A candidate forum in Fort Worth became heated as an incumbent Republican congresswoman was asked to defend her pro-life credentials. She contradicted herself in an attempt to explain why she had publicly stated she was “pro-choice” eight years ago.
The forum was held on Monday evening by the Cowtown Republican Women between incumbent U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R–Fort Worth) and her GOP primary challenger, former Colleyville Mayor Pro Tem Chris Putnam.
Both candidates were given 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the packed audience.
Granger discussed her time serving on the Fort Worth City Council, as mayor, and over two decades in Congress. She mentioned being the only Texas Republican woman in the U.S. House, and serving on the powerful appropriations committee, before addressing the other elephant in the room: her position on abortion.
“I want to make something perfectly clear: I’m a pro-life Republican, and my voting record over the past 10 years backs that up,” Granger said, touting endorsements from National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.
This claim contradicts her statement to MSNBC in a 2012 interview that she is a “pro-choice Republican.” A video clip of her statement has been aired as part of a series of attack ads on Granger from the Protect Freedom political action committee.
When an audience member asked her to respond to this ad, Granger gave a confusing reply that contradicted her opening statement. A clip of Granger’s reply was shared on social media the next day.
“The last 10 years … it’s a record. You can look at my record. I’ve been pro-choice—strongly pro-choice—worked on that, received credits for that.”
“When I came to Congress, that wasn’t the situation. My position has evolved,” she added. She pointed to President Donald Trump changing his stance on the life issue, and stem cell research, as part of her alleged transformation.
“When I came into Congress, it was only considered as fetal stem cell research—I was against that—but also for you to be able to use your own stem cells for disease.”
“The position on that has changed with pro-life people,” she finished. “But that’s the situation I’m in.”
Putnam focused on his business acumen and record of bringing reform to the city of Colleyville during his tenure on council as mayor pro tem. He highlighted his push to cut the city’s property tax rate, reduce its reliance on debt, and enact term limits.
Putnam chose to term limit himself by stepping down while successfully recruiting other conservatives to run for office, who have all continued to slash tax rates without cutting core services.
Putnam also took a swing at Granger over her troubled real estate project, Panther Island in Fort Worth, which is estimated to eventually cost taxpayers more than $1.2 billion:
“We spent 14 years, $400 million on Panther Island. It’s been a complete waste of money. And during that time, Ms. Granger’s son [J.D. Granger] has made millions of dollars while people have lost their businesses, their homes, their properties through the use of eminent domain.”
“It’s not alright,” he added.
Granger didn’t mention Panther Island once during the forum, despite the troubled project attracting scrutiny by the press. At the end of 2019, the project ran out of funding after years of delays and cost overruns.
Both candidates were also asked what their agendas would be during the first 100 days of their term should they win.
“First priority is joining sponsorship to the heartbeat protection bill. That’s number one,” Putnam replied. He also said he plans to tackle immigration, working with local law enforcement like Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, who endorses Putnam. “Our plan is to go to Washington and send the loudest message possible that it is time for substantive immigration reform.”
Instead of giving a concrete agenda, Granger attacked Putnam.
“I’m, first of all, going to make sure that I help President Trump be re-elected. That’s the most important thing,” Granger answered. “You [addressing Putnam] have an ad on the television right now that says that I put millions to Planned Parenthood, and even names the bills.”
“First of all, I don’t lie about ballot record. I don’t lie about anybody else’s record,” she said. “So, I’ll make sure that everyone knows: there is no money for Planned Parenthood in those bills.”
“First of all, it’s not my ad. It’s Club for Growth’s ad,” Putnam replied. “And secondly, we spend $500 million of taxpayer money on Planned Parenthood a year.”
“The president, of course, took action on this front and made it more difficult for them to do that. But again, it’s just another example of where the president forced something because of Congress’ inaction.”
“The president would not have endorsed me if that was my position. President Trump would not have endorsed me,” Granger replied.
Putnam countered by pointing to Granger’s anti-Trump history.
“Four weeks before President Trump’s [November] election, Miss Granger—in a very public way—called for him to step down and withdraw himself in consideration of the presidency. Before that, she said he had absolutely no right to be the commander in chief or speak for Americans.”
“That would have guaranteed a Hillary Clinton presidency,” Putnam said.
Each candidate was asked if they’d support their opponent should he or she lose the nomination.
“Of course,” Putnam answered, adding that CD12 is strongly Republican and there is no threat of losing it to a Democrat in the near future. “I support the party completely, and I would never run a race where we jeopardize losing a seat—because of a competitive primary—to a Democrat.”
“Vote Republican, straight ticket,” Granger answered, forgetting that straight-ticket voting no longer exists in Texas.
Putnam’s local endorsements include Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Right to Life, Young Conservatives of Texas, Parker County Conservatives, and local sheriffs. He is also backed by the Club for Growth PAC, which supports conservative candidates across the nation.
Primary Election Day is March 3, and early voting begins on February 18.