BELO-TV sponsored the second Texas Gubernatorial debates tonight, and it was a knock-down, drag-out fight. Fortunately for the audience, that included the fights between the candidates themselves as well as the fights between the panelists and the candidates.
To watch the replays of the debates, you can find them here:
Observations on my part of the debate: first, I was well ensconced at Fatso’s Sports bar with 500 of my close personal friends at a Debate Watch party. BELO could not have done more to favor the incumbents, first by scheduling the debate on a Friday night when few (if any) would be home to watch it, and dragging on for a long time the question of whether independent Debra Medina would be allowed to attend, even after her stellar showing last time.
But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary. I’ll discuss the various rounds and then award each round to one of the candidates based on the raltive number of Cheers or Boos from the Fatso’s crowd.
In the first round of questions, all the candidates were asked the same questions with each candidate alternating who went first.
Asked about Public transportation funding, Hutchison said that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was grossly mismanaged, and needed to be audited and revamped. Medina said that we can’t even be sure the current figures for the TxDOT budget were correct, and agreed with the need for an audit. Governor Perry pointed out that the Legislature audits TxDOT every two years, and that the problem was that Washington sent back only 70 cents on every tax dollar for transportation. Perry then had his “deer-in-the-headlights” moment when he endorsed toll roads, saying that “private concerns” had a part in new road construction in the state. It was a glaring mistake so early in the debate.
Round is a Draw; but Perry lost points.
The next question was if the candidates would require all employers to use the federal e-verify system to ensure all new employees in the state were here legally. Medina went first this time, saying that the e-verify system is a flawed solution. She stated that if Texas would just fix it’s own Driver’s licensure laws to require proof of citizenship or legal residence, we would not need e-verify. She also called for immigration law reform. Perry said that e-verify was a federal program and an abject failure. He then used the rest of his time to slam Hutchison on the “Sanctuary Cities” law that passed while she was in the Senate. Kay opened her statement by saying “Shame on the Governor,” then stated as a small businesswoman herself, e-verify was the best solution available.
Round goes to Medina.
The next question asked about Governor Perry taking $15 billion in stimulus money to cover a state budget shortfall,and asked what programs would be cut or taxes raised to cover next year’s shortfall.
Perry pointed out he had already issued a statewide directive to cut all departments 5%,and that the state budget had been balanced in 2003 ahead of a projected shortfall like this one without raising taxes. Hutchison said that Perry was wrong to take the stimulus money, and favors across the board cuts. She said that when she was state Treasurer she was able to find plenty of places to cut the budget – “It wasn’t hard to do.” Medina said that while cutting the budget is the way to go, she favored discarding property taxes altogether and implementing a statewide sales tax of 6-14%. Eliminating property taxes would give Texans a 3% increse in real income and promote spending in the economy, which would increase tax revenues overall.
Round goes to Medina from the Standing ovation in Fatso’s.
The next set of questions were one-to-one interviews with each candidate.
Senator Hutchison went first, and her questioner nailed her with a clip of Kay’s “deer-in-the-headlights” moment from last debate on abortion. Kay was clearly flustered then, and clearly flustered now also. Kay emphasized we need to promote more adoptions. rever life, but wouldn’t commit to saying she would support overturning Roe v. Wade. The questioner then tried the same tactic again, saying her position on health care had changed. Kay did the right thing this time and agreed it had changed, saying she stood “firmly against socialist health care.” The questioner then tried to nail Kay on her earlier decision to resign her Senate seat to run for Governor, asking what would happen if a De3mocrat were elected to the seat. Kay laughed and said the was “not one scintilla of evidence a democrat would be elected to the Senate from Texas.”
Round was a draw; Kay stumbled badly early, but eventually recovered. The laugh was a nice touch.
Debra Medina went next, and at this point the crowd began murmuring about this being the “GOTCHA!” Round as the next questioner tried to nail Debra with a clip of her speaking about secession of Texas. Debra quickly pointed out that her remarks (which were out of context) were in response to Governor Perry’s “ill advised” remarks at the April 15th Tea Party in Dallas; and that she supports Nullification through the Tenth Amendment. The questioner then asked if Medina was “all about personal liberty,” did she support Gay marriage? Debra stated that marriage is a sacrament of the church, and the government had no right to tell the church what to do. Marriage by the church is between a man and a woman, and she favors that. The questioner again pressed if she would be in favor of gay marriage, and Debra stonily relied, Absolutely Not!, which brought wild cheering in Fatso’s. Her final question asked if we would be able to fund the state government on solely a sales tax, to which she replies that a “fairly structured” tax of 6-14% would be sufficient for the government’s needs.
