Two candidate forums sponsored by local Republican organizations filled the council chambers at Granbury City Hall last week, just days before the start of early voting for the March 4 primary.
Early voting began yesterday and runs through Feb. 28. All early voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Annex 1, 1410 W. Pearl St.
Thursday evening, the Hood County Tea Party hosted candidates for the four contested local races – Precinct 2 county commissioner, county clerk, county treasurer and Precinct 3 justice of the peace.
Friday morning, the Republican Club of Hood County hosted candidates for the District 11 congressional race and the District 60 state representative race. Wade Brown is challenging Congressman Michael Conaway. In the state representative race, Hood County resident Cullen Crisp is attempting to unseat longtime incumbent Jim Keffer of Eastland.
Candidates randomly selected questions that had been placed prior to the forum in cardboard boxes. Republican Party chair Jean Cochran and moderator Chris Parvin explained to the audience the methods that had been used to ensure fairness.
Brown and Conaway were the first to square off.
Conaway is serving his fifth term in Congress. He is chair of the House Ethics Committee and serves on the House Agriculture, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
Brown, a major in the Marine Corps Reserve, told the audience that his two main reasons for running are the growing national debt and the failure of the legislative branch of government “to directly mount a resistance” to an “out of control” president.
Brown criticized Conaway for voting for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. It is an omnibus spending bill that packaged together several appropriations bills into one larger one.
“We cannot continue spending ourselves into oblivion,” he said.
Conaway criticized Brown for not explaining how he intends to get the necessary votes in the House and Senate to achieve his goals “and then have the President sign it.”
Conaway said that he has nine years of experience in Congress, where he has worked to help create a Republican majority.
“I represent you in a very dignified, practical and pragmatic way,” he said. “I’m not a flag-waver on Fox. I’m not going to be that guy because I don’t think that’s who you want.”
Keffer, president of EBAA Iron Sales in Eastland, was first elected to the Texas House in 1996. He is running for his 10th term representing District 60, which includes the counties of Eastland, Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Shackelford, Stephens, Palo Pinto and Hood.
He is chair of the House Committee on Energy Resources and a member of the National Resources and Redistricting committees.
Crisp is a Hood County farmer and small-business owner who has been involved in several local endeavors, including the Lake Granbury Coalition.
The Coalition, which includes city and county elected officials, is fighting the Brazos River Authority’s permit application for additional water rights.
Crisp also was key in opening the Acton Nature Center. He serves on the Hood County Development District #1. He and his family founded the Texas Heroes Foundation.
Several of the questions answered by Keffer and Crisp had to do with teacher retirement funds and health care coverage for teachers. Crisp said that he has spoken to a number of teachers when he has knocked on doors campaigning, and believes that “Austin is not listening” to their concerns.
Keffer said that he “led the charge in the House to make actuarially sound the teacher pension fund.” He said that “the hospitalization and the insurance” for teachers “is still a question mark” because there are still some unknowns about the effects of Obamacare.
“We need to continue working,” he said, referring to continuing to address the needs of educators.
Crisp criticized Keffer for voting to increase his pension by 12 percent, but giving only a 3 percent increase to teachers.
Keffer explained that the increase for lawmakers was “statutorily” tied to increases for district judges.
“I voted for a pay raise for our district judges, who hadn’t had one in 10 years,” he stated.
Crisp also criticized his opponent for earning “failing grades” among groups that “hold conservatives accountable.”
“Austin’s full of that,” Keffer said, referring to scorecards kept by various groups.
“District 60 is my judge and jury,” he said, adding that “seniority is a good thing,” particularly in rural areas.
Crisp said that he would have no concerns about being a freshman representative, noting that other lawmakers had their start as freshmen.
“I plan on taking your conservative values down to Austin,” he told the audience. “A new broom sweeps the cleanest.”
Two of the four contested county races involve incumbents. County Clerk Mary Burnett is being challenged by Katie Lang, and County Treasurer Kathy Davis faces Rhonda Naylor.
Two incumbents are retiring from public office. They are Precinct 2 County Commissioner Dick Roan and Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Judy Watson.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Lloyd “Butch” Barton and longtime county Road Operations employee Cynthia “Cindy” Gullett are vying to take the Precinct 2 seat on the Commissioners Court.
The Precinct 3 JP race features these contenders: Former Granbury Mayor Rick Frye, former fire chief and emergency management coordinator for the city of Hurst; Granbury Fire Chief Darrell Grober, who has 25 years of professional and volunteer experience in Hood County; and Kathy Gwinn, who has been a justice of the peace clerk for seven years and has more than 150 hours of continuing education and a Master Certification through the Texas Justice Court training center.
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