House District 4 Contestants Present at Kaufman Candidates Forum
The Kaufman High School cafeteria was buzzing with excited energy from locals who had gathered on February 13, 2018 to hear their favorite Republican Primary candidates tackle the important issues and while convincing the undecided voter on why they would be the best choice. The neighborly event was moderated by Kaufman County Republican Chairman Jimmy Weaver, who began the auspicious evening with a prayer and pledges to the American and Texas Flags.
The candidates who met for this final forum were Keith Bell, Ashley McKee, Earl Brunner, and Dr. Stuart Spitzer. Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves. Questions were chosen from public submission.
Keith Bell described himself as a Christian, businessman, rancher, and a public servant who graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 1951. Bell and his wife have been married for 35 years. He has daughters and four grandchildren. His company has 225 employees. He claims to have an understanding for workforce development and says it is something we should strive to improve. He also has 1,300 acres and cattle. He said it would be a privilege to serve as State Representative.
The second candidate to introduce herself was Ashley McKee. McKee is a lifelong resident of District 4. Her husband has served in the army for over 30 years and received the Bronze Star and is a Major. She has two sons who attend Eustace schools has served on the Eustace ISD school Board for five years. She is an attorney and a small business owner. She has been in the real estate title business for over twenty years and practices family law in Kaufman and Henderson Counties with her primary focus on abused and neglected children, along with the abused and exploited elderly. McKee Claims to be a professional problem solver and prides herself on fighting for children and families.
Third to the podium was Earl Brunner. He began by recognizing our military, first responders, and teachers. Brunner served 28 years in the military before retiring. Brunner said that as an intelligence officer who had knowledge of top secret information, he learned to never put himself into a compromising situation. He says he will never compromise his integrity or abuse his authority. He said that if he sees or smells corruption, he will rein down thunder and destroy it. He claims to have not received any financial backing to fund his campaign.
The fourth and final candidate was Dr. Stuart Spitzer. He first thanked his wife and children for their support. He credited having courage, spirit, and tenacity as qualities he was taught by his parents who were in attendance. He graduated from medical school in the top five percent of his class and did his residency at Parkland Hospital, where he met his wife, and although it was not quite like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, they did meet and marry as residents. Spitzer and his wife did missionary work before having their children and have now served the community as medical doctors for twenty years. He said he looks forward to serving the Texas House as he has done it before and knows what it takes.
Question 1: Explain your stance on school choice, vouchers, and funding.
Keith Bell: “That’s a great question for me because I served on the school board for twenty years. I can tell you I’m pro public education. I am not pro vouchers. I do not believe that any more than public money needs to be used for any candidate that runs for office or to help a candidate run for office. We should use public money to offset and subsidize private education. I just absolutely disagree with that. As far as funding, we need to take and properly fund our schools. In the last five or ten years since the great recession, our state has dropped their funding of public education 50 percent of 38 percent. They balance their budget…and increase property taxes and you and I have felt that burden of the additional cost…”
Ashley McKee: “I have also served on the school board and public education is critical to me and the future of my children. I am against school vouchers. I am not pro choice. I am pro education. Any superintendent, any teacher group and parent group across this district knows that that’s my stand on that. I know that there is some controversy amongst some groups, even in our own party, but I will stand firm and tell you now that I will always support public education. We have a mandate from the Constitution of Texas that says ‘we shall educate our children appropriately and adequately’ and because of the tax cut funding over the last session after session towards public education our kids our getting less and less and the teachers are getting less and less. So, what that means is that it falls on the burden of the local tax payers to pick up the bill, and so I’m going to fight when it comes to the last part about school finance. We have a very complicated school finance system. It’s ugly and it’s too long. And much like our tax system, it needs to be simplified and somebody needs to get in there and simplify, someone who can think critically and fight for our people, and that’s where I stand.”
Earl Brunner: “I’m going to address one aspect of it and that’s the finance. I understand the Texas Supreme Court recently determined that our financial structure for our educational system in the state of Texas is barely, barely even meeting constitutional requirements and it’s also lacking in performance. In the military, we have a solution and we say that’s, ‘keep it simple stupid,’ and I think that should be the legislators’ first priority for the next fiscal year for this next year, is to fix this problem. And what I want to say is we have the leadership, we have the talent, we have the expertise from a lot of people in the House or the Senate that are educated. They’re educators and lawyers, and people like you that can solve problems. But the bottom line, is that we should go find who has the best educational system in the United States and it could be Massachusetts. It could be any state and let’s go to those people and say, ‘Listen, we need to see your model and we need to see what you guys are using. You have the highest academic standards; you have the highest academic performance.’ Let us use that model and apply it to the state of Texas.”
