In Texas Home struggle, Democrats wager huge on well being care, whereas Republicans emphasize police assist


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When Democrat Brandy Chambers learn in The Dallas Morning Information final month that her opponent, state Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, now helps Medicaid enlargement, Chambers couldn’t imagine it.

“Shocked could be a great phrase,” Chambers recalled in an interview.

Button and different Texas Republicans have lengthy resisted increasing Medicaid, the state-federal medical insurance program, regardless that Texas has the nation’s highest uninsured price. However Button stated she now sees the necessity for increasing this system because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many Texans jobless — and with out medical insurance.

Button will not be the one Republican lawmaker elevating eyebrows about seemingly new coverage positions now that the get together’s majority within the Texas Home is on the road. One other endangered incumbent, Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, not too long ago expressed remorse for supporting the divisive “lavatory invoice” that sought to restrict public restroom entry for transgender folks and headlined the 2017 legislative yr with out ever changing into legislation.

That laws, together with Medicaid enlargement, is amongst a litany of points which might be cropping up within the ultimate weeks of the Nov. 3 election that may determine the steadiness of energy within the Legislature’s decrease chamber. The stakes are excessive, with the battle unfolding forward of the 2021 redistricting course of throughout which lawmakers will draw new political boundaries for the state.

Democrats are 9 seats away from the bulk after selecting up 12 seats in 2018, a few of which Republicans are critical about profitable again. However in lots of instances, Republican lawmakers who’ve held the Home majority because the 2003 session are dealing with the primary really aggressive normal elections of their lives — and being pressured to reply for votes in a method they’ve by no means needed to earlier than.

Take for instance the Legislature’s large cuts to public schooling in 2011, which Democrats are utilizing to attempt to undercut the GOP’s renewed give attention to faculty funding throughout the latest session.

“That was 10 years in the past, and during the last 4 periods since, we’ve steadily elevated public schooling funding,” Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, stated in a latest interview, enjoying down the difficulty.

Whereas Democrats press Republicans over well being care and public schooling, the GOP is hoping to painting their Democratic opponents as too liberal and beholden to nationwide Democrats, in search of to place them on protection over points together with police funding and taxes.

For instance, as Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, fights for reelection, he’s airing a TV advert that claims the insurance policies of his Democratic opponent, Keke Williams, would threaten Texas’ financial restoration from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s no shock Keke Williams doesn’t struggle for us,” a narrator says. “Williams is bankrolled by out-of-state liberal extremists.”

Well being care

Nationwide Democratic tremendous PAC Ahead Majority is spending over $12 million within the state Home struggle this fall, and well being care is its high problem. The Democrats’ dominant give attention to well being care mirrors the technique they led with to assist flip the U.S. Home in 2018 — and are counting on once more this yr to pad their ranks, particularly in Texas.

Ahead Majority is flooding state Home districts with advertisements tying Republicans on the poll to their get together’s yearslong push to repeal the Reasonably priced Care Act and with it, its protections for folks with preexisting situations. The U.S. Supreme Court docket is slated to listen to a Texas-led problem to the federal well being care legislation Nov. 10.

Ahead Majority’s advertisements accuse GOP lawmakers of doing the bidding of insurance coverage and drug corporations in the case of well being care. “And who suffers?” a narrator asks. “Sufferers with preexisting situations like coronary heart illness or most cancers, denied protection.”

Republicans are pushing again by pointing to their passage of Senate Invoice 1940 final session. If Obamacare went away, that legislation would permit the Texas Division of Insurance coverage to take preliminary steps to quickly deliver again the high-risk insurance coverage pool that the Legislature abolished in 2013. That choice offered high-priced protection to Texans with preexisting situations who couldn’t discover it elsewhere, and by the point it was ended, it coated a small variety of Texans — 23,000.

One health-care professional — Stacey Pogue, senior coverage analyst on the left-leaning Each Texan suppose tank in Austin — stated the legislation is a “wholly insufficient substitute” for the Reasonably priced Care Act.

“It does nothing,” Pogue stated. “It’s perplexing that anyone would level to that as an achievement.”

