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Texas This Week: Pete Flores (R), candidate for Texas Senate

Former Texas State Sen. Pete Flores (R) is running to represent District 24.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this week's edition of Texas This Week, the director of the Department of Public Safety sat down for his first one-on-one interview since the Uvalde school shooting and former State Sen. Pete Flores (R) discusses his campaign.

Three things to know in Texas politics

1. Col. Steve McCraw talks to KVUE about Uvalde shooting

The director of the Department of Public Safety sat down with KVUE's Tony Plohetski this week and said the families of Uvalde deserve an apology from law enforcement. He also talked about the changing narrative of the officer's actions on the day 19 children and two teachers were killed.   

"I think they [local leaders] truly believed initially, OK, that it really was a heroic law enforcement response. And that to to enter that room was suicidal. Well, guess what? That's what we get paid to do, is to enter that room, plain and simple," DPS Director Col. Steve McCraw said. "There is no no excuse, no alibis in that situation."

In his first sit-down interview since the Robb Elementary School shooting, the head of DPS talked about the failed response by law enforcement who waited 77 minutes before entering a classroom to confront the gunman. You can watch the full interview here:

RELATED: FULL INTERVIEW: Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw on failed Uvalde shooting response

2. UT/Texas Politics poll on November election

With less than two months until the November election, the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas Austin released a new poll showing where the candidates stand. Gov. Greg Abbott is holding on to his lead over democratic challenger, Beto O'Rourke.

Credit: Andrew McKibbin, KVUE News

In a poll of 1,200 self-identified registered voters, 45% say they're backing the Republican incumbent while 40% say they intend to vote for Beto O'Rourke. 

In the race for lieutenant governor, which is a rematch from 2018, incumbent Dan Patrick leads Democrat Mike Collier 39% to 32%, but significantly, 20% of voters are undecided.

Credit: Andrew McKibbin, KVUE News

3. Top non-individual contributions to political campaigns

The top donors to political campaigns typically have the ear of the candidates and that's why, for the last two weeks, KVUE has showcased the top donors to the candidates running for the state's top offices using data from OpenSecrets, a merger of the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics. 

Credit: Andrew McKibbin, KVUE News
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) 2022 top non-individual campaign contributors as of Sept. 13, 2022

Gov. Abbott's top business, organization or PAC contributor for 2022 is auto dealer Gulf States Toyota, which donated $675,000.

Credit: Andrew McKibbin, KVUE News
Beto O'Rourke (D) 2022 top non-individual campaign contributors as of Sept. 13, 2022

Beto O'Rourke's top non-individual donor is his organization, Powered by People. O'Rourke launched the policy group before announcing his run for governor. It gave the O'Rouke campaign $1.7 million.

RELATED: 2022 campaign contributions: Who's backing Texas political candidates

Vote Texas: State Senate, District 24

Last year, Texas lawmakers drew new political maps in a process called redistricting. As a result, many Central Texans are now in new political districts and may not be familiar with the candidates running to represent them. One example of this is State Senate District 24. The lawmaker who currently represents the district , State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, decided to run for Land Commissioner and the district was significantly redrawn. It used to include a portion of west and southwest Travis County, and counties west and north of Austin. 

Credit: KVUE News

Now, District 24  is made up of north and northwest Travis County. Blanco County is no longer in District 24. And while it still includes some counties north of Austin, the district largely stretches to the south and further west now. 

The two candidates running to represent the district are Pete Flores and Kathy Jones-Hospod

Credit: Andrew McKibbin, KVUE News

In 2018, Flores won a special election and became the first Republican to represent District 19 in the State Senate. But in the 2020 general election, he lost the seat to a Democrat. Now that the maps have been redrawn, making District 19 more Democratic and changing District 24 to include Flores' hometown of Pleasanton, he again has a chance to join the upper chamber. 

According to her website, Jones-Hospod is an engineer who has spent most of her career in telecommunications infrastructure. 

KVUE News invited both candidates to talk with us about why they're running to represent District 24. Jones-Hospod never returned our calls or emails.     

