Texas Democratic Primary Debate Liveblog

We're live-blogging the Democratic gubernatorial debate from Fort Worth, where the official proceedings begin at 7 p.m. (Check your local listings for stations and times and so on).

This might be the only debate between Farouk Shami and Bill White, the leading contenders among seven Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination. No other statewide televised forums are scheduled at this point, and early voting starts next week.

The Texas Debates sponsored by the same folks who brought you the first of the GOP debates: KERA, in partnership with CBS 11 (KTVT-TV) and TXA 21 (KTXA-TV), the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, KUVN Univision 23, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, Texas State Networks and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Want it from your candidate's perspective instead?

Shami's campaign is doing a liveblog during the debate if you want to follow from that perspective. So's the White campaign, which also has a texting thing going on. They're asking supporters to text "DEBATE" and their message to 228466 (ACTION); that's not free, by the way.

Environment Texas, an advocacy group for, well, the environment, posted podcasts with the two debating Democrats. Shami's is here, and White's is here.

Liveblog

by Elise Hu
Here we are at the press filing center. This is a pretty cramped space so I'm guessing when more people show up there is going to be some stressin'.

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by Elise Hu
Outside, the TV reporters were doing liveshots for the 5pm newscasts. These two gals are my former partners-in-crime in Austin, who traveled up for the festivities. I think we must have done something to make them around and laugh when we were walking up on them.

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by Ross Ramsey
Both candidates plan to come out after the debate, we're told. After each of the two Republican debates, Debra Medina talked to the press, but Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry left.
by Ross Ramsey
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dave Montgomery, asked about his makeup (he's a questioner): "NO, that's my natural color!"
by Ross Ramsey
The pressroom: 29 people in a room the size of your garage. With more equipment than the average Best Buy...

Debate press


by Elise Hu
Shami's campaign director Vince Leibowitz stopped in for a quick chat:

by Ross Ramsey
Candidates, seen on the satellite feed getting their final makeup. Check out the set when it comes on. Looks like, well, not a debate. TGI Friday's, maybe?
by Ross Ramsey
Introducing the candidates now. Here we go...
by Ross Ramsey
Shelley Kofler, KERA, asks the first question... Do you support any kind of school voucher. White: NO. I think we ought to invest more in our public schools...
by Ross Ramsey
White criticizes Gov. Rick Perry for hte high dropout rate and says it's the biggest problem facing the state.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami, on vouchers: "Education is the key to success to any family and any nation... school vouchers is not on my agenda, absolutely not."

He says pre-K classes should start at age 3 and community college should be free.
by Ross Ramsey
Dave Montgomery asks about abortion: Shami says women should be able to consult their doctors. White says the law should be left as it is. And he says teen pregnancy is too high... and says barriers to adoption should be erased.
by Elise Hu
The tweeting tonight is happening with two main hashtags, #txgovdebate and the Bill White folks are using #BW4TX. These hashtags are getting pulled into the Burnt Orange Report (Democratic blog) "Cover it Live" livechat tonight.
by Ross Ramsey
Follow-up, on whether women seeking abortions should be forced to first see ultrasound images of their fetuses.

White says he would try to help the legislature stay away from "hot-button" issues.

Shami says he's pro-choice, but says abortion should not be allowed after 60 to 90 days into a pregnancy.
by Ross Ramsey
Montgomery, again: Should Texas keep its ban on same sex marriages.

Shami: "I would not take freedom from any other individual. They're human beings, and they have the right to do what they want to do."
by Ross Ramsey
Kofler asks about voter photo identification.

White: That is a classic illustration of where Gov. Perry has brought the divisive politics of Washington into Texas... White says there should be criminal enforcement against anyone who's voting illegally, but he says people shouldn't be forced to show voter IDs.
by Ross Ramsey
White says the Houston city council was divisive when he was elected mayor but says it calmed down on his watch; the suggestion is that he'd do that in Austin.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami says, on voter ID: "Voting is a privilege and a duty... unfortunately, there's not enough people voting... when we go to vote, they ask us for drivers' license... I support what we have now.... Let's don't waste our time."
by Elise Hu
White and Shami in a two-shot, as they got the Voter ID question.

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by Ross Ramsey
Margaret Murphy of Dallas, in the audience, asks Bill White about unemployment. She left work to raise a child. How are you going to help people like me find jobs?

White says Texans should have access to job training. Says that peple who came to Houston after Katrina got job training "so that they would have jobs that had real employment opportunity at the end."

"This might be a difference between the candidates, but I do not think the governor of Texas has control over the global economy."
by Ross Ramsey
Shami: "I have 20 years of experience in creating jobs." He says he wants to increase the number of green jobs in the state. "As the governor, everybody in Texas will have a job." He says people in Houston

"I will guarantee 100,000 jobs in Texas in the first two years or I will give the state $10 million."
by Ross Ramsey
That quote got a big reaction in the press room.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami: "It is time for a businessman. I've been a CEO... I know how to negotiate... I'm ready to serve every citizen. That is my specialty."
by Ross Ramsey
How would you balance the budget?