Defunding the police

The dominant problem Republicans are utilizing to criticize Democrats is legislation enforcement, with GOP candidates touting their assist for police and in search of to tie their Democratic opponents to the “defund the police” motion. The time period means various things to completely different folks, however amongst some activists protesting police brutality, the motion goals to redirect some funds from police budgets to social companies.

Abbott has finished his half to make assist for legislation enforcement the central problem of the final election for Republicans, asking candidates to signal a pledge towards “defunding the police” and releasing a number of legislative proposals to punish native governments who minimize police budgets.

Whereas no Democrat working in a battleground district is understood to have explicitly embraced the thought, Republicans are working to painting their opponents as being anti-law enforcement. A chief instance is Home District 67, the place Leach, the incumbent Plano Republican, is airing a TV advert that labels his Democratic rival, Lorenzo Sanchez, an “anti-police zealot.”

The assault relies on anti-police Fb posts from a Sanchez marketing campaign staffer, together with one calling police a “terrorist group,” in addition to a June marketing campaign occasion the place Sanchez stated he agreed after a speaker advocated for taking weapons away from police.

When the problems first got here up earlier this fall, Sanchez issued an announcement that didn’t immediately deal with them however stated he does “not assist defunding” police. As for the staffer’s feedback, The Dallas Morning Information editorial board reported that he informed them “that he can’t be answerable for the whole lot anybody related along with his marketing campaign says.” And in a story printed final week by the Plano Star Courier, Sanchez stated he believes in lethal power as a final resort however that “it might be silly to de-arm cops.”

In different contests, the police-related assaults seem to have much less of a foundation. Rep. Steve Allison, R-San Antonio, is airing a TV advert by which he says, “I stand with our police; my opponent desires to defund them.” However the Tribune couldn’t discover any proof of his opponent, Celina Montoya, expressing such assist, and Allison’s marketing campaign has not offered any backup.

“I feel that there’s completely, with out query, room for us to have some prison justice reform, however none of us are calling to, , abolish the police or something of that kind. It’s silliness,” Akilah Bacy, the Democrat working towards Republican Lacey Hull for an open Houston seat, stated throughout a Texas Tribune occasion Friday.

Some Republican candidates are acknowledging in addition they must say what they assist in the case of police reform. Justin Berry, an Austin police officer difficult Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, is broadcasting a TV advert the place he requires “de-escalation coaching and physique cameras for all officers.” These concepts additionally seem in a industrial from Jacey Jetton, the GOP nominee for an open seat in Fort Bend County. Jetton’s spot moreover advocates for “guaranteeing our police look extra just like the communities they serve.”

Republicans are additionally attempting to place Democrats on protection on fiscal points, claiming the get together’s candidates would assist greater taxes — and even a state revenue tax. Usually, that declare seems to be based mostly on Democratic opposition to Proposition 4, the 2019 constitutional modification that made it more durable than ever for Texas to institute a state revenue tax. Critics referred to as the proposition a political stunt that would hamstring future generations when the Texas economic system will not be doing as nicely.

Whereas Democrats insist that opposing the proposition doesn’t equate to supporting a state revenue tax, Republicans say the optics are robust for Democrats.

“That’s a really painful” place, stated Dave Carney, the governor’s high political adviser.

Abbott’s marketing campaign performed a statewide survey in August and settled on taxes as one of many 4 handiest strains of assault towards Democrats in battleground Home contests.

In a single race the place the difficulty has flared up, Elizabeth Beck, the Democratic nominee towards Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Price, is asking TV stations to take down an advert he’s airing that assaults her on taxes, saying it accommodates “blatant lies.” Amongst different issues, the industrial claims she “helps a statewide revenue tax,” citing a 2019 tweet from her urging followers to vote towards Proposition 4.

The advert additionally seizes on an October occasion the place she talked about “creating new streams of income” — “New income means new taxes,” a narrator says — although it leaves out a part of the occasion the place she clarifies that she “wouldn’t be in favor of elevating taxes or making a state revenue tax.”

