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Abortion, Education, and Immigration Dominate Texas Lt. Gov. Debate

Abortion, Education, and Immigration Dominate Texas Lt. Gov. Debate

AUSTIN, Texas — Breitbart Texas contributors Kristin Tate and Sarah Rumpf live-blogged Monday nights debate between the two major party candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor, State Senators Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), their first debate since they won their primaries. The debate kicked off at 7:00 p.m. Central Time at the KLRU studios in Austin and was moderated by Ross Ramsay, Executive Editor of The Texas Tribune. Check Breitbart Texas for posts from Tate throughout the debate, and follow @BreitbartTexas@KristinBTate, and @rumpfshaker on Twitter.

The Tribune will livestream the debate on YouTube, and can be watched on the embedded video below (until the debate begins, a countdown clock will be displayed):

Both candidates have set up debate watching websites, atwww.DanPatrick.org/debate and LeticiaVanDePutte.com/debate. Patrick is encouraging his supporters to tweet during the debate using the hashtag#StandWithDan, and Van de Putte has created a Twitter list of key staffers and supporters who will live-tweet the debate.

Local TV listings for cities across Texas are posted here.

Read Breitbart Texas’ past live blog of the Abbott-Davis Rio Grande Valley debate here.

Photo credit: The Texas Tribune.

See below for more indepth live blog updates.

UPDATE: 8:30 p.m. 

Post election opinion seems to have consensus that Van de Putte is a stronger candidate than Wendy Davis, but barring something completely shocking, this election is Patrick’s to lose. 

Michael Quinn Sullivan, President of Empower Texans, praised Van de Putte but was confident in Patrick’s chances. “While Senator Van de Putte is clearly a better candidate that Wendy Davis, she demonstrated yet again how out of touch Democrats — even one as formidable as Van de Putte — are from Texans,” Sullivan told Breitbart Texas. “Make no mistake, Senator Patrick will be the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas but he is going to have to continue diligently making his case to voters.”  [Disclosure: Sullivan is a Breitbart Texas contributor.]

Moderator Ross Ramsay did a solid job, asking a variety of questions that covered all the major topics and without inserting biased commentary. One nice touch at the end was when Ramsay reminded the audience of the election dates and when early voting begins. Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak tweeted at the end of the debate, “KLRU #txltgov debate was very well done tonight. Lots of substantive Q’s & moved fast. Great job to @rossramsey & both candidates.”

Overall, the debate was far more cordial and focused on substantive issues than the Abbott-Davis debate. Peggy Venable, former state director for the Texas chapter of Americans for Prosperity tweeted, “I like both #LtGovDebate candidates –  but as a Texan, a taxpayer, a Mom and a conservative, I support @DanPatrick.”

Rebecca Rienstra, Communications Director for the Austin Young Republicans added her support for Patrick. “Tonight, Senator Dan Patrick showed Texans that he would be a strong lieutenant governor. While Senator Leticia Van de Putte gave answers that were straight from the liberal playbook, Sen. Patrick expressed his pro-life, pro-business vision that will secure our border, lower our taxes, and create jobs. He is the right candidate for Texas,” Rienstra told Breitbart Texas.

UPDATE 8:00 p.m.

Question about what to do with Texans who do not have health insurance, and how to pay for it?

LVDP: Says that she has talked to her patients in her years as a pharmacist, and “nothing is more devastating” than when they go to the pharmacy counter and don’t have the money to pay for a prescription for their child. Says that it’s “not business-wise” to have so many uninsured Texans. Sharp criticism for Perry refusing Medicare expansion under Obamacare. Mentions other GOP governors who signed laws accepting this. 

(Note: same issue was brought up in Abbott-Davis debate. PolitiFact says the claim LVDP is making, the same one Davis did last week, is false.)

DP: Attacks LVDP for supporting expanding Obamacare, “a health care system that’s crashing all over this country.” Mentions in 2011 there was a bill to create an interstate health care pact and she voted against it. “Some people love Washington more than others, and she’s one of them.” Says the solution is for the federal government to return Texas’ Medicare/Medicaid funds back to Texas in a block grant. “The bureaucrats in Washington shouldn’t be the ones designing healthcare here in Texas.” 

DP continues that one way to provide more medical services to Texans is to increase funding for the number of residency slots for medical students. Many residents stay and practice medicine in the area where they completed their residency. Costs about $60K/year per resident. Wants to “dramatically increase” the number of residency slots. Mentions tort reform, and says that LVDP was one of only 4 Democrats who voted against a tort reform bill, which is why the Texas Medical Association did not endorse her. 

LVDP’s oldest daughter is a doctor, an ob/gyn. Says that Obamacare issue is if “Do you believe that every Texas family should have a family doctor.”

Question about same-sex marriage, and recent court decision declaring Texas’ law banning it unconstitutional. 

DP says that the court is going against the will of the people who supported this law. “I support the people of Texas,” adding that about 70% of Texans voted for the law. “The federal government needs to get out of our business.”

