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.
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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.
He says pre-K classes should start at age 3 and community college should be free.
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.
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."
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.
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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."
"I will guarantee 100,000 jobs in Texas in the first two years or I will give the state $10 million."
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.
I will fund the top priorities of state government in the White Adminstriation: Ecucation, higher education, and job training...
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."
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."
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."
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."
"Texans should know that our criminal justice system is, by and large, a just system. "
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.
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)."
Shami: Not as it currently stands. He says he would support it "if we were 110 percent sure" it was fairly administered.
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."
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.) "
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."
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.
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."
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.
He also hits a cue card, saying the nation was ready for Obama and the state is ready for Shami.
"God bless you, God bless Texas, and God bless America."
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."
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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