MARSHALL, Texas—As citizens across the nation were preparing to listen to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, voters in the East Texas town of Marshall were listening to a debate between an incumbent state representative and his conservative challenger.
Unlike most Republican Primary campaigns across the state, voters in House District 9, which includes East Texas’ Cass, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Shelby and Sabine Counties, were provided a forum in which they could hear from both candidates—incumbent State Rep. Chris Paddie and his opponent, small businessman Garrett Boersma, both of Marshall.
Texas Scorecard was there on the scene engaging with activists and voters while also live-tweeting each candidate’s answers. Citizens can find those and other reports from “On the Trail” under the Twitter hashtag #OTTX. The entire recorded debate can also be viewed on Facebook Live courtesy of East Texans for Liberty activist Stacy McMahan.
In Boersma’s opening remarks he thanked Paddie for his service before quickly transitioning to define himself and his opponent.
“I’m a conservative who believes that limited government will lead to increased economic prosperity and opportunity for our state. My opponent gave the nominating speech for House Speaker Joe Straus who was censured this past Saturday,” said Boersma.
Straus was indeed censured this past weekend by the Texas GOP’s Executive Committee which voted by a more than two-thirds margin to condemn the retiring lawmaker for his open defiance of the party’s core principles during his time presiding over the Texas House.
Taking power in 2009 through the result of a Democrat-led coup against Republican Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, Straus spent almost a decade obstructing and subverting the will of Republican primary voters and the party platform—preventing efforts to protect life, gun rights, and to limit government from coming to the floor of the Texas House.
Straus’ record of thwarting the Republican party platform isn’t in dispute, and rather than simply serve as a henchman for Straus—who Paddie gave the nominating speech for this past session— Paddie’s record on the issues is equally dismal.
After the most recent regular and special sessions of the Texas Legislature, Paddie earned a failing score of a 42 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, a horrendous score that was even lower than his previous scores of 60 and 55.
The reason for Paddie’s record-low score? Often Paddie would vote with Democrats against his own Republican colleagues, and at the debate the lawmaker refused to take working against his own party off the table even when it came to electing a new Speaker.
When asked why he had thus far refused to sign the Texas GOP’s pledge to support the Republican Caucus’ nominee for Speaker, Paddie said he was concerned that the winner would support expanded parental choice in education.
“I agree with the concept, but I don’t believe in signing an unconditional pledge,” said Paddie.
But Paddie hasn’t always held that position.
Indeed, in his first session Paddie signed a “pledge card” in which he swore his allegiance and his vote to the Democrats’ choice for speaker: Straus, and turned that card in to Democrat lobbyist Gordon Johnson, Straus’ consigliere.
“Paddie didn’t just start voting with Democrats once he got to Austin, he’s been a Democrat activist his whole life,” said Fuzzy Harmon, a conservative activist who attended the event. “I don’t think anyone in his family voted for a Republican until he ran as one.”
A safe Republican district, the battle between Boersma and Paddie will determine who represents HD 9 in the Texas House in 2019.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.

Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire is the executive director of Texans for Strong Borders, a no-compromise non-profit dedicated to restoring security and sovereignty to the citizens of the Lone Star State. For more information visit