LVDP: “I think people’s attitudes are changing.” Doesn’t think vote would be the same today. “Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters” are in our workplaces and our families. Says that she supported an anti-workplace discrimination act. Hopes that the Texas Supreme Court will get the case and that they will “rule in favor of love and equality for all.”

UPDATE 7:55 p.m.

DP: says that LVDP only likes local control sometimes, pointing out that she was the only Democrat on the education committee who voted in favor of keeping Common Core standards. “She wants Washington telling your local school boards what you can teach in the classroom…you have to be consistent.” 

Question about standardized testing:

DP says he is frustrated about current tests, mentions testimony about tests that “aren’t matching what [students] are learning.” Says it is difficult to manage large state with many diverse districts. Supported reducing number of tests last session, thinks could be reduced even more. “We have to know that all of our schools are doing their job, there has to be some level of accountability that does not put the teacher or the student under the gun with an unfair test.”

LVDP supported reducing number of tests not just to five, but down to three. “Our high stakes testing is not working.” Says current tests don’t match what employers are looking for. Mentions that the testing company, that makes “hundreds of millions of dollars” on the tests, hires test evaluators on CraigsList. 

DP cites his work as education committee chair last session, mentions that many bills passed unanimously out of committee, or only one or two dissenting votes. Says he is concerned about the dropout rate in inner cities and social promotion. “We have too many students who are not ready for a job or college.”

UPDATE 7:50 p.m. 

Question about lawsuit over school financing (also a hot topic during the Abbott-Davis debate):

LVDP: “The number one job of the legislature” is to fund public education. She Says litigation was brought by urban and rural districts because they all think the legislature had not done their job. Says that property tax rates need to be left with local leaders.

DP says HB 585 last session would have reformed appraisal system, and LVDP voted against it. Also LVDP voted against another amendment authored by a Democrat that would protect Texans who lost their homes in a natural disaster from a hit on their property taxes from the appraisal jump as they rebuild. Accuses LVDP of “not caring” if people lose their homes from not being able to pay property taxes.

DP calls current property tax system “taxation through evaluation without representation…I want to empower you, the homeowner.” Says current appeal process is inadequate protection for homeowners. Adds that he wants to help apartment residents too, “that’s their home too” and wants to study what would happen if apartments were removed from the commercial building category and got the same protections as homesteads. Right now, apartment renters aren’t protected against property tax hikes that the landlords pass on to tenants.

LVDP again wants property taxes left solely with local control.

Update 7:45 p.m.

Continuing response to question about education cuts…

DP: “No one loves public education more than me. And I know my math.” Says choice was between about 4-5% cuts to education or raising taxes on Texans in an uncertain economy. Hits back at LVDP about the fired teachers, saying that many of them were retiring teachers that they didn’t replace, not teachers that were fired. “Your children weren’t shorted, she’s exaggerating the facts.”

Property taxes:

DP: “Your property taxes are too high because of appraisal creep.” Says that his plan is as the property value of your home goes up, your effective tax rate goes down, to the population inflation. Saying that the current way that property values are going up 8 to 9% in urban areas, that becomes doubling your taxes in just a few years. Not affordable. Pushes back against LVDP’s claim that he wants to replace this with sales tax. Says “it’s just called reducing taxes.” 

DP also wants a “serious discussion,” to have a study to see if we could raise sales taxes a penny or two to see if we could reduce property taxes even more, fund education and all the programs we want, “without driving people out of their homes.” Repeats line again from beginning of debate about he likes LVDP. “I like her a lot, but she’s just wrong on this issue.” Criticizes her for supporting a wage tax, says he would never do that.

LVDP: “There’s two people standing on this stage, and I’m the only one who doesn’t want to raise your sales tax.” Says she doesn’t support an income tax. Also thinks that the margins tax is unfair, says that she “led the charge against it” and it failed in the Senate by one vote. Says the compliance cost for the margins tax is too high for small businesses. 

LVDP continues that property taxes are local, county, city, school districts, not state issue. Wants to know if lowering property taxes means that fire fighters and police would lose their jobs. Says that she has the support of many Republican business owners who don’t like DP’s tax plans.

DP hits back, listing LVDP’s votes against tax cuts, supporting raising taxes. Wants LVDP to stop calling it a “tax swap,” repeats again that he is not wanting to add new taxes, just reduce property taxes “so teachers and police and firefighters can afford to live in their home.” Asks if you would you rather pay an extra $50/year in sales tax and save $1,000 on your property taxes?

UPDATE 7:35 p.m.

Question is about education and transportation spending:

LVDP: Very willing to spend Rainy Day Fund, mentions several billion dollar surplus reported by the Comptroller. Supports ballot measures for water infrastructure and transportation, but Attacks DP for education votes, saying that it resulted in higher tuition in universities. Says DP “voted against our students.” 

DP: Says “she knows better,” that he chaired the education committee and she served with him. “I don’t think she cast a single ‘no’ vote this entire session, she cast a few ‘present not voting’…we worked as a team” on the education initiatives, and she supported them. Mentions that his wife is a retired public school teacher. Says that the cuts were necessary to avoid raising taxes. Wants to put into perspective: out of $100 billion budget, about half is education, 30 percent medicare/health care, and 10 percent public safety. They did not want to cut public safety, so did vote to originally cut education. When more tax revenues than expected came in, the Senate did vote to restore almost all of those cuts. 

