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Republicans Clash in First Gubernatorial Debate

Texas election season is officially under way again. The republican candidates for governor are in full swing on the debate and campaign circuit. As Laurie Johnson reports — the first debate was an opportunity for the candidates to prove their conservative chops.


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Political debates can be weighty, stodgy affairs, filled with campaign rhetoric and predictable party platforms.

This one, between Republican candidates Governor Rick Perry, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and activist Debra
Medina, was anything but boring.

Take this exchange over Gov. Perry’s record on taxes.

Perry: “Our taxes are fairer, lower and broader than they ever were before.”
Hutchison: “The Dallas Morning News alone said you raised taxes more than any governor in the history of Texas.”
Perry: “I hope you’re not using the Dallas Morning News as your opportunity for veracity.”
Hutchison: “The largest tax increase that we have ever had in our state is yours. It is the business margins tax that you signed, Governor.”
Perry: “You’re talking apples to oranges.”
Hutchison: “I’m talking new taxes, Governor.”
Perry: “And when you look at — when the Texas Association of Business stands up with you and says this is the structure that we want our taxes, Senator, then that tells me something. You can talk all you want…whatever it is…”
Hutchison: “Governor, the fact is the fact. The fact is the fact, it was a tax increase.”
Perry: “That is not a fact.”

And so it went for an hour. Perry and Hutchison hammered away at each other on topics ranging from taxation to stimulus funds, healthcare, even abortion.

The candidates were asked, if given the option, which federal program they would choose to eliminate.
Perry says preventing the nationalization of healthcare is a more important issue than hypothetically cutting existing

“That’s the real job we need to be doing, instead of talking about some what-ifs — what if this happens or what if that happens — I think that’s a waste of time, frankly, at this particular point in time. We have heard that it is hanging by a thread. You know I hope that our senior senator will get back to Washington D.C. and cut that thread, that’s where she needs to be.”

Debra Medina, a relatively unknown activist, addressed the question of illegal immigration.

“Both the governor and the senator continue to give lip service to a problem that is plaguing Texas. It’s hurting all of us, immigrant and citizen alike. We must get serious about illegal immigration, deploy the Texas military force to the border to assist sheriffs and local law enforcement.”

The candidates were also given the opportunity to ask each other questions. Sen. Hutchison challenged the governor again on taxes.

Hutchison: “How can you say in your ad that you have cut taxes on business and lowered the growth of government in Texas, when it has increased 80 percent during your term?”

Perry: “Senator, I know the truth is sometimes just hard to recognize when you’ve been in Washington for 16 years. But the fact of the matter is we have the lowest tax burden — second lowest tax burden in America in this state.”

The feisty debate was the first in a series between the Republicans.

No debates for the Democratic candidates are scheduled at this time. The leading Democrats in the race are former Houston Mayor Bill White and Houston businessman Farouk Shami.

The Texas Primary Election is March 2nd.

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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

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