Round goes to Medina, Hugely.
Governor Perry brought up the rear, and it became apparent he had few friends in Fatso’s. Asked about illegal immigrants getting in-state tuition, the Governor defended the practice — and was loudly booed and jeered by the crowd. Asked about reforming that practice, he said the Texas Education Association was supposed to be checking the immigration status of illegals – which even the panel of reporters found hard to swallow. Asked for his stand on Roe v. Wade, the Governor stated “I always stand for life.”
Round to the Panel, with two Big mis-steps by Perry.
The next round was termed by the panel as the “Jeopardy” Round, which was quickly called by the Debate Watchers the “Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric” Round. A panelist asked Governor Perry about jobs in number of jobs created, and Perry replied in percentages. Perry snidely replied to the questioner, “I know you’re having trouble understanding percentages . . . ” which brought a glare from the panelist and boos from the crowd. Hutchison was asked about how many miles of border fence was acutally built – she said “about 150″ 9actually “105.8 miles”. Medina was asked what percent of the state budget was Transportation, to which she guessed “about 9%) (actually the reporter didn’t know either, saying “12-13%.”
Hutchison then had her worst moment of the night, responding with a blank stare to the question “Who was the first Governor of Texas?”
Medina slam-dunked the final question of the round, answering “about $46,000.00″ to the question “What is the average annual teacher’s salary in Texas?”
Round to Medina, with bad mis-steps by both Perry and Hutchison.
The next round was viewer questions. The first was for Hutchison, and was asked what she would do as Governor to “Stop illegal immigration.” She replied the DPS should be able to assist the Border Patrol in arresting illegals who commit crimes, and the e-verify system should be used.
The next was for Medina, and the viewer asked “why don’t we tax the wealthy to get their money from all the tax breaks they’ve got the last few years?” Medina’s reply brought the crowd to a standing O — “Absolutely not!” She then reiterated that taxes are a drain on the economy, and we should get taxes off the backs of all Texans.
Perry was asked about Social Security benefits for retired teachers, and he blamed the mess on Congress. Not his best moment. Asked about the Texas Enterprise Fund, Perry said that was “all screwed up too.” Hutchison als agreed with assesment, saying it should be done away with, and the TxDot should be audited too.
Medina then had her glory moment of the night. Asked again about taxes, she said that property taxes should be eliminated, and that the role of government was to protect Freedom. At this point the camera gave a wide shot of the trio. Perry was visibly avoiding looking at Medina, while Hutchison was turned towards Medina, smiling as as Medina spoke. Asked about Governor Perry’s comment after the last debate that Medina was “tearing down Texas,” Medina responded responded that “I’m a nurse and a businesswoman. Our Government has failed by not demanding excellence and accountability. She slammed Perry for awarding contracts “through cronies and slush funds.”
Perry was asked about toll roads – he tried to slam Hutchison by saying the legislature had passed a law prohibiting the tolling of free roads — “And I signed it.”
Hutchison responded by saying that Perry was manipulating people’s rights to freeways. She said TxDOT had fought her on this in Congress – “And that won’t happen when I’m Governor .”
Round – Very decidedly to Medina. No question.
The closing statements were unusually revealing. Governor Perry said Texas was the number one state in so many ways. We don’t spend all our money, taxes are low, tort reform was passed, and we have “countless good schools.” He closed with “May God Bless us and continue to Bless the Great State of Texas.”
Hutchisons’ closing statement was very nagging. “As Treasurer I fought taxes.” Texas needs to fight crony-ism. Perry’s decision to vaccinate all schoolgirls against HPV virus was wrong and violated personal rights. The Trans-Texas corridor was also a major mis-step. And Texas continues to have a 30% dropout rate. Not all is well in Texas.
Medina, having sanguinely watched the previous two speeches, commented dryly that they were “about what you’d expect from politicians.” She said with the Perry administration, financial ruin is at our doorstep. The Hutchison administration would support globalisation. Her administration would “seek to remove the shackles that bind families and constrain businesses” by freeing Texans from Taxes.
The crowd stood and cheered. And cheered some more. And whistled for good measure.
NOTES on the debate:
If Medina didn’t win the last debate, she surely knocked this one out of the park. She was the only candidate to get a question right in the “Jeopardy” segment, and refused to back down, even when relentlessly question by an obviously testy panel.
Go watch those links at the front of the post. They a WELL worth watching.
The primary is 32 days away on March 2nd. The deadline for registering to vote in Texas is Monday — February 1st.
Get a move on.
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