AUSTIN — Election Day in the Texas primary run-off is Tuesday, May 22.
Since March, KVUE News has worked to put together a debate between the democratic candidates for governor: Lupe Valdez and Andrew White. After months of calls, emails and canceled dates, the Valdez campaign declined our invitation to debate. Her team was also unable to secure a date for an interview with KVUE. Before the primary election, Valdez did do an interview for Texas This Week. You can watch it here.
Valdez's opponent, Andrew White, was willing to debate and was willing to sit down with KVUE's Ashley Goudeau for Texas This Week.
Ashley Goudeau: Your opponent only agreed to do one debate with you throughout this entire primary season. Why do you think that is?
Andrew White: "Well, you know I believe Democratic voters deserve to hear from their candidates. And they want to know what the policies are, what the vision is, what your values are. And you know the Lupe team just hasn't been interested in sharing those views across Texas the way we have. We want to get out there and we were hoping to have more than one debate. Of course we only ended up with
one and I'm happy that we had one, but we would have liked to seen a lot more."
Goudeau: Gov. Greg Abbott has seemingly written you off in this election. He tweeted that his competition was Valdez, his campaign launched a website against her. Why do you think he's counting you out?
White: "Well the only two people in Texas who think this race is over are Lupe Valdez and Greg Abbott. And they're going to be wrong on May 22nd. So a poll came out recently that showed my campaign was only seven points behind Greg. Seven points! And we haven't even started. So I think Greg is being very strategic here in trying to pick his opponent and he's doing what anyone would do in this situation, you want to pick an opponent you know you can beat. And I feel like I'm the best candidate for the Democratic party to beat Greg Abbott. And he knows that too."
Goudeau: And why do you feel like you're the best candidate over Valdez?
White: "Well, a couple of data points, one, my campaign we've been able to raise far more money than Lupe's campaign. Many, many multiples of amounts more than she has. And while I don't like the fact that it's going to take money to win this campaign, it does. It sure does. Especially against a guy who has $45 million already. So I've proven that I can raise the funds. Also you have to understand a lot of complicated policy issues. The Governor of Texas is responsible for education, immigration issues, health care, criminal justice, gun safety, I mean. Child Protective Services. It just goes on and on and on. And in this campaign I've proven that I understand those issues. I received the endorsement from every major newspaper in Texas. And so those two facts I think go a long ways but the final issue is, I've got the fight. I want to bring the fight to Greg Abbott in November. And voters are looking for a candidate who will fight Greg Abbott."
Goudeau: One of the things that does concern some voters is a lack political experience. You've never held a political office, an elected position before. What makes you think you're ready to be Governor?
White: "Well Greg Abbott's held political office for 22 years and he certainly isn't doing a very good job. I think the fact that I haven't been in politics is an advantage, especially today. So, we need someone with a fresh perspective. Somebody who is still a leader and understands how to lead organizations and do the right thing. You know, finding out and figuring out how to get re-elected over and over and over again is not going to be what fixes Texas schools and Texas hospitals and criminal justice. We need a leader. Somebody who will stand up and do right and risk the consequences like Sam Houston said. That's the kind of leadership we need in our governor's office."
Goudeau: When it comes to property taxes, it's the number one thing people in Texas are talking about, those rising property taxes. What are your thoughts on how to address them?
White: "Sure. The problem with property taxes are two things. One, the schools and the hospitals. And the state has been getting out of funding education and funding health care. That puts the pressure on the property tax bill. So the state has to get back into funding education and paying for hospitals. You know, what ten years ago, the state used to pay for half of it and now they pay for 38-percent of a school's, of a kid's education. And there's ways to put money from the state into schools. I put together a plan to raise $9 billion to fund education. Nine billion. Without raising taxes. The money's there, we just have to spend it wisely. And on healthcare, our governor didn't expand Medicaid. He left $6 billion on the table. I may not be the best business guy in the world, but if someone offers me $6 billion, I'm going to take it. Greg Abbott said 'no thanks.' That was our money, for our hospitals. And without that money it makes our property tax bill go up because people still get sick and they still walk into the hospital and demand service. And we provide it of course."
Goudeau: You mentioned a plan to raise $9 billion. A lot of people would like to know more about it. Tell our viewers about that plan because the big question is where is this money that we need to put in schools, where is it going to come from?