Pete Flores (R), candidate for Texas Senate

Ashley Goudeau: You are running for a newly created district, which now includes some parts of the Central Texas area. Some of our viewers you didn't represent when you were previously in the Senate. So tell those viewers a little bit about yourself and why you're running to represent them in the Senate.  

Pete Flores: "Well, I have the honor and privilege of being able to run for Senate District 24. And I got through, just finished our primary. And I was fortunate to be able to win our primary by double digits. And I thank everyone for their support and trust in our ability to move forward and represent you effectively. I am a former Texas game warden, served 27 years. I finished my career as the colonel game warden for the state, where I served in Austin for four sessions and learned how to work with the legislature. And and when I retired, I ran for Senate District 19 and we eventually prevailed and served in the 86 session and passed, served on six committees, passed eight bills, brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the district, and represented all of the counties that I had the privilege to serve with for 17. Senate District 24 has 13 counties, primarily rural and small town. Just about 930,000 people and itself. So I look forward to being able to offer my life experience and in both as a state game warden and as a a senator in serving rural Texas and small, small town, small city Texas, just like the town that I live in, which is 10,000 people."

Ashley Goudeau: I want to talk to you about guns, particularly when we're hearing cries from the Uvalde community for a special session to be called or lawmakers to take some action regarding guns. A new poll from the Texas Politics Project at UT found that the majority of Texans say lawmakers have not done enough to prevent mass gun violence. Do you feel as though we need some form of gun legislation in this upcoming session? And if so, what would you like to see done?  

Pete Flores: "Well, as someone who has a lifetime of experience around guns and someone who has been a peace officer as a state game warden, out and around people with guns all the time and it's, you know, and someone who is a firm believer in the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights, you know, it's something that, you know, it's very precious to Texas. It's very precious to our Bill of Rights and something important to the people in Senate District 24. And so, but a lot of times we want to be able to change the laws but, you know, I challenge a lot of folks, I ask the question, you know, do you know how many gun laws already exist and are we enforcing the ones that are already on the books the way they should be enforced? And probably the answer to that is not – most people don't know how many gun laws are already on the books and whether they're being adequately enforced before we start to create more gun laws. You know, we have a Texas penal code and it addresses a number of the things that, you know, that occur in these heinous crimes. I will say I have had the privilege to represent Uvalde, I love the people of Uvalde. And it breaks my heart that that happened because of an evil individual. And so we have to be able to look at that, you know, everything in its entirety from a 360-degree view and determine whether what we have already did not function and if so, why? And and then to move forward positively to address that. Those issues, including the issues of mental health, which I was a big proponent of and still am, and in the 86th and will continue to do so to address those root issues that caused these unfortunate evil acts. And again, to the people of Uvalde, which I love dearly, it breaks my heart that that happened." 

Ashley Goudeau: So let's talk specifically about some of the legislation that has been thrown out, talked about in terms of guns and just whether or not you would support these ideas. Would you support raising the age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21?  

Pete Flores: "No, I would not." 

Ashley Goudeau: Would you support universal background checks? Also background checks at gun shows?  

Pete Flores: "No, I would not."  

Ashley Goudeau: And would you support red flag laws in some form?  

Pete Flores:  "No, I would not."

Ashley Goudeau: Some people say that the Senate drew this district specifically for you, that you were "handpicked" by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to be able to run and win this seat. What do you say about that sort of criticism to your campaign?  

Pete Flores: "Well, I say that, you know, every senatorial district's changed. Every one of them, there's 31. And it went, for example, in 19 with 630,000 people per Senate member and now it's, with our population increased of just under over 29.5 million people in Texas, every senatorial district has about 930,000, plus or minus 5%. So everything changed. And so, generally, blue got bluer, red got redder. And it and those that were empty seats were redrawn. This was an empty seat with the vacancy of Sen. Buckingham running for our land commissioner. And so we were fortunate enough that to be written into 24. And I would remind those that would have that type of criticism that it's still required that people of the district elect you. And so, you have to work very hard and still continue to work very hard to earn every one of those votes. So that it's no done deal here as far as that's concerned. And I look forward to moving on to the November general election and prevailing and taking a seat in, back in the Senate to effectively represent this district in a positive way."

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