Republicans pitch vision for U.S. House District 12 post-Grangerdfwnewsa | February 8, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News
Candidates for U.S. House District 12 speak at a candidate debate Feb. 7, 2024. (Camilo Diaz | Fort Worth Report)
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Ahead of a contentious 2024 general election, Republican candidates vying for a place on the November ballot for local, state and national offices pitched their visions for Tarrant County’s future.
The Fort Worth Report, alongside fellow nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations KERA, SteerFW and the League of Women Voters, hosted the first of two candidate debates Feb. 7 at Texas Wesleyan University. Republican primary candidates for U.S. House District 12, Texas House District 97, and Tarrant County tax-assessor collector sought to draw a distinction between themselves and their primary opponents.
The March 5 primary election will determine which Republican and Democratic candidates face each other come November. Texas primaries are open, which means residents may vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary in March, and vote for either the Republican or Democratic candidate in November, regardless of which primary they participated in.
The Fort Worth Report will have another forum at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8. The debates will feature Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House District 12, Texas House District 97 and Tarrant County Commissioner Precinct 1.
U.S. House District 12
The departure of longtime congresswoman Kay Granger prompted a wide-open race for U.S. House District 12. Five Republicans threw their hats in the ring: Clint Dorris, Shellie Gardner, Craig Goldman, Anne Henley and John O’Shea.
Goldman, former Texas House District 97 representative, said he was unable to make the forum because of a scheduling conflict. His presence was felt, however, in criticism levied by other candidates.
“While all four of us represent kind of grassroots outsiders running for this office because of our love of country, we have a gentleman who was not elected but was selected to run for this seat, and the entire establishment has thrown their weight behind him with all the money,” O’Shea said.
The four candidates present emphasized their displeasure with the way things are currently running in Congress, and cited immigration control and government spending as some of their key issues.
Dorris, an Army veteran and engineer, said the U.S. is under the largest threat it’s seen in his lifetime. He criticized the current presidential administration’s approach to relations with China and securing the southern border.
“Mark my words, we are going to have terrorist attacks in our country again,” he said.
Gardner, an engineer and business owner, asked the crowd whether anyone was happy with the way things were going at the border or in Congress. If residents think there’s something broken in Washington, she said, they should elect an engineer to fix it.
“There are some things that are taking the joy out of my life,” she said. “We see the border, it’s a national security issue. We see issues with the price of gas and we see issues with the cost of food. These are serious problems.”
Henley, a retiree, echoed concerns about border security and China, and added that drug use among the younger generation is a big issue that continues to grow.
“I think we need more influence from God, godly people,” she said. “We need to stand together. God has pulled countries out before but he’s also let them go down when they did not do what they were supposed to do. We’ve got a rule book, and that’s what we need to be looking at.”
While in office, Granger became known for securing millions in funding for local defense industry titans like Lockheed Martin. All of the candidates agreed that the defense industry is important to the district’s future and deserves support. They differed, however, on what that should look like.
O’Shea said he understands the need to protect local businesses, especially defense contractors. He believes in peace through strength, he said, but that doesn’t mean out-of -control spending is the right answer.
“But at the same time, that whole, ‘Let’s bring home the pork for our areas,’ led to where we are right now, almost approaching $35 trillion in national debt,” O’Shea said. “It is crushing working class and middle class people because it is spurring on inflation at the same time that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates.”
Dorris described the ‘bring home the bacon’ philosophy as ridiculous, but acknowledged that defense contractors and other large businesses are very impactful on the district’s well-being.
“Those are all very important things for the district and very important things for America,” he said. “So we need to continue to grow that and increase our technology capabilities in the district and maintain those well paying jobs and make additional well-paying jobs for the district as well.”
Henley said she will look at what funding is currently there and what the defense industry actually needs before making any decisions.
“Jobs at places like Lockheed are important because of the planes that we have developed, the equipment we have to protect our country, and we have to be ready for anything that comes and you just can’t just say ‘Well, I’ll do this or I will do that.’ You have to figure out what needs to be done before you jump out there and do it.”
Gardner said she’d continue Granger’s work of bringing money to defense contractors in the area. She’s worked with military officials before, she said, on a variety of engineering and technical projects.
“This is a time where we need someone who understands business, but also understands real practical engineering,” she said.
All four candidates agreed that funding for Israel is important. O’Shea, however, cautioned against spending in a vacuum.
“I think any military aid that goes to Israel, should it be necessary for their national defense, needs to be offset,” he said.
When asked about their position on funding Ukraine during its war with Russia, Henley and Gardner said their focus is on taking care of things in the U.S. first.
“I’m an America-first Texan, and I believe that as long as we have issues at our border, and we have homeless vets — 60% more last year than the year before — I think we need to take care of our own first,” Gardner said.
O’Shea said fighting a proxy war with Russia is “grossly unconscionable,” and the U.S. should not spend its military defense budget on the conflict.
“I think the atrocity there is that the war was allowed to begin, and if we had had stronger diplomacy, we would have prevented it,” he said.
Dorris said he agreed that the U.S. needed to do something in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, but disagreed with the action that was taken.
“I guarantee you that there is no accountability on the funds that we put into Ukraine,” he said.
Missed the candidate forum? Here’s where to watch the recording
The forums were open to the public and livestreamed on the Fort Worth Report’s YouTube channel.To watch the forum, click here.