Balancing budget as a ceo is my experience. I will cut the tax. I will cut the special interest groups. But what I will do, I will increase revenue. I would balance the budget immediately.

How would I increase revenues? Jobs, jobs, jobs… Last year, I bought 1,277 jobs… I am setting a good example how we are creating jobs.

by Ross Ramsey
Oops. That last bit was Shami.
by Ross Ramsey
WHITE:
I will fund the top priorities of state government in the White Adminstriation: Ecucation, higher education, and job training...
by Elise Hu
White's known as a wonky (dare I say, nerdy?) guy. As he talks about scrubbing the state budget in order to deal with the state's shortfall, I'm reminded of this from a Texas Monthly piece last fall: "He finds reading spreadsheets late at night relaxing."
by Ross Ramsey
White, questioning Shami: Asks about his promise to create green jobs and says he's done a lot of that as mayor. Can you tell the citizens of Texas what your experience has been in creating energy jobs before running for governor?

Shami says he has been talking to experts. "I am ready to start right now. You've been talking about it for a long time... I'm working already... One day, this state will be the center of green energy."
by Elise Hu
Shami's solution for unemployment in Texas still appears to be personally bringing in more jobs through his company and now, his expansion into manufacturing solar panels. When addressing the question about how he would raise state revenue through macroeconomic/fiscal tools, he still pointed to his microeconomic, aka, his own firm's answers.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami, to White: Our city (Houston) is the third most toxic city in the United States of America... would you support a moratorium (he actually said 'memorandum') on benzine emissions?

White: "My city is a good city. It has led the big cities in this country in job growth... and we cleaned the air... those levels were brought down more than 50 percent."
by Ross Ramsey
Questions from the Internet: What steps will you take to secure the border of Mexico?

Shami: I would turn negative to positive. We should not have a wall betweeen us and Mexico. We should build bridges... we should not split families... Let's populate the border on both sides — that will slow illegal immigration."
by Ross Ramsey
White: "The federal government has the principal responsibility... and they're failing us."

by Ross Ramsey
White goes wonk again, talking about different lines on the borders with biometric checks for frequent crossers.
by Ross Ramsey
Maria Renée Barillas asks about the e-verify system for immigrants. Shami: "Without Mexicans, it would be like a day without sunshine."
by Elise Hu
As expected, White has not engaged Shami, despite Shami's many direct and indirect jabs at the former mayor. The two men are obviously on different levels when it comes to policy details. White seems to be literally explaining to Shami what the E-Verify system is.

by Ross Ramsey
White: "Your question was about the e-verify system, right?... we have used it in Houston, and it is a useful tool... I don't think the state should be making immigration laws — that's a job for hte federal government."
by Ross Ramsey
To a question about whether and how Texas should participate in health care reform, White says the state wouldn't have a choice under any of the legislation now under consideration.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami, on that question: "Affordable health care is really essential to our citizens." He says he would "support the president's health care plan" and says "we can tweak it, we can work with it."

by Ross Ramsey
A single mother from Cedar Hill, Sherri Douchette, asks whether there should be a moratorium on the death penalty should be in place.

Shami: "We need to 110 percent that person really committed that crime... we cannot be just executing people without being sure... I would support a moratorium on death penalty for the state of Texas."
by Ross Ramsey
White: "No, not in all cases, because that would disrespect the juries and the victims... in cases where there is no question about the innocence."

"Texans should know that our criminal justice system is, by and large, a just system. "
by Elise Hu
Shami's volume tends to rise when he's on the defensive, and sometimes when he's not. He's managed to keep the yelling in check, but when pushed on Voter ID earlier and on the healthcare issue he was noticeably louder.

White, meanwhile, is pivoting toward Perry - during this back-and-forth over the death penalty he says he's "never going to introduce politics" into the decisions about life and death, a clear jab at Gov. Rick Perry's controversial decision over Todd Willingham.
by Ross Ramsey
Frank Bravo, a Dallas teacher, asks about school funding so that it is stable and equitable.

White: "There really shouldn't be a limit on what parents can spend... there shouldn't be a difference on where a child is born in the state of Texas (on education)."
by Ross Ramsey
Shami: "We need to create jobs so that we can lower taxes... we need to raise teacher salaries." And he says school should be affordable to everyone. "Without a proper education, we cannot compete in a global world."

by Ross Ramsey
Question: Do you suport the death penalty?

White: Yes.

Shami: Not as it currently stands. He says he would support it "if we were 110 percent sure" it was fairly administered.
by Ross Ramsey
Question about the power of the governor to influence the state budget.

