Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Primary Matters, Part II

In the last post, part I, I covered the statewide races. I don’t think I mentioned, although it’s probably obvious, I’m only dealing with the Republican Primary, covering races on my ballot here in Harris County (in and around Houston). In this part II I’ll cover the Congressional District 2 race, where nine candidates are running to replace retiring Congressman Ted Poe. I’ll do a part III tomorrow to cover the judicial races and anything else on the ballot.

I’m doing this the long way, covering my thought process, and trying to give some respectful observations about the many candidates. I’m saving my endorsement for last, so if that’s all you’re interested in, you can just scroll down to the bottom. Note that, with so many running, we will probably have a runoff election.

Congressional District 2

It was something of a surprise to me that Congressman Ted Poe was retiring. He’s old enough to retire, and he has had to fight off leukemia the past couple of years. But I had pictured him doing fine and staying forever.

The good news is that we have a deep bench. There are nine GOP candidates running to be his replacement. That means there will be a runoff election, so the Primary will really select the top two in this list; it won’t be over when votes are counted March 6th. In the end, I will support whoever is the final Primary winner. But I have some definite preferences.

CD2 Candidate Forum February 9, 2018, at HCRP Headquarters
left to right: Jonny Havens, Dr. John Spiers, Rick Walker, Malcolm Whittaker (not pictured),
Kathaleen Wall, Dan Crenshaw, Justin Lurie, David Balaat

Kevin Roberts        http://www.kevinrobertsforcongress.com/

The first in the race, within 24 hours of Ted Poe’s announcement, was Kevin Roberts. He is a first-term representative of an area just a bit north of where I live. During legislative sessions I take a group of people from our local Tea Party to visit local legislative offices to let them know or opinions on the bills we’re following. We couldn’t visit his office, because he hadn’t yet set one up. That’s not that unusual, since the first order of business is the legislative session in Austin, where he has an office. Valoree Swanson didn’t have an office either. But she had local staff who met with us at a convenient location. Roberts had no staff, and we had no contact with him. He was probably adequate as a freshman representative, but not a standout.

I don’t feel confident that he’s the right replacement for Poe. But he jumped in early enough to get a lot of the traditional support and money.

Kathaleen Wall      http://www.kathaleenwall.com/

Another front runner is Kathaleen Wall. Her ads are amusing and probably effective. Except, she had a new ad come out on the Second Amendment, in which she aims and shoots her rifle, within 24 hours of the Parkland, Florida, shooting. The liberal media especially made hay of that. It wasn’t a bad ad for Texas, but the timing was tone deaf.

I looked forward to hearing from her at a candidate forum February 9th. She gave a decent, but memorized, brief introduction. And then she excused herself for a prior engagement, and missed anything extemporaneous.

Keven Roberts also missed that forum; he provided a video. In his case, it was made clear the forum wasn’t planned until after he had made this commitment. But it means, since he ran for state representative, I have not seen him in person.

Wall missed probably the best opportunity to let people know who she is and what she stands for. She had an additional opportunity this past Saturday at our Tea Party; she bowed out the night before in favor of working at the polls. That means she thought she’d do better going to one of several dozen voting locations to meet people on their way in to vote—typically people who have already made their decisions—rather than a roomful of active conservatives doing their due diligence to be informed voters.

I have been sent a number of video clips of her at other forums, where she does answer extemporaneously, and she stumbles. She apparently needs to be scripted. It may be that she means the scripted things she says, but she’s a weak speaker in a strong field.

She does have money, though. I think I’ve received more mail from her, and heard/seen more ads, than all other candidates. We got so many pieces of mail from her one day that my husband said, “Nobody who misspends money like that deserves my vote.” So, she’s a no.

Rick Walker           http://rickwalker.com/
Rick Walker

The other big spender in the race is Rick Walker. He’s a businessman with a company in 50 countries, and has run worldwide charities. He’s OK in person, but not stellar. He fumbled on immigration issues when he met with our Tea Party, maybe just explaining himself wrong. Next to Wall, I’ve seen the most campaigning from him. If he should win, like I said, I’d support him. But I think it is only his money that is getting him as much attention as he’s had.

He did say one thing in the forum I especially liked. He called it the Ted rule: “If Ted Poe did something, assume it’s right until proven otherwise.” That does sum up how we in the district feel about our current congressman.

I like all of the other six better than these three. I want to give them all their due, so I’ll share my choice last.

Most of the candidates are youngish. But two of them are closer to my age: Dr. Jon Spiers and Malcolm Whittaker. Both were at the forum at Harris County Republican Party headquarters and also the Tea Party meeting last Saturday.

Dr. Jon Spiers          http://drjonspiers.com/
Dr. Jon Spiers

Dr. Jon Spiers (pronounced Spires) is a former heart surgeon. He served in Desert Storm in the medical corps. An accident followed by surgery left him unable to perform surgery again, so he went to law school and became a healthcare attorney, because he had figured out that lawyers and Congress make the rules about how to practice medicine.

While he seems conservative on other issues, healthcare reform is his main interest and expertise. He favors completely repealing Obamacare and replacing it with transparency and reconnecting the doctor and patient concerning payment.

He thinks we should look at opioid addiction—there were 65,000 drug overdose deaths last year. There was a question at the candidate forum about downgrading marijuana to a schedule 2 drug, which I don’t in general approve of. He answered carefully, saying it would be useful to reschedule the medicinal extracts, such cannabidiol. I’ve wondered why the push for legalizing “medical marijuana” when extracts like marinol have been useful for decades. So I appreciated this answer, rather than the libertarian push to take this first step to legalize a harmful brain-affecting drug.

He was strong on border security. On illegal immigration, he told a moving story about a friend who had called him the day before, a father of a 21-year-old son. An illegal immigrant deported four times pulled up beside him and shot him in the face. As he said, “No parent should ever have to go through that.” Consequences of a weak border are real. And he made the point that DACA is not a “dream”; it’s a nightmare. He separated DACA from the larger issue of everyone brought here illegally as a child along with their parents and extended family.

Healthcare, immigration, and budget are all related, he says. He’s careful and knowledgeable, good qualities for a congressman. He isn’t particularly dynamic, which is probably why he’s not getting traction.

Malcolm Whittaker is a patent attorney. He’s a numbers guy, and his main issue is government debt. He has some creative ideas on bringing down government spending. “If we don’t do something about the debt, we’ll turn into Greece or Venezuela.” One idea relates to the rule, set back in the Bush administration, preventing the government from ever negotiating costs for Medicare prescriptions. He believes we’re overpaying by $40 billion a year; for 15 years so far, that’s $600 billion, which would be a win/win.

He said that he’s interested in being on the appropriations committee and judiciary committee. He’d like to reform the way we do budgets. The problem is, instead of saving any money left over in a budget, departments make sure they spend it all—even if wastefully—so that they don’t get less money the following year. There should be incentives to save money, not incentives to spend wastefully.

He has a contest going on at his website, www.notagovernmentman.com. People can send in ideas for reducing government spending, and the best idea wins a gun (pending background check).
I disagreed with him on legalizing marijuana, and his total non-involvement foreign policy. I’m guessing he’s libertarian along the lines of Rand Paul, who is often right, but not totally, which is why I’m not quite a libertarian.

His looks and manners remind me a bit of late actor Edward Herrmann, who played the grandfather on Gilmore Girls. He’s solid and personable, but not exciting, which may explain why he’s not getting campaign attention.

The rest of the list are all younger (as Rick Walker is as well), which means they could have a longer political future.

Justin Lurie is a businessman, pro-growth and pro-business. He is anti-regulations and points out that Washington does not create prosperity. But it can create an environment where businesses can be prosperous. He’s the founding and lead partner in an investment bank, dealing mainly with oil and gas, which he says is key to Texas and Houston.

He pointed out that Alexander Hamilton designed a federal reserve bank with individual districts. In 1933 FDR centralized it, putting way too much power in the single federal reserve chair.

On healthcare, he says the problem is lack of competition and lack of transparency. There are doctors who post full costs, but 99% don’t.

Concerning DACA and “dreamers,” he said, “I have dreams. My kids have dreams.” We need to prioritize citizens and legal immigrants over illegals. He suggests eliminating the 60-vote rule and going back to majority rule in the Senate. Then we don’t have to have a DACA “dreamer” provision.
He was in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. He favored the Patriot Act at that time. But technology changes, and government has gone too far. We need to balance safety and privacy. We need better oversight of the AUMF (authorization to use military force), which has been used 37 times since 9/11. Obama grabbed a lot of power.

Justin Lurie appears slick. People used to say that about Ted Cruz, and I couldn’t see it. I think Lurie is also actually sincere, but he does have that slick vibe. He’s still quite young, so I expect he’ll have a future in politics, or continue being a positive force in business.

Jonny Havens         http://havensforcongress.com/
Jonny Havens

Jonny Havens said in his introduction that he wants to make character count again in Congress. He grew up in Houston, went to Texas A&M. He was an Army Ranger, with two deployments in Iraq. He currently works at Baker-Botts.

