Republican North Texas congressional candidates debate Ken Paxton’s impeachment, Ukraine relief funding

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As they head into a Republican primary runoff for an open congressional seat, state Rep. Craig Goldman and business owner John O’Shea each tried to convince a debate crowd Saturday that they have the better conservative credentials to serve the North Texas district.

Goldman frequently pointed to his voting record in the Texas House, touting his support of bills to tighten security at the U.S.-Mexico border, lower property taxes and restrict abortion access.

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O’Shea, a political newcomer, framed himself as an outsider interested in protecting constituents from the overreach and mismanagement of the federal government.

But O’Shea also framed the contest as one that hinges on whether voters agree with Goldman’s vote last year to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a fellow Republican. Paxton, whom the Texas Senate acquitted, is backing O’Shea in the race and has vowed political revenge against Republicans who voted to impeach him, including House Speaker Dade Phelan.

“There is a civil war in the party in the state of Texas,” O’Shea said. “I like to characterize it as the America First-Paxton side, and then there’s the establishment, team Phelan side. You have a candidate who represents each one of those two sides. The choice is clear. Now you have a chance to choose.”

The debate was moderated by Dana Loesch, a former editor at Breitbart News and spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. At one point, she suggested that there wasn’t credible evidence to impeach Paxton and, as such, asked Goldman how he can be trusted to vote on federal surveillance legislation. But Goldman defended his vote.

“The articles of impeachment did not say innocent or guilty,” Goldman said. “There’s not one member of the Texas House that voted innocent or guilty in application. They sit as members of a grand jury: Is there enough evidence for there to be a trial? We call it the constitution. All those United States congressmen follow the constitution every day.”

The men are vying for the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, who is currently in her 14th term and has been one of the state’s most powerful representatives in the U.S. House. Her 12th Congressional District was drawn to favor Republicans and is expected to stay in GOP hands. The primary runoff is May 28.

Goldman has served in the House since 2013 and is favored by the district’s political and business leaders. He holds the lead in both fundraising and endorsements. His votes leaned more conservative than the majority of Texas House Republicans in 2023.

O’Shea, whom Paxton refers to as a close friend, is a former banker and currently owns a construction company.

At Saturday’s debate, the candidates both said they think abortion should be restricted and Congress should protect gun ownership rights. But they split on other issues.

O’Shea said he is a “hard no” on funding more military aid to Ukraine, something the U.S. House passed shortly before the debate started. Goldman argued that sending financial aid is necessary to prevent sending American troops to the conflict. O’Shea predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not forcibly annex other countries. On the other hand, Goldman believed that left alone, the Russian president will continue taking land and eventually attack a NATO ally.

The two candidates also portrayed themselves as hardliners on tightening security at the U.S.-Mexico border. They championed stringent economic sanctions on Mexico and harsh consequences against people illegally crossing into America.

Naming the issue as “my top priority,” Goldman said the U.S. should foot the border expenses Texas taxpayers have been funding for years. State lawmakers last year agreed to spend $5 billion for border security measures like constructing border barriers and stationing Department of Public Safety troopers along the Rio Grande.

Goldman also highlighted his support of a Texas law that would allow local law enforcement to arrest people suspected of illegally crossing the border, which is being challenged in court. He also pointed to 2017 legislation, often referred to as a “sanctuary cities” law, that allows police to inquire about people’s immigration status.

“Pass a federal law like we’ve done at the state level, saying no sanctuary cities. We passed that law several sessions ago. No city in the state of Texas can be a sanctuary city anymore,” Goldman said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been part of the party solution to secure our border, and I will continue to be that as your United States congressmen.”

O’Shea called for the border to be closed to end the human trafficking and the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

“The answer is very simple,” O’Shea said. “We shut down the border.”

Both candidates also said they want to shut down the U.S. Department of Education and federal involvement in local public schools. O’Shea said the Education Department is an “unconstitutional usurpation of state rights.” Goldman, who supported legislation that would have allowed parents to receive public money to subsidize private school tuition, said parents have the right to choose how their children are educated.

“Parents have to be involved in their kids’ education. There’s absolutely no way the government can legislate that in any way, shape or form,” Goldman said. “You’re responsible for your child.”

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