The final debate in the 2014 governor’s race is over, and the winner was clear-cut: Wendy Davis. She was the aggressor from start to finish. Davis hammered Abbott on his $300,000 in contributions from payday lenders and on his cozying up to the insurance industry. She favored Medicaid expansion. He opposed it.
Abbott and Davis also clashed over money for schools. Abbott said “Texas children deserve a first-class education” and talked about his education plan. It is primarily directed at early childhood and pre-K. It does not go beyond the fourth grade. Davis touted her filibuster against the $5.4 billion in cuts imposed by the 2011 Legislature. Abbott’s response on health care was lame. He rolled out a long-discredited idea that Texas should seek block grants from the federal government. It’s straight from the TPPF playbook. We know this won’t work because Rick Perry and TPPF have been trying to get block grants for health care for years, and they have never succeeded in prying money out of the feds.
After he was warned that an elaborate scheme of offshore trusts posed an “aggressive and risky” tax strategy, Dallas businessman Sam Wyly dismissed the concerns by saying “if the IRS ever challenged his position, he would litigate for years and settle for pennies on the dollar,”
I thought that the lieutenant governor’s debate between Leticia Van de Putte and Dan Patrick tonight was pretty amazing. Van de Putte was a traditional candidate, who advocated for the longstanding major issues that define Texas politics: schools, health care, transportation. Patrick was totally different. He is the most formidable radical politician the state has produced in my career of covering the Legislature.
When one looks at the wheeling and dealing that went on with the Texas Enterprise Fund, my question is this: Why is it not an impeachable offense? These folks used the Enterprise Fund for their private playground. They awarded $222 million to entities that, according to the Dallas Morning News, never submitted a formal application or agreed to create a specific number of jobs (all of which is required for those seeking TEF grants). Remember, these are state tax dollars that Perry and Abbott were playing fast and loose with, and they were getting goodies from campaign contributors. Abbott, not incidentally, has received $1.4 million in contributions. Isn’t he in the position of being a fiduciary with respect to the Enterprise Fund?
Alas, I was out of the state for the Texas gubernatorial debate on Friday evening, but having watched the replay, I can’t say that I missed much. As debates go, I found it relatively low-wattage. Both candidates were articulate and reasonably polite to their opponents, though I thought Davis came across as very stiff–think for a moment how energetically Ann Richards might have talked about her filibuster or the cuts to education in 2011. Davis did appear to be more on the attack than Abbott, whom she criticized for his earlier remark that the Rio Grande Valley was like a third-world country. Abbott appeared to be happy to focus on Obama whenever possible.