COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
To be fair, she had words. She just couldn’t arrange them into meaningful sentences.
Incumbent State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, meanwhile, fought off charges that he is insufficiently conservative during a Republican Party primary cycle in which the mere RINO allegation has proved to be politically fatal across the state. Going head-to-head for a state senate seat that encompasses western San Marcos and Hays County, Campbell and Wentworth were the top attractions at a North Hays County Republican Group program this weekend at a church in Dripping Springs, a GOP stronghold.
On primary Election Day in Hays County in May, Campbell won more than 52 percent, 4,368 votes, against her two better-funded opponents, Wentworth and former Texas Railroad Commission chair Elizabeth Ames Jones. Bolstered by a strong showing in his native San Antonio, Wentworth pulled off a modest plurality districtwide but fell far short of an outright majority. He now faces Campbell in a second round of voting in the July 31 runoff election.
Despite her edge here, Campbell stumbled when she drew a question about how the state can ensure adequate electricity generation and delivery. Last summer, Texas was griped by rolling blackouts brought on by extreme heat, pushing the state’s electricity shortage into public consciousness. It wasn’t clear if Campbell had noticed.
“That’s a great question and I’m going to have to look into it. Personally, I like to flip a switch and have my electricity and I know you do, too,” Campbell said enthusiastically after the moderator read the question.
Later in her answer, she seemed confused about the difference between a tax levied by the state government and wholesale electric rates, which are regulated by the state but generally set by private enterprise. The Texas Public Utility Commission is considering more than tripling the price cap on wholesale electricity in an effort to encourage utility plant construction.
“I’ve already heard talk that we’re going to have to increase the rates but, you know, I’m not for that. … One thing I certainly do not want is tax increases. Do you, really?” Campbell asked, hopefully.
She resorted to her no-tax-increases fall back position when asked later how the state might ensure adequate future water supplies to support a growing urban population. Water issues consistently dominate public dialogue in Hays County, especially in the semi-arid western half. But the subject of water seemed barely on Campbell’s radar screen as she racked her brain for an assortment of conservation techniques — cedar tree eradication, for example — while sidestepping completely the issue of future supplies.
“I can tell you this as a doctor. We’re made up of 65 percent water. So we have to have it,” she concluded, returning to the safer task of reminding people she’s a physician.
One of her key Hays County backers, Wally Kinney of Dripping Springs, said Campbell ‘held her own” against Wentworth. But, he said, the candidate comes across better in small, informal gatherings. “Reminds me of Rick Perry. Not a great debater, but ‘super’ in more intimate settings,” Kinney wrote on Facebook.
Whether the candidates were seeking federal, state or local office, the biggest applause lines of the night involved denouncing the Supreme Court ruling on “Obamacare.” By that measure, Donna Campbell, the firecracker medical doctor, has an edge Wentworth can’t match.
» Hear Campbell and Wentworth debate. Campbell’s electricity answer at 8:50 and water answer at 13:50. Wentworth touts his conservative cred early on, at 0:40. He slams Campbell, whose main residence is in Columbus and who works in Houston, as a carpetbagger at 21:40.
» Hear Texas Assistant Attorney General David Glickler, a Buda resident, and former New Braunfels Mayor Bruce Boyer debate about the 22nd District Judge race. AUDIO HERE.
» Hear former Texas Secretary of State ROGER WILLIAMS and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. WES RIDDLE debate about the Congressional District 25 race. AUDIO HERE.
CLARIFICATION: This story originally said Kinney, a Campbell supporter, “conceded that Campbell fell flat” in the debate. He says that is not an accurate description of what he thinks and referred to a different Facebook post where he said Campbell “held her own” against Wentworth.