Last night the four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor came together for The Texas Debates, which broadcasted live across the state. Though most of the questions consisted of the same issues the candidates have addressed in small forums throughout the state – immigration, abortion, and creationism in schools, for example – the debate started out with a direct question about the recent case of Marlise Munoz, a pregnant woman who was kept on life support while brain dead to protect the life of the fetus. All four candidates declared support for “life,” which to them meant preserving the pregnancy at all costs.
The extremist positions of the candidates on this issue set the tone for the rest of the debate, where all four candidates attempted to prove that they were the best fit for the most conservative elements of the Texas Republican party. In response, a spokesperson from the Texas Democratic Party said,
Tonight the four candidates performed like they serve: Lt Governor Dewhurst deflected the blame to others, Sen. Patrick lacked reasonable solutions, Commissioner Staples blamed President Obama, and Commissioner Patterson talked down to voters. Tea party extremists showed us once again that Republicans simply do not represent mainstream Texan values. Texas voters deserve better from their elected officials. Tonight's clear winner was State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. She is the only candidate in the Lt. Governor race with the record, vision, and everyday Texan values to lead our state.
More on the debates, and the full video, below the jump.With few exceptions, the clearest takeaway from last night's debate is that all four candidates offer the same vision for Texas: extremist conservative ideology that is out of touch with the general population.
On immigration, all candidates believe we must strengthen the border against “illegals.” In response to these harsh views on immigration with no room even for in-state tuition or guest worker programs, Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Emmanuel Garcia said,
These extremist candidates for Lt. Governor showed us that compassionate conservatism is dead. Extremist ideology is simply standing in the way of common sense. Even Rick Perry must be mumbling 'you don't have a heart' when he heard his Republican colleagues on stage tonight.
Though Dan Patrick was quick to use rape as an example of the crimes committed by “hardened criminal” “illegals” in his explanation of why we must “stop the invasion” of undocumented immigrants in Texas, he and the other candidates are of the same mind when it comes to rape and incest as exceptions for legal abortion: absolutely not.
Each candidate also had to answer questions specific to their campaigns. The questions ranged from Staples' changing positions on issues to Dewhurst's leadership during the filibuster to Patrick's bankruptcy and Patterson's intention to collect a pension while employed at Lieutenant Governor. Perhaps the best thing to come out of that segment was Dewhurst's response when Wendy Davis was brought in to the question: “Barack Obama and the Democrats created Wendy Davis.”
Questions were submitted by journalists covering Texas politics, and certainly addressed issues that have been at the center of these candidates' campaigns. However, many issues were left out of the discussion last night, including infrastructure development, the continuing issues with access to healthcare, and the minimum wage.
Education was also missing from the discussion. The 2012 Republican Party of Texas' Platform has this to say about funding education:
Education Spending – Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.
On these omissions, Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Emmanuel Garcia said:
Tonight, Texas Republicans lobbed personal attacks and bickered about who would militarize the border first, cut educators pay and restrict women's health care choices, while ignoring the challenges that face everyday Texans.
The Texas Organizing Project adds:
Tonight's debate shows that these candidates are too out-of-touch for a state in dire need of a change in leadership. With 6 million uninsured Texans, an additional 1.5 million eligible for and in need of Medicaid expansion, and over 68,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals approved, these men expressed no interest in the true needs of hard working, low-income people across the state.
In case you missed it, you can catch the whole debate below.