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Texas Elections 2018

2018 Primaries: Debate Features 18 Republicans In Crowded Congressional District Field

GOP candidates try to distinguish themselves in a crowded primary field

16 of the 18 republican candidates running in the open CD 21 Race
16 of the 18 republican candidates running in the open CD 21 Race

There are 18 Republican candidates running in an open Congressional District 21 primary. Sixteen of those 18 candidates met on Thursday night and tried to stand out from the crowd at a forum at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch, south of Austin.

Party officials from the Travis County and Hays County Republican parties took turns asking the candidates where they stood on the issues, including immigration reform.

Jason Isaac, a Republican from Dripping Springs, hopes his record as a state representative will be what voters remember on primary Election Day on March 6.

"If we do not control immigration, the cartels and criminals will — and that's why as a legislator in Texas I banned sanctuary cities," said Isaac to the crowd. "Right now, the chief of police in San Antonio should be in jail for releasing illegal immigrants."

Robert Stovall, former Bexar County Republican Party Chair, is hoping his connection to Donald Trump's campaign will set him apart from the other candidates.

"I'm the only candidate that has block walked for Trump, (and) raised money for Trump," Stovall said. He's been endorsed by the Trump's campaigns digital marketing director, which he said is just like the president himself is endorsing his campaign.

Jennifer Sarver, a former White House staffer for the Bush administration, admitted she did not support Trump's candidacy, telling the crowd she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"As a woman, I couldn't support candidate Trump but — as I said here tonight — I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with him when he is governing with conservative principles," Sarver said.

Incumbent Congressman Lamar Smith announced his retirement in 2017, which opened the floodgates for candidate filings. In total, there are 22 Democrats and Republicans vying to replace Smith, who represented the district for 30 years. The first day of early voting is Feb. 20.