The differences in the top Democratic candidates for governor are pretty clear.
In their first and probably only televised debate, Bill White sounded experienced, as you'd expect of a three-term mayor of Houston. And he kept his reputation for being sober and wonky. Farouk Shami, a wealthy Houston businessman, was more passionate, more animated, and much more prone to political mistakes. He offered several statements that will make simple work for anyone who feels the need to attack his candidacy. To wit:
• On economic development: "I will guarantee everybody's job."
• On reviving the economy: "I will guarantee 100,000 jobs in Texas in the first two years or I will give the state $10 million."
• On immigration: "Without Mexicans, it would be like a day without sunshine."
• On his wind and solar energy plans: "My aim for the state of Texas — within 10 years, you will not have an electric bill."
It only lasted an hour, but voters got a chance to see real differences in the two candidates. 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.
Our coverage, in several parts: Elise Hu captures the scene behind the cameras and has video of Shami and White answering questions after the debate; Ben Philpott, covering the governor's race for KUT and the Tribune, filed an audio report on the evening, and Elise and I live-blogged before, during and after the proceedings.