Facing the voters

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Republican candidates seeking to represent Texas District 8 in the U.S. House of Representatives answered questions Saturday night about taxes, immigration and health care – but discussion repeatedly turned back to incumbent Kevin Brady.

Brady, R-The Woodlands, did not attend the gathering at Truman Kimbro Center, a subject of contention for many, including his opponents.

“We have not received a response from Kevin Brady,” said Barbara Larue, who introduced the candidates. “The man has been in office for 20 years and I don’t think he cares about us anymore.”

Lt. Col. Andre Dean, a 27-year combat veteran and Class of 1979 Madisonville High School graduate, kicked off the forum followed by Craig McMichael, a retired U.S. Marine who lost to Brady in the 2014 Republican primary. Steve Toth, who served one term as the District 15 representative is a small business owner and former pastor.

“The problem, as [presidential candidate] Ted Cruz has said over and over again, is the Washington cartel,” Toth said. “If you don’t stand against them right from the get-go, you won’t get anything done.”

Dean, McMichael and Toth acknowledged that they have similar values, among which is a concern that Brady, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, has not been effective during his legislative tenure.

“If you vote for Kevin Brady on March 1, it tells me you do not love this country,” McMichael said.

Dean also put in his two cents, noting that Brady failed to attend a candidates’ forum in Montgomery County last week.

The candidates also addressed several issues facing local voters, including Obamacare.

“Across the board, Republicans are upset with Obamacare,” Dean said. “We agree we should defund Obamacare … You may not get an invitation to the White House, but we’re not elected to be popular there. We’re elected to be popular here.”

Toth then pointed out that Brady agreed to defund Obamacare once Republicans had control of the House, but never made good on the promise.

McMichael also weighed in, stating that Obamacare was established through an unconstitutional law.

“The government cannot force you to buy something,” he said. “Defund it. Stop paying for it. The House of Representatives has the power to do away with it. At some point we have to wake up. We can do better.”

The candidates each advocated for a “fair tax” and addressed immigration issues.

“There is an agenda by our president that if he keeps the border porous, he will get more Democratic votes,” Dean said. “As long as you have a president who feels that way, there’s nothing you can do to stop it … There are a lot of complications and challenges with a wall but it can be done.”

McMichael suggested that elected officials must look at the “heart of the issue.”

“You can build all the walls you want. It doesn’t solve anything unless you take away the cookie jar,” he said, explaining that illegal immigrants end up “deporting themselves” if they are not provided jobs or education for their children.

The candidates also agreed that improvement is needed in the Veterans Administration in order to better provide for those who have served their country.

Numerous topics were discussed, and the crowd of more than 50 local residents was engaged throughout the forum, often applauding when the underlying theme of honesty was mentioned.

“All we have to do is get someone to go to Washington and tell the truth about what’s going on,” Toth said. “And if you speak the truth about what’s going on, people are going to actually expect you to do something.”

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