LVDP: Says choice is between “cuts” and “investing.” (Not “spending”?) “Dan, you need a math lesson.” Mentions fired teachers and says education is “Job One” for Lt. Governor. 

Moderator mentions that both candidates are “running a lot of red lights” – meaning they are both going over their time limits in their answers.

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.

Next question, about securing the border.

LVDP supports securing the border, but favors local law enforcement solution. “it’s the local law enforcement officers who can arrest…those local leaders have asked for help.” Criticizes “rhetoric of fear” and says it hurts the local economy. “I’m frustrated and mad just as others are.” 

DP: Defends the rhetoric that LVDP is saying is harsh, quoting Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who has also mentioned problems on the border and risks of communicable diseases. Says we should not have a policy that invites people to “drown in the river or die in the back of an 18 wheeler” to come to America. Says he supports a guest worker program, recognizes that we cannot deport 10 million people. People “need to be able to come here in dignity,” and we need real reform to the legal immigration system. Mentions the high number of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and the reports of potentials threats from terrorists. Says that the local border sheriffs, many of them Democrats, have endorsed him because they trust him to secure the border.

LVDP attacks Patrick for talking tough but voting against the border, DP replies that “one of the reasons I voted against the budget was that it didn’t provide enough money for border security.” However, the budget did pass.

Next question was about abortion, specifically Texas’ new law:

DP: this is one of the issues where he and LVDP disagree. He mentions that he successfully passed the sonogram bill after several sessions. Says he was “sad to see” his opponent “cheering on the anarchists who took over the Capitol” during Wendy Davis’ filibuster, and sad to see her cheer the anniversary of them trying to stop the bill. Says “you can be pro-choice, everyone has a right to their opinion, but to celebrate killing a bill that takes the life of a five month old baby in the womb?” “Make no mistake, I’m pro-life.” Mentions that many good conservatives across Texas will not vote for a pro-choice candidate. (Wendy Davis’ floundering campaign seems to bear this out.)

LVDP: “the most important and personal decisions need to be made by women and their families.” Mentions that she and her husband are Catholic and had 6 kids in 9 years. “What I know as a mother and a health care professional is I want zero abortions,” but says the way you do that isn’t by making access difficult, but by making abortion unnecessary in the first place. Says she has fought for family planning services, contraception. Says she supports banning abortion after 5 months, but wanted a rape and incest exception. Claims DP “doesn’t trust women,” attacks him for voting against testing rape kits (Note: this is probably about DP’s vote against the overall budget)

DP: “You either protect life or you don’t.” Hits back against charge that Republicans don’t respect women, saying that one way is to “protect little girls in the womb.” He recognizes that some people believe there should be an exception for rape/incest, but adds “That child is still born in the image of God and is still a living human being.”

UPDATE 7:15 p.m.

Next question is about the Texas DREAM Act:

DP mentions that LVDP authored the bill, he opposes it. He questions whether it is fair to give a seat at a Texas university to someone here illegally over an American citizen. Twitter is going crazy pointing out that the bill talks about in-state tuition, not admissions. He then changes the subject to taxes, lowering homeowner’s taxes.

LVDP then says she is proud to have authored the bill and says she worked with Gov. Perry, her Republican colleagues, and the Texas Association of Business on the bill. She corrects DP that it is not about admissions, it is about in-state tuition. LVDP Wants to use Rainy Day Fund to pay for it.

DP: “It’s just a question of fairness, and it’s one of the magnets” that draws illegal immigrants to Texas. Emphasizes “we have to have a secure border, we have to protect our citizens that are here, and we have to have a system that is fair to everyone.”

UPDATE 7:10 p.m.

Leticia Van de Putte gives confident introduction. Proud of family history in Texas, mentions she’s a pharmacist and describes her plan as a “prescription” for Texas.

Dan Patrick has had two grandkids born during the campaign. Points out that he and LVDP have very different records, he’s one of the most conservative, she’s one of the most liberal. “I know her well, and like her, we’ve sat next to each other in the Senate for 8 years.” Ah, yes, alphabetically they would be seated next to each other.

[From now on, will refer to Van de Putte as LVDP and Patrick as DP.]

First question about the recent report about tens of millions of dollars of TEF funds being distributed without applications being completed or requirements met.

LVDP: Was “appalled” at lack of oversight over TEF funds. “This ought to be stopped immediately” until there can be a full audit. Attacks DP for not releasing his tax returns.

DP: Has supported ending the TEF fund since before the scandal was reported. Will strive to “end or greatly reform” the business tax. Says that lowering taxes is better way to attract businesses to Texas rather than incentive funds like the TEF.

Says he files regular financial disclosures as a state senator, and the last one was over 140 pages, lists every stock he owns, etc. Believes that is a more than adequate disclosure and far more info than is on the tax returns.

LVDP accuses Patrick of “wanting to raise your taxes but he won’t release his.”

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.

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