Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Smackdown: Stefani Carter vs Carol Kent

Stefani Carter and Carol Kent, opposing candidates for Texas House District 102, faced off Wednesday night at the Lake Highlands Freshman Center in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Richardson.

I went so you didn't have to. After the jump, all you need to know in order to vote.

The bottom line first. If what you care most about is lower taxes and less spending on public education, transportation and social services, then Stefani Carter is your candidate. If you care about "a more moderate, non-ideological style better suited to finding realistic solutions to complex issues" (in the words of The Dallas Morning News), then Carol Kent is your candidate.

If that's not enough for you, if you're a voter who cares about character and style as well as the major issues, then you probably should have attended the forum yourself. I'll give you my impressions of the personalities of the candidates, but I admit these are subjective. Carter was belligerent, by far the more negative of the two candidates, and occasionally just plain rude, interrupting Kent several times and being admonished by the moderator for it. Kent was poised and non-ideological, not letting Carter's attacks knock her off stride.

OK, if you're still with me, you're probably a political junkie or a policy wonk wanting to know the nitty gritty of the answers given by the candidates to all the questions. Here goes...

  • Highways: Carter is against raising gas taxes or converting free roads to toll roads. She didn't say what she is for. Kent is for local control, empowering cities, counties and regions to decide for themselves what highway construction they want and how they want to pay for it.

  • Immigration: Kent says it's time for the federal and state governments to step up. We need to empower and fund law enforcement. Carter says we need to pass a Voter-ID law to keep illegal immigrants from voting.

  • $18 billion deficit: Carter says we should institute an across the board funding cut and dip into the Rainy Day fund. Kent says we should dip into the Rainy Day fund for one-time expenditures. We should also find efficiencies, the best efficiencies, and not take an axe to all spending.

  • Pollution: Kent says the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) needs to do a better job. Carter says we should increase the incentives for businesses using clean technology.

  • Education: Carter says Kent overstated Carter's support for vouchers, that vouchers aren't needed in the Richardson ISD, but innovative solutions are needed elsewhere. Kent opposes vouchers because she says vouchers drain funding from public education.

  • Social services for mental illness: Kent says the state must find ways to maintain social services. Carter says we must make treatment of mental illness a priority.

  • Redistricting: Carter says she came from a big family. Maybe she said something about redistricting in her answer but I'll be d*mned if I heard it. Kent explained the attention the US Justice Department pays to the redistricting process and the importance of the state legislature in that process but didn't say what her goals for redistricting would be.

  • Homeowners' Association powers: Kent says it's wrong for homeowners to have their houses foreclosed on because the homeowner falls behind on paying homeowner association dues. Carter says a bill proposed last legislative session put additional regulations on homeowner associations that she deems to be unnecessary.

  • Representing everyone: Carter says it goes without saying whoever is elected must represent everyone, then said that Kent is out of touch. Kent said she needed bipartisan support to win election in 2008 and her voting record has been totally bipartisan.

  • Death penalty: Kent says some cases call for the death penalty but Texas uses the death penalty more than almost any other state and we should use the latest scientific technology to make sure it's applied justly. Carter says as a former prosecutor she's for the death penalty and the process works.

  • Texas Enterprise Fund: Carter says small businesses have seen their taxes go up. Kent says the business margin tax passed in 2007 as a way of reducing public schools' dependence on the property tax is responsible for that increase in taxes seen by small business. Kent says the margin tax has been applied unfairly and needs reform so that small business doesn't carry the burden. (Neither candidate addressed the question, which was what could be done to keep the Texas Enterprise Fund from being used to reward Governor Rick Perry's donors and supporters.)

  • Special interests: Kent says the way to limit the influence of special interests is to elect ethical candidates and insist on open and transparent government. Carter says that Kent has taken more special interest money than anyone.

If the above is too cut and dried for your taste, then I'll give you some of the attack lines of the night. No surprise, most are from Carter. "Kent a moderate? That is false!" Kent is the "most out of touch" legislator. Kent "enjoys out of control spending and high taxes." Kent did get in one attack on Carter -- at least I think she did; it went by quickly and the details were never explained -- when Kent said she herself had never been "booted out" of a neighborhood.

Finally, the award for best rebuttal of the night goes to Kent. In one of her many negative attacks, Carter accused Kent of missing a vote on a bill to protect underage girls from being exploited as dancers in sexually oriented businesses. Kent said she was surprised to be criticized on that particular vote as she was a co-author of the bill in question. Ouch. Kent also explained that the House calendar overlaps with committee and subcommittee calendars, making it all but inevitable that legislators miss some votes.

The award for second best rebuttal goes not to one of the candidates, but to the moderator. When Carter, in her closing remarks, said that Kent didn't offer rebuttal to 99% of the charges Carter had made during the forum, the moderator pointed out that the rules of the forum did not allow for rebuttals. Ouch again.

Overall, both candidates probably achieved what they wanted. Carter repeatedly said she'd cut taxes and spending and that Kent was a liberal tax and spender. Kent showed she had the experience, the composure and the interests of the district as a whole at heart to deserve another term as representative for District 102. All in all, there were no smackdowns. Now it's up to the voters, none of whom, probably, had their minds changed by anything that was said Wednesday evening.

No comments: