Thursday night, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans held a debate with the candidates running for the seat being vacated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The six participating candidates were: Glenn Addison, Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst, Craig James and Tom Leppert.
The moderators/questioners were a reporter from the Austin Statesman, an anchor from Univision, and a reporter from a local news station.
Let's get this out of the way: Ted Cruz brought the fight to David Dewhurst. With his very first answer, as he thanked the Lt. Governor for being there, after not accepting 19 debate invitations. At each opportunity, with most every answer, Ted Cruz pointed to differences in past performances between the two men. Cruz emphasized that performance records must be looked at when deciding on a candidate, not just words on a debate stage - or of election conversions.
Dewhurst is a deliberate speaker, by which I mean he pauses (sometimes too long) before he speaks. Nothing wrong with doing that - many of us could do more of it ourselves - but it comes off as slow and less strong than the responses of the others on the stage.
Tom Leppert is an impressive candidate in his own right. He has a clear understanding of economics and how government works, as a former mayor and a businessman. This just isn't his year, though.
Glenn Addison enjoys whipping out his pocket sized Constitution with each answer he delivers. He bills himself as "the common man". A successful funeral business owner in Magnolia, he engages the audience with his folksy banter and off the wall sayings. He talks up Ron Paul a bit too much for my taste but we can all agree on a couple of Dr. Paul's ideas - such as auditing the Federal Reserve. All of the candidates spoke in favor of that. Addison clearly envisions himself as a Tea Party guy.
Craig James entered the race last and this may have been his first debate. He was a bit awkward but held his own as he got more into the groove of answering questions. The reporter from the Austin Statesman tried to perform a classic "gotcha" question on the rookie candidate and James was not having it. He scolded the reporter for the question and then went on to answer it. The reporter asked, since most people don't know him or his level of knowledge of world affairs, "who is the Secretary of Defense?" After doing a bit of a rant about those kinds of questions, rightfully so, he then answered correctly. Like all of them, he has a compelling personal story and is not lacking in self-confidence after his career in football and then on camera on ESPN. He also has a real estate business.
The debate was well run. Actual meaningful questions were asked and policy agendas were forced out of sometimes reluctant candidates. The debate was livestreamed for a larger audience, though the audience at the event was quite large.
Thanks to Texas Public Policy Foundation's Communications Director David Guenther for my invitation and to Empower Texans for partnering with TPPF for a spirited and thoughtful debate.