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On Sunday, October 19, the two candidates for district 82, incumbent Republican Tom Craddick and Democratic challenger Bill Dingus met in a debate in Midland. The complete debate may be viewed online here. The online version has separate segments for each question that was asked and for the opening and closing statements. One peculiarity is that the debate was sponsored by AT&T, and the senior vice-president of AT&T Texas was allowed to be a member of the panel that asked questions. My report on the debate is based upon my notes of the answers to questions. It is not a verbatim transcript. Each candidate had one minute to respond to a question, and they were allowed unlimited thirty-second rebuttals. Craddick opening statement: I grew up in Midland, moved here when I was 9. I went to public schools here, and my children went to school here and graduated from high school. When I ran for speaker I made some commitments. We took a ten billion deficit and turned it into a positive, no new tax increase. We gave more than $14 billion in property tax relief, the largest property tax cut in history . We did tort reform and brought ten thousand new doctors to Texas. We have the number one business climate of any state. And I've done lots of things for Midland. Dingus opening statement: I want to thank KMID and everyone who is here tonight and those who are watching this debate. Thanks to Speaker Craddick for agreeing to participate. I want to thank all the voters of district 82 who have been so supportive of my candidacy. I am running because I want to provide a choice, an independent voice in Austin as opposed to one that is not. West Texas has big issues, the Trans-Texas Corridor, high utility rates, paltry funding of public education. But the biggest problem is the domination by special interest lobbyists who control too much of what is decided in Austin, and that is the change I want to bring to district 82. What is your position on the Trans-Texas Corridor? Dingus: It's a bad idea, and we shouldn't do it. It's a $140 billion boondoggle. The state would have to condemn 460,000 acres of good Texas farm and ranch land. This is a good example of how lobbyists control everything we do in Austin. Craddick: The Trans-Texas Corridor was originally designed to get larger highways between the major cities. Tx-DOT took it and ran with it. The Trans-Texas Corridor is dead. There is a moratorium on it. I did not vote for the Trans-Texas Corridor. I wasn't even on the floor when the Trans-Texas Corridor was passed. It doesn't affect West Texas. Everybody in Austin knows it is dead. [Craddick and Dingus then engaged in a fast-paced discussion over whether Dingus supported another major highway that was to cut through West Texas from Presidio. Craddick said Dingus made the motion to support it as a Midland city councilman and named the date of the vote. Dingus said that he voted for the bypass around Midland to keep 5,000 trucks a day out of the city. He added that he and other opponents completely rewrote the proposal.] Fifty percent of the money in this race has been received from outside the district. How can local voters be suyre their voice is heard, and would you be beholden to people from outside the district? Dingus: I got a contribution from my mother, I;m beholden to her. Others I got were all from friends and relatives. They're not going to be asking me for any favors. I got an awful lot of contributions from the district in small amounts. Craddick: We received a lot of contributions from the district, more than our opponent, and a larger amount dollarwise, and a lot of statewide contributions. A lot of these are from political action committees. Well, what is that? That's a lot of people who live in Midland, doctors, dentists, have done that. [Craddick named people in the audience who were involved in PACs, including "my opponent's dentist."] Dingus: There is a difference between lobbyists and PACs. Corporate lobbyists money is huge, and that I have a problem with, and you should too. In the Legislature a lot of emphasis is placed on seniority and rank. Does having the speaker come from Midland make a difference? [I intend to keep my personal opinions about the candidates out of this report, but -- this is outrageous. The debate was sponsored by AT&T. This question was asked by Leslie Ward, the AT&T vice-president and lobbyist whose company has given Craddick bucketsful of money. It is obviously a softball pitched so that Craddick can knock it out of the park. She had no business being on that panel, or asking that question.] Dingus: It does make a difference, and it should make a difference. The problem isn't so much the rank and the seniority, it's the behavior of the person. I think we can all agree that if we did establish term limits, we wouldn't say one term of forty years or two terms of twenty years. That's too long. With power comes longevity, and there's a problem with longevity. Craddick: The speaker being from West Texas does make a difference. It's a real positive for us out here and people across the state. And probably, in today's world, looking at redistricting in two years, there won't be another speaker from rural areas after me. It's been a real positive. Look at the health care facilities tied to Texas Tech, OB-GYN, two new surgical suites, digital mammograms. And I think as far as term limits, we have term limits in this state. People can vote you out every two years, that's our term limits. Dingus: I'm not running against Tom Craddick because he is speaker. It is because of what he has done as speaker that I am running against him. Craddick: I'm very proud of what I have done as speaker and I'd do it again.
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