Dr. Stuart Spitzer: “First, I’d like to agree with a lot of what you said which is, it’s too complex as far as school funding…what that allows for is people to pull the wool over your eyes and say ‘oh you got this, you got this.’…But all the money comes from you, the taxpayer. And so yes, it is our constitutional duty to educate. It is our constitutional duty to educate every child. That includes rich children. That includes poor children. My children go to public schools…My mother is a public school teacher. I’m a product of public schools. I support our public schools. I support our teachers. We need to get the TEA off their back, so they can teach our children. Democracy is hurting our classroom; Testing is hurting our children and if people want to get away from that they need to have a way to get away from that, and that means poor kids too. I have the means and I’m blessed to have the means and a lot of people have the means to pull their children out and have them in a different educational environment. As far as vouchers, that’s one method, but I’ve never seen one of those I liked yet.”
Question 2: How much money, if any, have you received from out of district? What percentage?
Keith Bell said that he has the endorsement of firefighters and electrical contractors. Bell claims 10 percent or less out of district funding. Ashley McKee said she is funded by voters right here in the district and the Texas Association of Realtors and warned that voters should pay attention to “dark money.” Earl Brunner said this is his battle and he is paying for it himself. Dr. Stuart Spitzer says his number one donor is himself, his wife, and his children. The Texas Right to Life organization is Spitzer’s biggest donor.
When asked the third question: “Do you agree with recent censor of Representative Joe Straus?” all the candidates claimed the question was irrelevant since Straus will not be speaker next term.
Question 4: If you are pro-life, in what ways would you consider yourself a pro-life champion?
Keith Bell: “I stated earlier I’m a member of the First Baptist Church, I came to know Christ as a young man…as a deacon, as a Christian, I believe that life starts at conception. That’s what my belief is in pro-life and we need to protect life…I’ve never served as a legislator and I’ve never had the opportunity, other than as a church member and as a leader in my church; and my daughters… and four grandkids that pro-life means to protect the innocent and to protect an unborn child from conception. That’s my stance and I’ve done my part by raising my children and now the same thing in raising my grandchildren and do everything I can to move our church forward to teach as many people as possible to know my Lord and Savior.”
Ashley McKee: “Yes, I am pro-life and I hope that everyone in this room is pro-life…we all share that same value. I am already a champion for the pro-life cause. I already told you that as an attorney I specialize and represent children. I do adoptions…it’s the best part of what I do, and I’ll tell you something personal about me. My husband is an Army Major and a district attorney and a district judge [sic] and all the great things that he is, he was put up for adoption at birth by his sixteen-year-old birthmother…and that was three years before Roe vs. Wade in 1973, and had that sixteen-year-old girl had a choice, other than to put him up for adoption, he wouldn’t be here and my kids wouldn’t be here and it’s crucial to me that someone goes down to Austin who fights for this cause with passion. I’m a champion already for pro-life causes and if these groups that some people want to throw out there like Texas Right to Life and all these other groups, if they knew me, they would endorse me, I promise you, because they would know how passionate I am about this cause and I would fight for it.”
Earl Brunner: “My answer is very simple. I’m against abortion.”
Dr. Stuart Spitzer: “My pro-life stance started long before I…was elected to any office. My wife and I have worked, donated, attended events for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, and it’s called Still Waters. It’s here in Kaufman…it’s been a way to talk to women, see what’s going on in their lives, realize this is a big issue. One of the other things I did…I stood there on the house floor and argued with some other physicians about whether children with disabilities should be given the same protection as normal children…and it was tough…So here, there, I have been with the pro-life movement and I will continue with the pro-life movement.”
The candidates were asked to give their closing statements:
Keith Bell: “…My beliefs created my morals, my morals, my values, and my values, my character. And the character of the people creates the culture…so I think there are only three questions you’ve got to ask…Do their values align with mine? Do they have the experience to go to Austin? And when they get there, can they govern?… I won’t sacrifice good for perfect. We can’t go down there…and get tied up for 140 days. If we do that, we’ll look like Washington DC and that’s a dysfunctional system… We’ve got to find a way to work together… I’d be honored to have the opportunity.”
Ashley McKee: “I think it’s important for you to know why I’m the most qualified person to represent you in Austin and that is because I represent people for a living…I like to listen to people. I am someone who can take any problem any one of you can have in this room…and go to Austin and do what needs to be done.”
Earl Brunner: “I’m very humble. I’m down to earth. I drive a 1998 Buick…and I will tell you this…the military taught me not to fail. I know the State of Texas faces many challenges…Giving me the opportunity to do this, to work for you, I will try my darndest to push bills through that will impact your life and improve the quality of your life…I’d love the opportunity to serve you.”
Dr. Stuart Spitzer: “It’s been my real honor to serve as a State Representative. It’s one of the best things I’ve done…It’s also been an honor to be part of the Texas Miracle…We know what it takes to do a conservative budget…Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem…I’ll treat you well. I’ll always have an open door.”
Early voting begins on Tuesday, February 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., which are extended hours from the previous year. On the final week of early voting, February 6 to March 2, early voting venues will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each sub courthouse will be open to the voters. Kaufman County voters will be able to use any voting box on Primary Election day. There are 29 throughout the county. This will improve the quality of voting for all residents.