Gun violence

Gun violence can be factoring into some races, primarily on the behest of Everytown for Gun Security Motion Fund, the nationwide gun management group. It introduced final month that it might spend $2.2 million on digital advertisements and unsolicited mail throughout 12 districts, in search of to elect a “gun sense majority” to the Texas Home.

Everytown’s advertisements invoke the 2019 El Paso Walmart capturing by which a gunman killed 23 folks and injured 23 others whereas focusing on Hispanic Texans to criticize Texas Republicans for inaction on common background checks. One spot says the coronavirus pandemic “will not be the one public well being disaster dealing with Texas households.”

A number of Democratic challengers are citing gun points on their very own. In one among Democrats’ finest pickup alternatives, Joanna Cattanach is working a TV spot towards Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, that claims he has “caught to the far proper’s agenda … voting to permit weapons in colleges.” The industrial cites Meyer’s vote for Home Invoice 1387, the 2019 legislation that lifted the cap on the variety of faculty marshals who might be armed on public faculty campuses.

Faculty funding

Public schooling has additionally been a difficulty that’s come up in various aggressive races, with Republicans highlighting an $11.6 billion faculty finance reform invoice the Legislature handed in 2019.

In Tarrant County, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, has aired a TV advert casting himself as a lawmaker “on a brand new mission to enhance Texas colleges.”

Tinderholt, a member of the hardline conservative Texas Home Freedom Caucus, voted for the laws, which was championed by GOP state leaders and acquired bipartisan assist. However his advert is notable — it marks one more push by Republicans to bolster their credentials and observe information on the Legislature on public schooling. Tinderholt faces a problem from Democrat Alisa Simmons.

Democrats dealing with aggressive reelection bids are additionally attempting to capitalize on the college finance invoice from final yr. In Williamson County, Rep. James Talarico, a Spherical Rock Democrat, not too long ago launched a TV advert titled “A instructor within the Home.” The advert highlights his expertise as a instructor and the way that helped him work “throughout the aisle to go historic faculty reform” in 2019. Talarico faces a problem from Republican Lucio Valdez.

Particular person points

Candidate-specific points have, after all, additionally emerged in sure races. Within the open race for Home District 96 in Tarrant County, the nationwide Democratic group Ahead Majority has criticized the Republican within the race, David Prepare dinner, for overseeing an try whereas serving as Mansfield mayor in 2016 to fund an indoor ice rink utilizing a $1.8 million contribution from Mansfield colleges.

The Mansfield Metropolis Council in the end reversed course and determined towards asking Mansfield ISD to be a funding accomplice after faculty district taxpayers pushed again on it, Prepare dinner informed The Dallas Morning Information in September. However Ahead Majority nonetheless seized on the difficulty, saying in an advert it aired for the race that Democrat Joe Drago will “put youngsters forward of politicians’ wasteful pet tasks.”

In one other Dallas-area race, Linda Koop, a Republican working for the seat she misplaced final cycle to Democratic Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, not too long ago aired an advert knocking Ramos over her lone vote towards a invoice in 2019 to legalize youngsters’s lemonade stands. Ramos, for her half, has argued that she voted towards the laws as a result of it “takes away native management and is about public security.”

Legislative priorities

It’s unclear whether or not any of the problems which have emerged in a few of the best races will find yourself getting a lot play on the Legislature when it convenes for its common session in January.

On high of questions over how precisely the Capitol will function within the period of the pandemic, the uncertainty over which get together will management the Home is looming over what points lawmakers might debate.

Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist and chair of the Travis County Republican Social gathering, stated the legislative session “will probably be consumed” by grappling with the billions of {dollars} in shortfalls dealing with the state funds and responding to the pandemic, amongst different points.

“The 2021 legislative session goes to be a really tough one,” he stated, “and it’s exhausting to foretell which course issues will go till we see the make-up of the Texas Home and be taught who the brand new Speaker might be.”

Each Texan, Everytown for Gun Security and Fb have been monetary supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan information group that’s funded partly by donations from members, foundations and company sponsors. Monetary supporters play no function within the Tribune’s journalism. Discover a full record of them right here.

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