Challenger Andrew Backus, left, and State Representative Patrick Rose, right, at the San Marcos League of Women Voters debate earlier this month.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Four-term State Representative Patrick Rose and Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) Director Andrew Backus traded jabs at the San Marcos League of Women Voters debate earlier this month as the two contest the Democratic nomination for Rose’s seat in the March 2 primary.
Rose suggested that Backus is a “one-issue candidate,” alluding to HTGCD’s attempts to gain greater funding and authority through the state legislative process. Backus said Rose is hard to work with, adding that the incumbent is “disingenuous,” “slick,” and a “professional.”
However, Backus had more to say about Rose than about the issues. Asked about the state’s role in providing social service funding, Backus froze, then conceded that he had no answer.
Rose, who chairs the House Committee on Human Services, pounced on the question, saying he “led the effort” to make nursing homes safer and add 150,000 children to the state’s CHIP (Children Health Insurance Program).
“We do not have the luxury of one-issue candidates in this district,” Rose said. “Health and human services is one of the most important issues facing Central Texas. I’m going to continue to work on it. I’ve led as chairman.”
Backus said his catalyst to run for office was “continually running into a brick wall” when trying to work with Rose on HTGCD legislation. Backus said Rose favors special interests ahead of the constituents of House District 45, which covers Hays, Caldwell and Blanco Counties.
“(Rose) is one of the leading recipients of special-interest money from outside the district that he represents,” said Backus, adding that Rose accepted contributions from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who contributes to the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth group that attacked U.S. Senator John Kerry’s (D-Massachusetts) during the 2004 presidential election.
Rose said he has a record of bringing people together to find “difficult solutions to the problems facing us.” Rose said his record demonstrates his ability to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats and Republicans alike.
“All of these issues demand that we bring people together who often time disagree,” Rose said when asked if it matters who contributes to his campaign.
Asked how to keep college tuitions affordable, Backus said “I don’t have all the answers at this point” but, he said, he would deliberate with experts. Backus also pointed to Rose voting to deregulate tuition in 2003 and now wanting to lower costs.
“(Rose) tends to play both sides of the coin,” Backus said.
Rose said it’s critical that Texas State be “excellent” and “affordable” for students
“Mr. Backus confuses playing with both sides with working with both sides,” Rose said. Rose added that arguments exist for tuition regulation and deregulation. Rose said he voted for tuition deregulation because “looming” budget cuts of up to 10 percent necessitated flexibility.
Defending his vote to deregulate tuition, Rose said he added an amendment to the legislation requiring that 20 percent of the new monies to universities be allocated for student scholarships. Rose said Texas State has granted $12.7 million in such scholarships “because of my work.”
But Rose said he now favors tuition regulation because the legislature has used deregulation as an excuse for not funding colleges and universities. Rose said he has worked for tuition regulation in the last two sessions.
When the candidates were asked what they can do for lower-level education, Backus said he didn’t have the answers now, but that he understands that the funding system for education in Texas is a “mess.” Backus said he would look to teachers, principals, local administrators, and constituents for solutions.
Rose said $1.9 billion in new money is available for public education because of his work and the work of others. Rose said there are nine school districts in his representative district, all with different socio-economic backgrounds and growth rates, though, he said, there is a common thread.
“What unites everybody in every community in this district is a commitment to public education,” Rose said. “It’s the most important thing we have going for child growth. It’s the most important definer of quality of life. We have to continue to invest.”
Rose said a problem in politics is that people don’t want to work with one another. Rose said that’s the difference between him and Backus.
“We have got to bring people together across party aisles, across geography, to do the important things like building jobs, grow universities, protect the hill country, road and water infrastructure on the corridor,” Rose said. “We have got to do that through consensus. That’s the leadership style that I’ve brought and that’ll be the leadership style that I will continue as your state representative.”
Backus conceded early in the debate that he is “clearly swimming upstream here. Representative Rose has a great deal of support.” Backus said he “believes in consensus” and will work for his constituents, rather than “special interests.”
Backus said Rose offered HTGCD legislation that would be funded by rate payers of Aqua Texas, which according to its website, serves more than 155,000 in 51 counties across Texas. Now, Backus said, Rose’s website states that the incumbent will fight against Aqua Texas rate increases.
“It’s disingenuous what he’s offering,” Backus said. “It’s slick. He’s professional. He’s got more money than most other Democrats.”Email | Print