I attended an evening with the Republican candidates in Harris County run-off races Tuesday night hosted by Village Republican Women PAC. The evening was a complete success, with a sold out venue - Lakeside Country Club - and access provided to all of the candidates in attendance. The main draw was the forum extended to the two Republican U.S. Senate candidates - Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov David Dewhurst.
The other run-off candidates went first and were provided the opportunity to speak, presented in the order in which they will appear on the ballot. Cristi Craddick led, followed by Warren Chisum both running for Railroad Commissioner. Next up was Justice Supreme Court, Place 4 candidate John Devine. David Medina was not present so we moved on to District Judge 129th District Court. Michael Landrum first, then Chris Gillett. Greg Parker spoke as candidate for Railroad Commissioner (unexpired term) and then Paul Bettencourt took the stage to introduce and endorse Barry Smitherman in the race. That was a bit odd, as the other candidates didn't have that kind of intro, but, whatever. Then Smitherman spoke.
Next were the candidates for Harris County sheriff. First up was Harold Heuszel, speaking as a surrogate for Louis Guthrie. This was really bad form. If another candidate was not there, the program moved on. Heuszel was permitted to speak and didn't say why Guthrie didn't attend. That, besides the fact that Heuszel is not a good public speaker didn't exactly please the audience. He received polite applause. The audience also didn't respond to the bit of nastiness inserted into his talk - that of the personnel matter for Pittman - by beginning to mention it and then saying he'd be happy to answer questions on that later. It was the only ugliness of the evening so Louis Guthrie did himself no favors by pulling this stunt. Maybe no one is surprised any more about the Guthrie campaign's tactics. The disgust is apparent, though. Carl Pittman was up next and it was clearly his room. He is an engaging speaker and clearly enjoyed being there. The audience ate it up.
Last was Don Self and then Janet Townsley, candidates for District Judge 152nd District Court.
Ted Cruz went first in the Senate candidate forum part of the program. Moderated by Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle, Ted Cruz was first. He approached the stage from the front row table he was sitting at with supporters. Harris County Republican party activist Paul Simpson as also seated at that table. Cruz delivered opening remarks, standing before the audience, then retired to the seat on the stage across from Cagle. Cagle asked questions that were to be asked of both candidates. Then Cruz stood and delivered his closing remarks. He received a standing ovation from at least half of the audience when he finished.
David Dewhurst entered from the back of the room and it is unclear if he was late in arriving or if it was a security thing for his current position in office. Same format for his time on stage. He, too, received a standing ovation by about the same amount of the audience that Cruz did at the conclusion of his closing statement.
The interesting question was the last asked of each Senate candidate. It had to do with the ugly ads being run by each campaign. The candidates were asked what was the worst of such attacks. Both candidates began in the same way - it is hard to know where to begin. Cruz mentioned that his two young daughters - ages four and one year - were surprised to learn that they are Chinese. He spoke about the lies told in those constant ads shown on television. Dewhurst spoke of having to spend so much time and money countering the negative ads. I don't know that many in the audience were too sympathetic to a multi-millionaire spending $10 million or so of his own money. I imagine Ted Cruz would like to have the same financial resources available to him. Cruz pointed out that his campaign's negative ads concentrated on Dewhurst's record while Dewhurst has gone personal in his attacks. Cruz again spoke of his respect for Dewhurst's service in the Air Force and CIA - resume items Dewhurst mentioned several times in his time on stage.
Clearly this format was a friendly one for Dewhurst. Cruz shines in the debate format. Both candidates did well and answered the questions with similar responses. This race really does come down to if the voter wants to continue with our state's new junior senator being the guy next in line, having served the state since 1999 in office. That makes him the "career" politician, not Ted Cruz. Cruz is a fresh face and has not served in elected office. His service to Texas has been as Solicitor General during the early Rick Perry years. He has served Texas well before the United States Supreme Court. He is an accomplished debater, which is exactly what the Senate requires as the deliberative body in Congress. He honorably stood with his pledge that he would not run against Tx Attorney General Abbott if Abbott decided to run for re-election instead of the U.S. Senate.
On the way out of the room, Carl Pittman and his wife, Kristi, said good night to the attendees and shook hands will everyone as they passed by. I didn't see Mr. Hueszel.