As part of Texas Scorecard‘s Uncut Conversations series, we invited Republican candidates for governor to 1836 Studios for a one-on-one interview in the fall of 2021.
Allen West, Chad Prather, and Don Huffines all participated. Gov. Greg Abbott declined an invitation to appear.
All of Abbott’s gubernatorial challengers criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy silence on banning federal and employer vaccine mandates. In 2020, Abbott made the decision to shut the state of Texas down to navigate the pandemic, a move that has been heavily criticized by many conservatives. Even after Abbott lifted some of his own mandates, for example, Texas was subject to local infringements on liberties.
Allen West believes that Texas should follow the lead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and refuse to allow corporations to move into Texas if they intend to mandate the vaccine. According to West, COVID-19 vaccinations were “not a condition of employment. And so now all of a sudden, you want to make that adjustment. I don’t support that. The people that know what’s best for their body are the people that occupy that body.”
Chad Prather maintains that the job of the governor is to keep a state free from government overreach and mandates. He stated, “I want people to be able to have the freedom to run their businesses freely, however they want to do. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about the violation of people’s human bodies. There’s got to be a line drawn in the sand that says you can’t mandate that, you can’t make that happen.” Prather rejects the government and employer vaccine mandates because he believes that medical choices are ultimately up [to] the individual.
Don Huffines holds that “the fundamental role of government is to defend us from [the] government,” therefore, the executive overreach at all levels of government during the COVID-19 pandemic should never have been allowed. For Huffines, mask mandates and vaccine mandates are not to be tolerated by the government or employers.
All challengers agree that the porous border is a major issue for Texas and believe the governor should be doing more to handle the border crisis. Though Abbott has deployed some of the Texas Department of Public Safety and National Guard to assist, much of his statements regarding the border crisis have focused on criticizing the Biden administration rather than addressing the issues. According to the challengers, Gov. Abbott should be utilizing his power as governor to stop the invasion of illegal immigrants, as is his right and duty under the U.S. and Texas constitutions.
West says he wants more Texas National Guard troops at the border for stronger deterrence and to provide the ability for local law enforcement to act. “You’ve got to have the boots on the ground to provide that deterrent force along with integrated systems like ground sensors, surveillance systems, and also aerial surveillance systems,” he said. “But you also have to empower our constitutional officers, the sheriffs that are down there along the border, and sheriffs all across the state of Texas to be able to be a part of doing what the federal government is lacking to do with this—which is not deporting people, which is not turning people around at the border. So, we have to be empowered to do that to protect ourselves.”
Prather also wants full deployment of the Texas National Guard to defend the Texas border, stating, “We’ve got to stand on that river, both as law enforcement, both as a sovereign state, as an empowered people, and say, ‘No, you’re not coming across.’”
Huffines believes that deploying the Texas National Guard, finishing Trump’s border wall, returning all illegal immigrants to Mexico, and halting commercial traffic over the Rio Grande will be a suitable multi-faceted approach to securing the Texas border. For Huffines, the Texas governor must stand in the gap because “the federal government will never secure the border.”
The challengers all agreed that the hike in Texas property taxes is a major issue for a free state, and they shared what their methods would be for changing the property tax system. Though Abbott and the Republican state Legislature touted supposed property reform in 2019, Texas homeowners’ bills have continued to climb.
According to West, the state budget surplus should go toward relieving citizens’ property tax burdens, and Texas should transition to a fair tax system, or consumption tax. “That will be one of my emergency priorities at the state of the state address.”
Prather acknowledged that high property taxes were driving Texans from their land. He believes that the solution is not to change the tax system, but rather to focus on cutting spending at all levels of government—starting with the top. “We have got to cut spending. Spending in the State of Texas has increased by $48 billion in the last two terms of Greg Abbott. That’s untenable,” he said, adding that taxes are a complex issue that will take “complex models” to fix.
Huffines favors a gradual reversal of the property tax system while cutting state spending, rather than an increased state consumption tax. According to Huffines, property taxes are “a bad way to fund [the] government.” By cutting spending and slowly removing property taxes as the funding sources for state and local government, Huffines believes Texas can reach a reasonable level of taxation.
The three challengers all support the Texas Heartbeat Act, but they do have slightly different interpretations of “pro-life.” Though Gov. Abbott signed the pro-life bill into law, he did not respond to an inquiry from Texas Scorecard regarding his position on banning abortions before a heartbeat is detected.
Allen West says he fully supports the Heartbeat Act and the criminalization of abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. However, he does support a rape and incest exception for abortions prior to the heartbeat detection. West explained his reasoning, stating, “I just think that we have to be considerate when a woman’s body is violated because we just had a discussion about telling people that they have to get an injection in the body. If someone’s body has been used as part of a crime, I think we need to be more considerate about that.”
Prather says he supports the Heartbeat Act but believes it doesn’t go far enough, since it doesn’t abolish abortion in Texas. “For me, the [Heartbeat Act] is a step in the right direction, but I believe in the abolition of abortion, controversial as that may sound. I don’t believe that calling it “abortion” cleans up the act of murder in any way, shape, or form.” Prather stands for the abolition of abortion without exception.
Ultimately, Huffines says the goal of pro-life legislation is the complete abolishment of abortion. He reiterated this week that he is “100 percent pro-life, from conception to natural death, with no exceptions,” clearly elucidating his position on both abortion and euthanasia.
Child Gender Modification
The three gubernatorial challengers are in full agreement that child gender modification is abhorrent and that Abbott could choose to do more to stop it. Abbott has failed to prioritize any law protecting children from mutilation in this year’s legislative sessions, and his campaign website makes no mention of the issue.
West fully believes child gender modification is abuse. “We’ve got to do better protecting our kids. And again, that’s where Texas needs to be a leader. But sadly, we have seen a governor in these special sessions [who] has not even put that down as one of his priorities,” he said.
According to Prather, the protection for children from gender modification would have been a priority of his during the regular legislative session earlier this year. “To the degree that we fail to defend the most innocent among us—whether it is the children in our society or the unborn in our wombs—to the degree we do that, I think we lose both the grace and protection and the divine providence of God’s hand on our state [and] in our nation,” he added.
Huffines called child gender modification an “embarrassment for the State of Texas,” adding, “We could just pass a bill real quick and stop it all.” However, according to Huffines, the governor and liberal Republicans in the House do not want to address the issue.