White: "So, in brief, we spend about a billion dollars on border security. I'll transfer that money into education. Border security is a federal issue, not a state issue. I'll close the equal and uniform property tax loophole. This is a loophole that allows business, commercial properties to get valued at half of what the market is. With our homes, we all know that we get valued right at market and there's not much we can do about it. We close that loophole, it's $5 billion. The last piece of it is we'll expand gaming at horse tracks. Right now Texans get in their car and they drive to Louisiana and they gamble there. They drive to Oklahoma and they gamble there. They're investing in Louisiana and Oklahoma schools when they do that. Let's expand gaming at these horse track locations with slot machines and gaming tables. That's $3 billion. So $9 billion. It's a huge number. We need to get away from this incrementalism you know in education. We'll just give a little bit more here and a little bit more there. We'll never get there. We have the 43rd ranked schools in the nation. We have to start thinking big, really big if we're going to fix this."
Goudeau: When we look at those property taxes, you can't stop people from moving to Texas. So with those market forces at play, what can the state really do?
White: "Well so here's what happened. In 1997, a lawmaker inserted one sentence into law. One sentence which now has allowed commercial property owners to get away with no longer being valued at market. So the market values can go up and up and up. It doesn't effect commercial property owners values, especially large business owners like a sky scrapper or a refinery or something like that where they can really afford to hire a team of lawyers and go fight this battle. So I've seen case after case where a company could buy a building for $300 million. And two months later, argue to value it at $150 million. And it passes. It's just not fair. If we're going to pay for our government based on property taxes and sales taxes, the property tax part, it just has to be fair. We need to close that loophole."
Goudeau: Let's turn now to immigration. If elected governor, what would you want to see happen with SB4?
White: "I want to get rid of it. It doesn't work. Ever single police chief of a major city in Texas said don't sign that law Greg, it'll make our communities less safe. It'll pit the people against the local law enforcement. And sure enough, they were right. In Houston, in Hispanic communities, reports of sexual assault are down 40-percent. It's not because there's 40-percent fewer sexual assaults. And so these people are still walking the streets. The police officers were right. The police chiefs were right. This law has made us less safe, not more safe. And oh by the way, it discriminates against people of color. I'm not going to be asked to prove my citizenship because I have pale skin. But if someone of color gets pulled over, we know what happens. That's discrimination. It shouldn't happen in Texas and it shouldn't happen in the United States."
Goudeau: Let's talk transportation. As I'm sure you are aware, TXDOT says they don't have money to build new highways. And there was a bill that failed in the legislature this past session that would have allowed them to enter into some contracts for more toll roads. First and foremost, do you support more toll roads in Texas?
White: "We need roads. If we're going to support the growth that's happening, that's transforming our state, if we don't build the roads, it's going to be a catastrophe. And right now our budget is so tight that we don't have the funds to pay for those roads. So we don't have any other choice but then to use a toll road solution. Now in my world view, I remember when we first got sold on toll roads, they told us that when the bonds are paid off, the tolls go away. And it didn't happen, right? We need to change that. When we build highways with toll roads, when the bonds get paid off, the tolls go away. That's the way it should be and that's the way I'll make it."
Goudeau: And how will you pay for maintenance of those roads then?
White: "Well, in which case the toll could go from $2 or $3 down to $0.20 to pay for maintenance. So there's lots of options that we can do that make sense but we don't have a choice. We have to build roads. Governor Abbott is not leading on this front at all."
Goudeau: Any other ideas of how to address transportation other than toll roads?
White: "I'm an all of the above fan. We need the high speed rail that's being talked about between Houston and Dallas. It's 100-percent paid for with private funds. It's a wonderful solution. I also have a plan to create a self-driving mass transit solution for Texas. We need to lead in this area and not follow. We're Texas, right. Our governor's focused on bathroom bills and show me your papers laws. As governor I'll focus on the future of transportation itself and how we can go away from relying on oil to relying on alternative energy to fund that transportation."
Goudeau: Any other closing thoughts for our viewers before May 22?
White: "Well election day's coming up and it's a big day. We vote, that's how we make change. Elections matter. We certainly saw it in 2016 and we're going to see it again. We have an opportunity to change Texas. I believe I'm the best candidate to beat Greg Abbott in November. But the opportunity to make that decision is May 22."