The first-ever Texas Republican Primary Debate was held on Feb. 17 and was hosted by the UTSA College Republicans.
The Texas Republicans vye for the party’s nomination and tried to outdo one another to prove their conservative credentials.
Candidates from all levels of government were represented including the United States Representative candidates for the 23rd District, the district encompassing UTSA.
Among the students attending the event were freshman computer science major Joe Engel and freshman communication major Sederrick Salone.
Neither identifies himself as a Republican, but they came to hear an alternative viewpoint and get to know the candidates better.
Gay rights, the ongoing war and the economy were the most pressing issues to the students, but they finance limits that allow corporations to spend freely in campaigns for president and Congress.
“I think it severely undermines me as a voter. I don’t have millions of dollars to fork over to somebody’s campaign, so how can I be sure that my vote is really going to make an impact when a company like McDonald’s can spend millions of dollars to get the issues that they want passed. If they’re going to do that, they [politicians] should have to be like NASCAR and wear all of their corporate sponsors when in public,” Salone said.
Speakers included five Congressional candidates: Clayton Trotter, Francisco Canseco, Dr. Robery Lowry, Mike Kueber and Will Hurd.
Trotter said that he disagrees with President Obama’s remarks on the ruling of the Supreme Court. During the 2010 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said, “Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.” Trotter said that the ruling was a victory for the freedom of expression and the First Amendment.
“Corporations don’t vote. They can’t give money directly to the candidates, but what they can do is express their own opinions. Corporations will now be allowed to create issue-specific advertisements, and to specifically name names regarding politicians. That’s freedom of speech,” Trotter said. When asked whether corporations would run advertisements for the candidate who would most likely benefit the corporation rather than the country, Trotter admitted they probably would.
“I think that they will run advertisements that will benefit them as organizations just like the unions run advertisements that benefit the unions,” he said.
At 7 p.m., the UTSA Air Force ROTC performed a color guard ceremony. The debate began directly following the color guard ceremony.
One of those candidates was UTSA alum Jason Wolff, who graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication. He currently serves as a prosecutor for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, but decided that it was time to run for County Court 2 Judge when he found out his opponent Paul Canales (D), was spending much of his time performing marriage ceremonies instead of hearing cases.
“County Court 2, in my opinion, has lost its focus. County Court 2 has the oldest docket, the oldest cases, and it has a cost to the taxpayers that’s higher than all of the other county courts. In my opinion, it’s time for change in that court. It’s something I’m going to work hard to do, and can ensure you I will give focus and dedication to the job,” Wolff said.
Throughout the night, candidates made their way onto the stage where they were each allowed two minutes to speak and one minute to answer questions from the audience. Among the major issues discussed were political corruption, education reform, energy independence and overuse of our military.
The last question of the night was directed to the candidates of the 23rd Congressional District. The question asked that the candidates’ state their stance on the nation’s current drug policy in regards to the prohibition of marijuana, a topic typically considered taboo within the Republican Party. Although the question drew a few chuckles from the crowd, the mood quickly turned serious as the audience awaited the candidates’ responses. Canseco said that he is opposed to legalizing drugs.
“Let me give you an example: If the policy of XYZ country is to reduce population, you don’t do it by legalizing murder. It is immoral, it is wrong, it is corrupt,” Canesco said. “I think that we need to make sure that our drug policy works, that our drug enforcement agencies work, that our educational projects work, and I will make sure I will seal that border and make sure that these drug criminals and drug cartels that are coming across our border cease and stop because they bring more than just drugs. They bring violence, they bring horror, and they bring terror to the area, but I am not in favor of legalizing any drugs.”
Lowry said that the violence on the U.S. borders is caused mostly by the smuggling of marijuana.
“The violence upon our borders is mostly drugs, and most of that, if you talk to the sheriffs down there, is marijuana. I have seen numerous patients of mine, who, if they could get to marijuana, would be a whole lot better off,” Lowry said.
“When we had prohibition [alcohol], it created a huge giant crime wave that got us the mobs, and that’s why we see what we’re seeing on our border right now. I would be completely open to seeing marijuana above board because we would actually see much less crime on the borders, we would see much less money being wasted there; and, just like our alcoholics that I treat, if brought above board, I would be able to treat that small fraction that would over use it,”
“So marijuana I’d be okay with; meth, now that’s another deal.” Kueber said he agrees with Lowry. “I think that the states are supposed to be a laboratory of government, and we’re starting to see that now in California. “They have medicinal marijuana, and I think there are maybe 10 or 15 other states that are playing with medicinal marijuana. I think we should go ahead down that road and see how that works out. Eventually, it seems to me it’s the direction the country’s going, and we will eventually get to where Lowry was talking about,” Kueber said.
Hurd said he is against the legalization of drugs.
“I think we need to do more to stop the drug cartels, and make the drug cartels a national intelligence priority, and treat them the same way we treat the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” Hurd said.
Each candidate’s response drew applause from the audience, but Lowry’s response was clearly the crowd favorite, even drawing some hoots and whistles during and after his speech. The debate ended shortly thereafter as each of the officers of the College Republicans was presented to the crowd with thunderous applause.
“It was beyond my expectations. This was our baby in that it was the first event like this that we’ve ever hosted and invited the entire student body to. For us to have over 150 people here with the majority of them being students, I’m shocked,” Republican Chairman Bryan Sandssaid that’s all I’m hearing from the candidates. They were shocked too. Even the candidates were saying they had never been to such a big forum before. It makes me proud and I’m proud for the university too. UTSA will be known for this, so we’re really excited.”