As I noted earlier in things to do this week in Harris County, the United Republicans of Harris County and the Texas Federation of Republican Women sponsored a forum for the candidates vying to be the Republican nominee for Lt. Gov. in 2014. Slightly more than 300 people came out to hear the candidates plead for their support and votes.
The format of the forum largely prevented the candidates from attacking each other. After a two minute opening statement from each candidates, twelve questions were asked in a rotating format. The unique part of the format is that one candidate was selected at random to provide a two minute answer and one candidate was chosen at random to provide a one minute response. It was a good effort to try and eliminate the receptiveness of most of these forums but it also limited direct responses from the two candidates that weren’t included on the responses. For instance, on a question that was basically about CSCOPE and the SBOE, Sen. Dan Patrick was not included. As you probably know, he has driven that issue for some time.
That qualifier aside, the forum gave the attendees a very good opportunity to see the candidates live and how they responded to questions that they might not be familiar with. One of those questions went to Ag. Commissioner Todd Staples – it was about a very local issue in Houston, pensions. He asked the moderator, KHOU’s Doug Miller, to repeat the question while he gathered his thoughts. And then he delivered a very good, although generic, answer to the question. The format and questions forced each man to think on their feet instead of having the opportunity to spout their talking points. It was effective, even if it limited direct attacks.
Since there were no direct attacks or gotcha moments, I pulled out each man’s opening statement for you to review so that you can get a feel for who they are and what their candidacies are pushing. I’ve embedded them in the order they spoke:
A few observations.
Dewhurst did well in reminding people about his record. Regardless of what you think you know about him, his record of accomplishments in his ten years as Lt. Gov. is very, very good. Especially if you consider yourself a conservative and are interested in expanding the economy and opportunities in Texas. In response to a question about what mistake he has made while in office, he talked about his infamous phone call when a relative was put in jail, giving people a glimpse of his humanity, which is something that I’ve written about before. And when asked about his favorite history book, he talked about Cowboy Ethics and his lifelong respect for the men and women who built this country. To me it was effective but obviously I’ve been a fan for some time. And he reminded people that although he supports term limits, he is a true conservative and has stayed a conservative throughout his ten years in office.
Staples came out with more energy and enthusiasm than the rest of the field. As he did at the RRRW forum, he managed to stay above the fray (although there wasn’t much of one) and focused on his record as a state senator and as Ag. Commissioner. His tagline is “leadership and results” and it appeared to be well received. In a light hearted moment, he turned the question on favorite history book into a sales pitch for his book about the border and segued into a general discussion about the importance of sealing the border. He also reminded the attendees that he was in the Senate when tort reform was passed.
I thought that Patrick was very effective in his opening statement, stressing his record and work ethic. Without question, he is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in the political arena. I suppose a fact checker will check his claim but only missing a half day during three sessions is pretty remarkable. He also used the forum to advance his faith, describing his late conversion to Christianity, saying that his life would have been better had he done that earlier. On term limits, he stated that long time incumbents think that keeping the job is more important than listening to the people.
Patterson was his usual humorous, direct self. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him dodge a question. In response to a question on Sanctuary Cities, he was on fire. He believes that police should not be prohibited from asking about citizenship status, that we should end bi-lingual ballots, the English should be the official language of the land, and he reminded voters that he was the only elected official that supported the Texas Solution, which was passed overwhelmingly at the last RPT convention. He went after Patrick again, just as he did at the RRRW forum, saying that Patrick refuses to put his specific policy recommendations on his website and challenged him to do so.
Obviously it is early in the process and you will have time to find a candidate. But to be an effective influencer, you need to find a candidate and work for him. As Patrick said, all of them are nice guys. The real question is what do YOU want and only YOU can make that decision.
One last thing just because I can. Dallas Morning News’ Austin Bureau reporter Bob Garrett was in attendance. Dude is so dedicated that he occupied three of the remaining four chairs out of the 350 that were arranged in the room while filing his report. Of course, I saw a lot of people eyeing him wanting to pick up those chairs. 😉
Here is a link to Bob’s report – thankfully the Dallas Morning News has dropped their paywall!
What a dedicated employee! Gotcha Bob!
A few more pictures from the forum: