State Democratic candidates host town hall in Commerce

Democratic candidates from around the area joined Kendall Scudder, left of center, and Mike Collier, center, for an introduction at the town hall June 28.

Christian Aleman | Co-Editor

Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, and Kendall Scudder, Democratic candidate for Texas Senate District Two, laid out their political ambitions before Commerce and surrounding area residents at TAMUC’s Sam Rayburn Student Center June 28.

The two Democratic candidates discussed education, property taxes, and other issues as part of a joint town hall hosted by the A&M – Commerce chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, a national political science honor society.

Applause greeted Collier as he stated his opposition to Republican opponent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Minutes after the two men took over the microphone, Scudder, a Sulphur Springs native, had already made clear his disdain for school vouchers, setting the town hall’s tone as both focused on this and tax reform among other topics for the following hour.

“At least for myself, the number one reason I chose to run is to make sure that we fully fund our public schools and kill school vouchers once and for all,” Scudder said. The state senator candidate later added that school vouchers “are a thinly veiled attempt to privatize our public school and tear them apart brick by brick” and discriminate against children for different backgrounds.

In Collier’s introduction, he expressed that he shared Scudder’s reason for running and went on to explain how a cut in funding for public education sparked his interest in running for public office. Collier ran as the Democratic candidate for state comptroller in 2014 and lost. Now, Collier is making another bid for a higher state office.

“What I’m here to do primarily is to fight for public education,” Collier said. “And we have to put more money into public education but we cannot raise property taxes because property taxes have been raised too much already for homeowners and small businesses.”

Both candidates discussed the state’s budget and how it should focus on improving education among other services for Texas residents. Scudder referred to the state budget as a “moral document” that “reflects our values.”

“If you look at the [state] budget, it is clear that their values are not our values.” Scudder said.

Collier explained his proposal on closing a loophole in a state tax law that allows commercial and industrial businesses to drive their property taxes down. He claims the loophole has benefited larger businesses at the expense of homeowners and small business owners who have faced tax increases.

“There have been many bills offered to close this loophole,” Collier said. “Every time legislation is proposed, it dies. It doesn’t get voted on because campaign money is involved.”

He went on to say that as lieutenant governor, he would ensure that a bill to close the loophole would be voted on by the legislature because of the lieutenant governor’s role in scheduling votes on proposed legislation.

“Closing that loophole will be voted on once,” he asserted, adding that the political pressure would push senators to vote in favor of legislation that would close the loophole.

The lieutenant governor hopeful brought the conversation back to education by saying that the funds the state could attain from closing the loophole would go into education, which he asserts, would stimulate job creation and bring down the unemployment rate of the state.

“If homeowners can keep more of their hard-earned money and if small businesses can keep more of their hard earned money, and if that money stays in the community buy funding public education… that’s how you create jobs,” Collier said.

Other topics briefly discussed included providing affordable high-speed internet in rural areas and diversity.

“We are stronger when there are diverse points of view sitting at a table,” Scudder said, responding to a question about diversity posed by political science student and Pi Sigma Alpha secretary Brian Stephens. “It’s important that we are inclusive of all different voices at the table because we are going to be stronger whenever we allow more points of view to be heard.”

A number of Democratic candidates for other positions from the surrounding area were at the town hall, including Leslie Osborn who is running for Justice on the state’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Laura Gunn for Texas House of Representatives District 33, Bill Brannon for House District 2, among other candidates.

The Texas 2018 midterm general elections will be held Nov. 6.