Shami: "The governor is the CEO... not all of that is accessible to the governor."

"I want to make sure that every citizen of the state of Texas is treated fairly and justly... I would use my veto for that... the governor has a veto right."
by Elise Hu
Shami responded to a question about his lack of knowledge on state officials by saying it would all be new elected officials if he's governor, anyway. (That's unlikely, but that's what he said.)

If you missed it, the reference was to this in the Austin American-Statesman, last week: "Shami, a Houston businessman making his first run for office, was asked a series of questions about Texas government. When asked whether he could name the state comptroller, Shami said, "Not at this point." (It's Republican Susan Combs.) "
by Ross Ramsey
A moratorium on Barnett Shale drilling?

White: "Where we have identified a certain level of benzine on a site, you go after that [company]" but he's not for a moratorium. "I don't like one size fits all rules."
by Ross Ramsey
Transportation, now. Where would you get the money for new roads? Would you consider raising the gas tax?

Shami: "We need to fix our roads. I favor raising the gas a little bit (and says the governments at all levels — federal, state, county, city — should share in that)"

White: "That's not where I'd start." Says Shami says he'd support an eight-cent per gallon hike on his website.
by Ross Ramsey
Ellgie Payton from Emorie: What can you do to make sure we can afford utilities?

Shami: "My aim for the state of Texas, within 10 years, you will not have an electric bill... we will be selling electricity [back to the grid]... that's my goal: to make our state the center of green energy."
by Ross Ramsey
White says deregulation has "absolutely not" helped Texans. He says electric rates were lower than the national average when Perry took office and are higher than the average now.
by Elise Hu
The press corps still crammed in here as the debate winds down.

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by Ross Ramsey
The question is whether Democrats are electable in Texas.

White: "I don't htink the New Orleans Saints had ever won a Super Bowl... this race isn't going to be a party... and it isn't going to be about personalities..."

He pitches his record as mayor. "We need someone who can bring people together." White sounds like he landed right on a cue card from one of his commercials. He was loaded for that one.
by Ross Ramsey
Shami: "I'm a man who can bring jobs... I understand health care... I understand a budget."

He also hits a cue card, saying the nation was ready for Obama and the state is ready for Shami.
by Ross Ramsey
Closing statements.
by Elise Hu
As White talks about his "track record of getting things done," the Shami campaign has blasted us with a message on White's business record as the head of Frontera, an energy exploration firm. Shami's team claims White "effectively ran a company into the ground".
by Ross Ramsey
White says he has a record of getting things done. "I know how to do that... that will be my highest priority." He says people should compare this debate with the debate between the Republicans. How can we expect our leadership to move the state forward if our leaders can't treat each other with respect."
by Ross Ramsey
Shami asks for viewer's votes. "I am proud Texan. My heart, my soul, are all Texan." He says he looks forward to being "your new governor."

"God bless you, God bless Texas, and God bless America."
by Elise Hu
We've gotta head over to a separate room to get post-debate press conferences from both candidates - the full video will be available tomorrow here at the Tribune.
by Elise Hu
In the post debate press conferences, Shami goes first. He reiterates his support for an end to abortions after the first trimester - well, specifically he says an end after 60-90 days. (Not sure how having a window will work in this situation.)

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by Elise Hu
White's up now - he says he agrees with many of KBH's criticism's of TXDOT. "TXDOT is on a precipice, they're borrowing money and their source of repayment is to take it out of maintenance and that will leave it at an unacceptable level - [TXDOT] admits this," White says.
by Elise Hu
White's now defending his budgets as mayor - I won't pretend to know the nitty gritty of the Houston budget and its debt load so what we're doing for you is rolling on all of this so that you can see his explanation in full.

When asked if he wishes if he had done more to cut the budget, White says, "Every year, every month when the sales tax came in lower than it was... we announced where we would make that up and we cut the budget as we went along."
by Ross Ramsey
So, to recap.

White sounded experienced, as you'd expect of a three-time mayor of Houston. Shami made the kinds of statements that will make simple work for anyone who feels the need to attack his candidacy. To wit:

• "I will guarantee everybody's job."

• "I will guarantee 100,000 jobs in Texas in the first two years or I will give the state $10 million."

• "Without Mexicans, it would be like a day without sunshine."

• My aim for the state of Texas — within 10 years, you will not have an electric bill."
In several places, the candidates showed real differences. Shami would support a moratorium on the death penalty; White would not.

White would leave the laws on abortion alone; Shami is pro-choice but only for the first 60 to 90 days of a pregnancy.

Shami wants a moratorium on Barnett Shale drilling because of pollution from benzine; White wants standards that would be enforced against bad actors while leaving other companies free to drill.

An increase in gas taxes is "not where I would start," White said, but he later added that he favors a legislative proposal that would allow local option gasoline taxes for transportation projects. Shami would support an increase in gasoline taxes for roads.

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