Nine candidates for the Texas District 2 seat in the U.S. Congress met with Republican voters in front of a packed house at Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant in Kingwood Monday, Feb. 12.
The Tribune’s publisher and CEO Cynthia Calvert served as moderator for the event. By means of an official timekeeper and synchronized topics, Calvert enabled each candidate to present their credentials and ideas about why each of them should win the Republican nomination. The result was a spirited debate among all nine candidates. They hold credentials ranging from Navy Seal to cardiac surgeon, including a patent attorney, business owners, entrepreneurs, a hospital CEO, an Army ranger and an attorney.
Republican Ted Poe currently holds the congressional seat. He announced last year he would not seek re-election to the district, which includes more than 700,000 people in parts of West Houston, the northern edges of Harris County, Atascocita and Humble. Poe has been in congress for 13 years.
Calvert was asked to moderate the event by the sponsor, the Lake Houston Pachyderm Club. Here are the candidates and summaries of their comments:
David Balat noted that his parents were immigrants from Israel, and his dad took up the tailor trade when he arrived in Houston. Balat holds two master’s degrees from the University of Houston. He has worked as a CEO of several hospitals and says one his strengths is understanding the issues surrounding health care. He also indicated that he has a passion for helping the Veterans Administration improve their services to veterans. Balat has first-hand experience, having helped his father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran, navigate that system. Balat says he can address health care issues and problems created by Obamacare.
Daniel Crenshaw served as a Navy Seal for 10 years and suffered from an explosion in Afghanistan where he lost the sight of one eye. He used that experience as his key to what his vision is to serve as a congressman. He sees his work to help communities help each other, instill conservative values, and restore the country to a law-abiding nation. He says he wants America to work for another generation. Regarding a question from Calvert about immigration issues, Crenshaw said we must fix border security. He doesn’t want to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants if that means they step in front of people following the law. If elected, he says he will work to inspire others in congress to keep America safe. He draws on his mother’s guidance to him before she passed away when he was age 10.
Jonny Havens is an attorney with Baker Botts and he represents petroleum companies. He is a retired Army rangers officer. He serves as chairman of the Lone Star Veterans Association. In addressing the question from Calvert about the recent tax reform act, Havens said it will help most people. He wants to extend personal tax cuts to make them permanent. He says tax cuts are good, but he feels the budget must be balanced as well. Havens summarized his plan as a congressman to be one of promises kept, just as he did when he led soldiers in combat. He says others have promised to repeal Obamacare and to balance the budget, but they have not done it. He wants to make his reputation in congress as one of promises kept.
Justin Lurie is a businessman and merger and acquisitions specialist at an investment bank. He also serves on the board of the Houston chapter of the American Petroleum Institute. He says the district needs someone who can hold the seat for 10 years. He wants to fight for a balanced budget and to stop out-of-control spending. To do that, he says efforts need to be made to control health care costs where he says health care pricing is a disaster. He also says he will bring private sector ideas to this problem. He wants transparency on the costs of government. Lurie said having a big campaign (as some of his opponents do) does not make you the best candidate. He feels his work in mergers and acquisitions and his knowledge of the petroleum industry makes him qualified for this position.
Kevin Roberts is a state representative and a businessman. Roberts was raised by his grandparents in Amarillo. They taught him the values of integrity, commitment and hard work. He addressed the Harvey flooding disaster question from Calvert by saying he has been working on the issue since immediately after the event. He said the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston must be dredged deeper. He also said that the San Jacinto River Authority must be changed to make the basin a flood reservoir. Roberts emphasized his ability to work with other legislators. He said his knowledge of public work and understanding the legislative process will serve him well as congressman.
Dr. Jon Spiers is a retired cardiac surgeon and currently a practicing attorney. He is running because he thinks he can change health care, saying it is too costly and there are too many costly regulations. In answering the question from Calvert of climate change, he said there are free-market solutions to climate change. He says people can disagree on the causes or the existence of climate change, but he feels that solutions must be implemented to slow the emission of pollutants. Spiers says that all the candidates are committed to doing their best, but he will bring ideas from the greatest medical center in the country, Houston. He will approach his job with dogged determination.
Rick Walker says he is going to Washington, D.C. to fight for our values. He grew up in a small, two-bedroom house in South Texas. When he was 18, he started his company with $1,000 which his mom entrusted him with. He says he worked hard to turn her trust into a multi-million dollar organization that has created jobs throughout Houston. In answering the Calvert question on what committees he would want to serve on in Congress, he listed ethics, ways and means, and small business. He says he understands small business and will fight to make it easier to do business. Walker says he will work to stop the flooding. He says the voters need a conservative congressman they can trust. He says he has created more jobs than all of the eight other candidates combined.
Kathaleen Wall said she grew up working on her small family ranch in Texas and learned how to work hard. Her career has been in engineering technology and high-tech startups. Wall listed downsizing government, border security and infrastructure as major issues. In answering the question put to her by Calvert, she says she is already working with the Corp of Engineers to solve the flooding problems. She thinks communication of progress and updating of information is important to solve the problem. Wall pointed out the corp is still working with a 1950 flood plan. Wall says Washington is broken. Democrats are coming to win the Poe seat. She feels she will work the hardest to win in November and is the best candidate.
Malcolm Whittaker is a patent attorney and an Eagle Scout. He says he knows what creates jobs and what kills jobs. He wants to reduce the federal deficit. He says he knows of glitches in the patent laws that can be fixed to avoid sending jobs to India. He also wants to work on reducing prescriptions costs by up to $40 billion per year. In answering Calvert’s question about term limits, Whittaker said he would go get his work done in five terms and come home. He noted his goal is personified on his web site: notagovernmentman.com. He says congress members are all debt junkies. He wants to work on that problem.