The six candidates for the GOP nomination for Texas House Districts 102 and 112 debated January 22 at a forum at the Canyon Creek Country Club. Vying to represent HD 102 were Stefani Carter (incumbent), Linda Koop, Adryana Boyne and Sam Brown. Vying to represent HD 112 were Angie Chen Button (incumbent) and Jared Patterson.
If you are a conservative Republican (is there any other kind?) you can safely take the rest of this primary season off. All six candidates were eager to make their case as the most conservative man or woman out there. All professed to be anti-tax, pro-life, anti-gay, and pro-gun. There are far more similarities than differences between these candidates.
But let's try to draw distinctions, anyway, shall we? After the jump, some highlights.
Carter has had two terms in Austin, but instead of highlighting how she has been addressing Texas' problems with water, transportation, school funding and health care, she highlighted her efforts to pass bills to tighten criminal penalties, suppress voting rights, restrict women's reproductive rights, and restrict local control over enforcement of federal immigration laws. Mostly culture war kind of stuff.
Koop held her own in proclaiming her conservative credentials, but claimed an edge in being the only candidate with water policy experience (about the only time the issue even came up -- maybe because funding water projects is not compatible with the theme of the night, cutting taxes). She also said education is the number one issue in her platform, but that platform seems to consist solely of the vague promise of local control.
Boyne offered a unique reason to support her, claiming to be the only candidate who can attract Hispanic voters, presumably because she's Hispanic and not because of her me-too GOP politics that haven't been all that successful in attracting Hispanic voters otherwise.
Brown told us that we should not use his military service as the reason to vote for him. He did this often enough that he had little time to explain why we *should* vote for him.
Patterson's first words of the night were, "I am a Christian." Before the rooster crowed, Patterson pledged to deny lower-income families access to health care through Medicaid and to deny children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition. WWJD? Patterson criticized GOP leadership in Austin for not being conservative (really). He said there's a disconnect between the grassroots and leadership. The electorate as a whole keeps electing legislators who choose that leadership. That might be a sign of a disconnect between Patterson's "grassroots" and the voters, too. I think Patterson was the only candidate to mention his tea party support by name.
Button, in one of the night's rare attacks on an opponent, questioned Patterson's conservative credentials, saying he voted to raise property taxes and sales taxes when serving on the Sachse City Council. Button was feisty all night, but not always coherent.
The candidates all but tripped over themselves trying to cut more taxes than the next person. Button boasted of having delivered $1 billion in tax cuts. Carter pointed to her own votes to reduce business franchise taxes. She wants to reduce property taxes, too. Patterson wants to eliminate the franchise tax and also has big concerns about the property tax and sales tax. Brown wants to end the franchise tax, and doesn't want to raise the sales tax to replace it. Boyne sees taxes in general as an unacceptable government intrusion into people's lives (the topic didn't come up, but my guess is that Boyne's pro-life beliefs don't consider transvaginal ultrasounds to be government intrusion). Koop distinguished herself here by talking about, not just cutting taxes, but budget reform as a way to control spending. She pointed to her experience on the Dallas City Council. Edge to Koop.
All agreed that Texas is right in refusing federal dollars to expand health insurance coverage for low income families. Patterson went so far as to suggest that not only would he not expand Medicaid, he would cut it. Brown said government should get out of health care altogether, suggesting church clinics instead. It has become such an article of faith that Obamacare is a "mess" (Koop) or a "disaster" (Carter) that Republicans no longer even try to provide an analysis of the current law. Unless you count Koop's complaint that her son doesn't need pregnancy insurance a reasoned critique. No distinctions there.
Five of the candidates suggested they are focused on their own races and wouldn't commit to supporting anyone for Speaker until after the election. Patterson threw his support to tea party backed Scott Turner. Button pointed out that Turner has endorsed her, not Patterson.
Public schools were a curious case where the candidates didn't seem to know the party line, maybe because the party doesn't have a coherent line here. Koop and Brown want to strengthen local control. Boyne goes farther. She doesn't want Austin to have anything to do with local schools. Carter and Brown want property rich school districts to keep their property taxes for their local schools (without saying how schools in property poor districts would be funded). Patterson seemed to support bigger raises for teachers (without saying where that money will come from as he cuts every tax in sight). Koop and Brown said they have concerns about the state providing vouchers for private schools. Button said she supports vouchers. I didn't hear the other candidates take a position on vouchers. Button wants schools to focus more on getting students career ready, not college ready. Patterson attacked CSCOPE (another purported evil that's an article of faith not requiring any reasoned analysis).
All candidates seemed to want to simultaneously protect the so-called Rainy Day Fund while being open to spending some of it under some limited conditions. Boyne was maybe the exception -- don't spend it; instead "cut, cut, cut." That summarizes the message of all the candidates all night long. Boyne just expressed it most succinctly and memorably.
There were about one hundred people in the audience. Based on the reception given to the candidates, I could detect no favorites. There was no clapping, hooting, hollering or booing.