AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his challenger in the November 2018 election, Democrat Lupe Valdez, disagreed over several issues, including the arming of classroom teachers in public schools, Friday evening in a televised debate.
Nexstar Media Group hosted the only debate between Abbott and Valdez. The two faced each other in Austin at the LBJ Presidential Library.
Within the first few minutes of the debate, the two candidates were asked to raise their hand if they support teachers being allowed to have concealed weapons. Abbott raised his hand. Valdez did not.
Abbott said he spent time with students after the school shooting incident in Santa Fe, Texas in May of 2018. Eight students and two teachers lost their lives.
After Santa Fe, Abbott held a series of roundtable discussions. He said the arming of teachers came from those discussions.
“I hugged those kids,” Abbott said. “I talked to the parents, and the teachers.”
Abbott said the idea is not limited to teachers, but it could also be security guards, administrators or even coaches.
“It’s not the state mandating that teachers be armed, but allowing schools at their choice,” Abbott said.
Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County, said students and teachers have the right to be safe at school. She said teachers already have many responsibilities.
“Teachers should be teaching and not being armed and being the defense,” Valdez said. She said if teachers want to carry guns they should join the military.
In another round of questioning, Abbott passionately spoke in favor of limiting the ability of local governments to raise property taxes. He said people cannot even afford to live in their own homes.
Abbott has previously proposed limiting local governments to a 2.5 percent increase yearly in property tax revenue. Anything higher would need local voter approval. Currently, the rollback rate is 8 percent.
Valdez was nearly as passionate in responding. She said the state government puts unfunded mandates on the local government agencies.
“They have to do something,” Valdez said in defense of local government agencies. “Quit dumping [expenses] on the local community.”
More than once, Valdez called for additional funding of education and health care.
Regarding the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey, Valdez said Abbott signed a bill right before the hurricane to give insurance companies more time to respond to Texans for their losses. She said that meant homeowners had to wait longer for payments.
Abbott said he appointed a highly qualified person to oversee insurance – someone who can make sure people are protected and they can afford the premiums.
When asked about a bathroom bill for transgender students in public schools that would allow persons to use the restroom of choice regardless of their sex at birth, Abbott listed off a long list of priorities. They did not include a bathroom bill.
In a follow-up question, Abbott was asked to specifically address the issue of a bathroom bill. In response, Abbott said, “It is not on my agenda.”
He was asked to further clarify, what if such a bill would come to him. Would he sign it?
“I don’t sign hypothetical bills,” Abbott said.
Valdez said laws should not be “based in fear.” She indicated support for the idea of transgender students using the restroom of choice. She spoke of “equal and fair” opportunity in reference to any potential bathroom bill.
Abbott and Valdez disagreed over the idea of Medicaid expansion. Abbott said an expansion would be too expensive. Valdez said people are essentially already paying for it by funding emergency rooms across Texas.
Abbott came into the debate with 58 percent to 39 percent advantage over Valdez in a poll of likely voters.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9, 2018. Early voting begins Oct. 22. The last day for early voting is Nov. 2.