Clear Lake, TX – The Clear Lake Tea Party (CLTP) in conjunction with the Alliance of Constitutional Patriots, and several other area Tea Party groups held the first ever job interview for the U.S. Senate.
The venue for the event was the Bayou Theater on the University of Houston’s Clear Lake Campus. The event was also streamed online so people could watch from the comfort of their home or office.
There are sixteen potential Republican or Libertarian candidates seeking to replace the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. Event organizers said that invitations were extended to all candidates plus the candidates were asked to sign the CLTP pledge card as well. Only six candidates were willing to sign the pledge: former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, political activist Lela Pittinger, businessman Glenn Addison, and counselor Andrew “Cas” Castanuela.
The format was rather unique. The candidates drew for positions and then came on stage for a one-on-one interview while the others were sequestered back stage. They were each asked a series of eight questions. The first seven questions were all the same but the eighth question was tailored specifically to the candidate, usually from information on their website. The candidates were given two minutes to answer most of the questions including a final two minutes to give a stump-speech.
Ted Cruz got things started and was the clear winner. He was probably the favorite coming into the event; he’s argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and that polish shined through. Cruz also has the backing of conservative stalwarts such as Senator Rand Paul and Senator Jim DeMint. Cruz said he was categorically against granting amnesty to illegal aliens. He also stated that he wanted to unchain the free market to get the economy moving again. Cruz’s best comment of the evening though was that we were all taught in high school that invertebrates can’t stand upright yet politicians in Washington have been doing it for years.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert was the next to be interviewed and it was probably a toss up between him and Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones for runner-up. The longtime businessman certainly has some good ideas regarding the economy but was lacking on policy issues. When Leppert was asked about the recent debt deal he told the audience that if a CFO used the kind numbers that they do in Congress, he’d be fired.
Lela Pittinger was the next candidate and she is definitely a name to watch in the future if she remains active in politics. She was well spoken, friendly, and had a firm grasp on the issues. She just needs a little more seasoning before she’s ready for the big-time. One thing did set her aside from the rest was her stance on corporate welfare. She said that the tax breaks and subsidies that businesses receive are just as big a problem in America as social welfare programs.
Glenn Addison followed Pittenger and was clearly a bit nervous when he took the stage. He needs to calm down and slow his speech, at times he was talking so fast you couldn’t understand him. Addison certainly has some good ideas but would be better served, for now, if he ran for mayor or county commissioner, he’s not ready for politics at the national level yet. He has a great idea on how to handle the illegal immigrants in our jails; he wants to find out the cost to house a criminal in a Mexican jail and then pay Mexico a premium to house these criminals rather than incarcerate them in the United States. That is probably the best solution I’ve heard to solve our immigration crisis and the massive overcrowding in our jails.
Andrew “Cas” Castanuela was next. Although I’m sure Cas is a nice man he doesn’t even know the difference between a flat tax and a progressive tax structure. He tried to lay out his plan for a flat tax system and then proceeded to lay out a progressive system similar to the one we currently have. He completely dodged the question on illegal immigration going off on an incomprehensible tangent, Cas will not be your next Senator.
The final candidate was Elizabeth Ames Jones and she did an admirable job. She needs to fine tune her talking points and be more concise. Jones is one of the top energy experts in the world and would serve Texas well in the U.S. Senate. If she isn’t successful in her run for Senate, she would be an excellent candidate to head the Department of Energy or the EPA, assuming a Republican defeats Obama next year.
There are a few other names worth mentioning; Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is a formidable candidate and chose not to participate. Many people expect Attorney General Greg Abbott to enter the race as well as Texas State Senator and talk radio host Dan Patrick. Both have statewide appeal but the waters could get rather murky on Saturday when Governor Perry announces his candidacy for President.
Perry probably becomes the frontrunner in the presidential race and in my opinion has the best shot at beating Obama. This of course would open up the governor’s seat so some of these candidates may want to rethink their candidacy. If Dewhurst withdrawals from the senate race, he would become governor if Perry is elected without having to spend a dime. This would obviously set him up as the favorite to win reelection in 2014.
One thing is sure in this election cycle, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.”