On healthcare, he said government needs to get out of the way. With competition, costs would come down. You shouldn’t be dependent on either government or your employer for insurance government interference set up that situation. You should be able to go out and compare prices, and choose a plan you prefer. He also wants to increase and reform health savings accounts. One cost saving suggestion was that a physicians’ assistant can do the majority of care at lower costs. Doctors, at higher costs, could then do their specialties better. With transparent costs, patients could make lower cost decisions most of the time.

On immigration he does not support DACA. He said we need three things: a border wall, end immigration lottery, and end chain migration. He likes President Trump’s jobs agenda, to get regulations out of the way.

David Balat         http://davidbalat.com/
David Balat

David Balat is a Houstonian whose parents are from Israel. He is a healthcare executive. He helps hospital CEOs in financially failing institutions do a turnaround. Doing that, he has saved hundreds of jobs.

Healthcare is his primary issue. He’s against regulations. Government must get out of the business. Repealing Obamacare is essential. It wasn’t until the HMO Act of 1973, and a similar change in 1965, that corporations came into play. Smaller entities can’t compete. So costs go up. He has a plan he calls FreedomCare outlined on his website: DavidBalat.com. Transparency is one step. The cash price of a CAT scan could be $250 and still be profitable. But it costs $10,000, and it’s illegal to set the price lower than medicare. Government interference is the main cause of rising healthcare costs, and the government offers to solve that with the Obamacare disaster.

He has some perspective on immigration, because his parents immigrated and became citizens. He and his mother learned English together with Sesame Street. He says DACA was an illegal executive order. And it’s unconstitutional to support amnesty. A country needs a unique rule of naturalization; exceptions mean there is not a uniform rule. He believes in the rule of law. He also pointed out that we send money to countries that hate us and desecrate our flag; that shouldn’t be. Our debt is exceeding our national economy.

I like David Balat overall. As with some of the others, in a smaller field, he’d be better able to stand out. I hope he keeps working for conservative principles.

Dan Crenshaw says he’s running because we need leaders who’ve been tested. He spent 10 years as a Navy Seal, with 5 deployments. He was hit with an IED in Afghanistan; it killed his interpreter. He lost one eye, and was blind in the remaining eye until after some miraculous surgeries. Afterward, he was deployed two more times. He has spent time in Korea recently, and of course Afghanistan and Iraq. He still has his top security clearance.

We have good military experience among some other candidates as well, but Dan Crenshaw still stands out. He says he learned never to give up from his mother. She died of cancer when he was 10, having never given up on caring for him and his brother right until the end.

After being released from the military—pretty much against his life plans—for health disabilities, he attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  Referring to congressional powers in the Constitution, he said that freedom comes from good governance. The greatest threat of the left is undercutting values. We have to provide a better vision, and give a better message—and take that message to those who will respond when they hear the truth presented to them clearly, but have just not had that. He speaks Spanish, and is the only bilingual candidate.

As for immigration, we need those three things that everyone else says we need. Then and only then can we talk about illegal immigrants. There should be no cutting in line.

Dan Crenshaw at Cypress Tea Party
Opponents (maybe a PAC, not sure who) has accused him of being unemployed and living with his parents. If you look at his timeline, he’s been busy. Even since finishing at Harvard, he has done multiple trainings for special forces, and he turned down a job at the department of Defense in order to run. During the campaign he has been working to get attention to people still displaced by Harvey. The work is not done. He’s been helping out particularly in the Bear Creek area near us.

Another attack has been about the eye patch—accusing him of wearing it as a campaign gimmick. Not true. He has a glass right eye, which he showed us under the eye patch. He can go without the patch, and there are photos of him over the years both ways. But he believes it’s less distracting to wear the patch, and gives him the option of removing the glass eye when it gets irritated. My personal view is that, after a couple of minutes, you get used to the eye patch; the glass eye, which doesn’t follow or look very natural, would take more getting used to. Either way, once he starts talking, Dan Crenshaw the person is who you see.

There was something he said at the candidate forum that got my attention. He said he took an oath to defend the country, and that never ends. And he would never quit on Texas. He also said that, while every one of the candidates say the right things about what they’d do in office—all conservatives, all good ideas—you need someone who can inspire and lead.

I was leaning toward him after the forum, but I waited until the additional visit to the Cypress Texas Tea Party last Saturday to make my decision. There’s a lot to like in the other candidates. But I really do want someone who not only knows the details of policies, but can speak in a way that inspires others to follow the conservative way. So I got a yard sign. And I’m voting for Dan Crenshaw.

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