Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quick Take - Kaufman County Republican Candidate Forum 3 in Kaufman

Kaufman County Republicans squared off for the fourth time Tuesday night to a decent sized crowd at Kaufman High School.  Luckily for everyone, most all of the candidates have improved their presentations since the first round in Terrell a few weeks ago.

The format was the same, with audience members questioning the candidates, but that hasn't been particularly good.  Candidates' supporters lob questions that they think will help them, and most just fall flat.  Some good and thoughtful questions came up, but I think the fear of coming to the microphone may suppress many questions from audience members who aren't already supporting a candidate.

There was still some TEA Party acrimony and grandstanding on display.  I really like how grassroots conservative activism has become a political force, but keep it about the ideas and candidates, folks.  Otherwise you are actually hurting the cause you work so hard to promote.

There will be one more forum at Scurry-Rosser High School Feb. 13.

Individual grades took too long last time, so I am just going to recap the night's events for each race.

Senate District 2

Bob Hall was much improved in his challenge, I thought.  But Bob Deuell still held the edge as the experienced legislator.  They sparred over what endorsements were important.  That question keeps coming up from the Hall folks, but I'm not sure if he comes out as the winner in that comparison.  Only the primary will tell if being "right" of Deuell is enough of a difference.  Hall did not point to any specific things Deuell had done wrong, so again, incumbent's advantage.

Mark Thompson was also there, still railing against toll roads, gun restrictions and in favor of a state border patrol.  And still without convincing anyone that he had viable plans that could get traction in Austin with any of those issues.

Most interesting was watching all three try to address a very earnest question regarding the Northeast Texas Tactical gun range north of Kaufman, which was in a court fight with its neighbors last year.  All three candidates are very pro-gun and pro-property-rights, so they all stated some form of the obvious – that it was a tough issue that would be hard to address from Austin but they would try.

House District 4

Another no-show by Lance Gooden, and an even stronger showing by Stuart Spitzer.  It was home turf for Spitzer, so I don't know that Gooden was hurt by skipping.  The question is whether Spitzer can make any political hay out of Gooden's absences going forward.

I'd like to see Gooden answer for some of his tactics from the 2012 race, but that doesn't look like it will happen.

Spitzer's pivot on term limits (now supporting them in some form) was interesting.

86th District Judge

Things got a little testy at the end between Rayme Shackelford and Rebecca Calabria.  On a set up question about Calabria's Board Certification in Family Law, Shackelford attempted to downplay the certification's importance.  Calabria responded later with a zinger knocking Shackelford's sports metaphors, so that was a draw.

Casey Blair and Wade Gent seemed to hold the high ground and strongest arguments, so this may boil down to a race of who can get the voters out, especially if there is a runoff.

County Court-at-law 2

This is another case where being the incumbent has some weight since David Lewis has held this job for a while.  Both candidates were better at stating their cases than in Terrell, and Bobby Rich again supported his challenge with his experience as both a lawyer and as a police officer.

County Clerk

Angie Tijerina scaled back her attack on incumbent Laura Hughes but maybe went to far.  If she is convinced change is needed, she needs to be able to tell us why.  Hughes sailed through, especially given the opportunity to tout her education and other civic activities.

Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace

This became one of the most interesting parts of the evening, with the two lawyers in the race, Michele Cheney and Lisa Gent Harrison, working the stage opposite the two non-lawyers, incumbent Mary Bardin and political newcomer Tony Torres.  At issue was whether being a lawyer was incredibly important to the JP position.

Cheney and Harrison basically noted that, no, it isn't necessary (or even common), but that if you can get that experience and capability, why not?

Bardin's appeal was based on her experience over the last few tumultuous years in the JP's office. I imagine that has not been an easy task.

I am most interested in how Torres does, by the way, even if he does not win.  One of the ways he is differentiating himself is as a Spanish-speaker.  If he is able to draw hispanic voters to the Republican primary in any sort of numbers, it will be a dynamic shift for future candidates.  Tony is a friend, and his emotional appeal as a proactive civil servant may have come across as a bit of nervousness, but he is genuine.  If Republican leadership folks at a local level don't start embracing and encouraging conservative hispanic candidates, it will be a long term mistake that the "Turn Texas Blue" folks are depending on.

County Treasurer

Ronnie Oldfield and Johnny Countryman are very different personalities on stage, a contrast that Oldfield wants to take advantage of.  Countryman was reserved but more engaged than at the first forum. Oldfield had some fun interacting with the audience.  I'm not sure if that matters to the job, but it is fun to watch.  Oldfield tried to make something of some personnel movements that had reduced the Treasurer's budget over the last few years, but Countryman handled that confidently.

County Republican Chairman

I'm afraid this may be down to a turnout issue between the TEA Party faction and anti-TEA affiliated voters come election day.  Both Jody Dellar and Jimmy Weaver were more forthcoming with some agenda items for the party, and Dellar clearly pointed out her organizing experience, but as a whole there wasn't a lot to convince me that either had the momentum to bring together the various factions that exist in the party.  Whoever gets the job has a tough task ahead of them.

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