A candidate forum for Texas House District 102 was held on October 8, 2014, at RISD's Westwood Junior High School. Linda Koop (R) and George Clayton (D) answered questions from the audience.
After the jump, where the two candidates stand on a wide range of issues.
The two candidates agreed much more often than they disagreed. Both sounded like traditional, country-club Republicans. Neither took any extreme positions, either on the right or left. Neither was interested in attacking the other.
One difference they did have, a difference that highlighted their party affiliation, is on the expansion of Medicaid. Clayton doesn't support Texas's refusal to accept federal dollars to provide affordable health insurance for the near poor. Koop says she opposes accepting this federal money, saying she'd rather see block grants to the states. (Koop's answer makes it sound like the two candidates are running for Congress in 2010. Instead it's 2014 and the Medicaid expansion is federal law. The money is available. Texas only has to accept it. Block grants aren't on the table and aren't an option for the Texas legislature. Koop's opposition only denies affordable health insurance to millions of the near-poor in Texas.)
Both candidates believe that regulations on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas should be a matter of local control. (This is an instance where elections matter: Stefani Carter, the incumbent defeated by Koop in the GOP primary, was a reliable supporter of oil and gas interests in her two terms in the Texas legislature, including support for HB3105 that would have made it easier for gas companies to sue cities that deny drilling permits.)
Neither candidate supports tax increases of any kind. Koop promised riches to be found by scrubbing the budget. She promised to maintain "a safety net, of course" (what kind of safety net Texas is providing when it leads the nation in residents without health insurance wasn't explained). Clayton claimed that the state of Texas already offers a "great deal of help" for the disadvantaged (he, at least, wants to accept those federal dollars to decrease the number of uninsured).
Both candidates said Texas needs to review and improve its preparedness for health emergencies (e.g., Ebola). Neither one suggested that a tax increase might be needed to pay for such preparedness.
Both candidates suggested the redistricting process is broken. Koop had no suggestions for improvements. Clayton said he was a victim of redistricting on the SBOE and said redistricting should be done blindly (e.g, by non-partisan computer algorithm).
Both candidates said we need more roads in Texas. Clayton doesn't support new toll roads but didn't offer any specific ways he would raise money otherwise. Koop said she wouldn't support any new taxes, but would end the diversion of gas tax money and would support devoting new car sales taxes to road building. (She didn't say how she'd replace the money for the programs being funded by that money today.)
Both candidates support putting more money into education, but neither said where that money should come from. Koop said we should wait on the courts to rule on the current lawsuit by school districts against the state. Clayton spent most of his time describing his personal experience witnessing money wasted in schools.
Both candidates support putting more money into developing water resources. Neither said where that money should come from. Koop blamed the TCEQ for a too-long permitting process for new reservoirs. (Note that the "EQ" in "TCEQ" stands for "Environmental Quality." Be very careful when a politician wants to short-circuit that.)
Neither candidate supports Texas's current system of electing judges. Koop says appointment of judges by a bipartisan committee might be a better way. Clayton wants to keep elections but make them non-partisan.
Both candidates say schools administer too many tests. The last legislature reduced the testing regimen. Koop says we ought to see how that works before the legislature starts changing things some more.
Both candidates say they are "pro-life." Clayton said he wouldn't support banning all abortions, but didn't say what restrictions he does support. Koop says she supported the 2014 law that closed all but eight of the 44 clinics that operated in Texas in 2013.
Both candidates said they support Gov. Rick Perry's decision to deploy the National Guard to the border with Mexico. Koop said it wasn't just to stop children, as there are "bad guys coming in" not just from Mexico and Central America. Beyond that dubious claim, neither discussed the facts, mission, cost, duration, effectiveness or alternatives.
Both candidates said they would represent all the constituents in their district. Koop said when she was on the Dallas City Council she "fought for" residents near Coit and Spring Valley just as hard as she fought for everyone else in the district. (When Koop goes to Austin, those constituents near Coit and Spring Valley might not describe Koop's opposition to Medicaid expansion as fighting for their interests.)
Koop says whether teachers and administrators should be allowed to carry guns on campuses should be a local decision. Clayton said he'd be nervous about some of the teachers he knows carrying guns. He believes guns should be carried only by police officers on school campuses.
Clayton was confused about a question asking whether the legislature should have more control over economic incentives awarded by the state. Koop said there should be more accountability for grants made by the Texas Enterprise Fund.
Koop said she'll listen to and act in the interest of her constituents, not her political party, in case of a conflict. Clayton said he was a Republican when he served on the SBOE and is now running as a Democrat, which should be proof enough that he believes "politics should be checked at the door" of the legislature.