Houston Mayor Bill White, left, spoke to two groups in San Marcos Wednesday as he campaigns for a likely opening in the United States Senate. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
A leading Democratic candidate for a Senatorial seat that’s not even open swept through San Marcos Wednesday, speaking separately with Texas State students and the San Marcos Area Democrats (SMAD).
Houston Mayor Bill White, a Democrat, expressed support for federal funding of “clean energy” technology and for making education the “number one priority” of the federal government.
White’s bid for one of two Texas seats in the United States Senate is contingent upon incumbent Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison leaving her seat for a gubernatorial run against Governor Rick Perry in next spring’s Republican primary.
White leveled criticism at the former Bush Administration for increasing the federal budget deficit and for using what he said were appeals to fear and greed to get political support for policies such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the Bush tax cuts. White asked attendees to imagine what the trillion dollars spent in Iraq could have been used for in the United States, and he said most citizens in his neighborhood are more concerned about illegal drug trade-related violence than terrorist attacks.
“It was easier to appeal to fear rather than courage,” said White at the SMAD event.
White said his experience as young legislative assistant who helped institute federal fuel efficiency standards, as Bill Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of Energy, and as mayor of a city nationally recognized for its support of renewable energy make him qualified to effectively champion energy independence for Texas and the United States. White said such energy independence would create greater economic benefits.
“(In Houston) we adopted the most aggressive, far reaching energy codes for new construction,” said White at the College Democrats event at Texas State.
White said that as mayor of Houston he was “tested” by the influx of refugees from Hurricane Katrina and Ike, which, he said, makes him qualified to effectively lead in crisis situations. Houston has no city manager, which, White said, means he literally runs a city that has built up budget surpluses for four years. White said his experience as mayor, in addition to his work in the Clinton administration, make him qualified to champion sound economic policies in the U.S. Senate.
“By managing government wisely, managing expenses and revenues, we turned those into record surpluses for this country, the likes of which have not been seen in a century,” White said.
White said he would have voted against the recently-approved federal stimulus package, which he compared to a tsunami. He condemned federal economic policies, which, he said, encourage people to “spend everything” rather than to save.
Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle), Hays County Court at Law Judge Anna Martinez Boling, Kyle Councilmember David Wilson and Hays County Sheriff candidate Bill Huddleston joined White at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3413 on Hunter Road, where SMAD offered refreshments and screened the Terry Kelly music video “A Pittance Of Time” in honor of Veterans Day.
White and the attendees at the SMAD event applauded for Bob Barton, father of Jeff Barton, and for Wilson in honor of the two men’s military service during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, respectively. White mentioned that his nephew recently arrived home from two tours in Iraq. At the College Democrats event an hour earlier, White said his father is a disabled military veteran who received a master’s degree at Texas State on the G.I. Bill. White said his family has a generations-long tradition of military service.
White encouraged attendees at both events to support his campaign by using the Internet and email to coordinate activities and gain more supporters. White said that all of the posts on his Facebook.com “wall” are genuinely his own and are not posted by members of his staff.
White told students at the College Democrats event that he would support using tuition costs as one basis for allocating Federal Pell Grants, and said there should be a way for students to work off their loans by doing community service in places like health clinics. White said the federal government should enable people to attend college without fear of going hopelessly into debt.
“I think we ought to do anything we can to remove any barriers,” White said at the College Democrats event.
At both events, White blasted Perry for suggesting that Texas might someday secede from the union and said he would love to turn on Fox News to see the television network declare that Texas had elected a Democratic senator.
At the College Democrats event, a student asked White what his stance on the “Arab-Israeli conflict” was, and how he would resist the “pro-Israel lobby” if elected to the Senate. White said there is “no easy answer,” though he expressed confidence that both sides of the conflict are realizing they must work harder toward reconciliation.
“No senator is going to cast a vote for peace for people who don’t want peace,” White said.
White said economic conditions in the Gaza Strip must be improved, and he criticized the surrounding Arab countries for not doing enough to ease the hardships of Palestinians.
“I do believe that Israel has a right to survive,” White said. “We will stand by the survival of Israel.”
When asked by a student how the U.S. should proceed in Afghanistan, White said policymakers must work to implement the most “practical” or “minimum success scenario,” rather than “wait until there’s no poverty, illiteracy or opium production” before ending the U.S. military occupation. White said an acceptable minimum objective for Afghanistan would be to root out terrorist training camps, build some capital infrastructure in the country and ensure elections are conducted with a high degree of fairness — higher than what occurred in Florida during the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, he added.
White recommended attendees read the New Republic article “Is There a Middle Way?” by Stephen Biddle, which White said he does not totally agree with but finds a “better analysis than most” — good enough to post a link to it on his Facebook wall on Sunday.
“What the President needs to do is give a fair amount of deference to those who have operational responsibilities in the field,” White said of Afghanistan policy.
Asked by a student what his stance on gay rights was, White replied that he was “honored” to be named “Person of the Year” by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization. White said that during a time when there is a global recession, when there are people who can’t afford college, and when veterans are returning home without limbs, the government should be less concerned about what he said are private matters.
White said he was once asked why he chose to participate in a gay rights parade in Houston.
“I said, ‘I thought it was my job to work for all people,'” White said. “Basically, that’s the way I perceive my job.”Email | Print