state blue.