De­bate

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of the votes in the March 6 pri­mary. White fin­ished se­cond with 27 per­cent. The win­ner of the May 22 runoff will face Repub­li­can Gov. Greg Ab­bott in Novem­ber.

Asked by a Demo­cratic ac­tivist at a cam­paign event at North Austin brew­pub Black Star Co-op on Fri­day night if she was go­ing to de­bate White, Valdez replied, “I’m open to any kind of de­bate, but my staff are the ones who are go­ing to take care of all of that.”

Pressed for a firmer an­swer, Valdez said, “You know there’s only cer­tain de­ci­sions that they let me make, and most of them have to do with pol­icy . ... I can’t even tell you where I’ll be in the next few days. They’ll tell me. So they’re tak­ing care of that.”

On Satur­day night, af­ter a Texas Demo­cratic Party event fea­tur­ing the statewide ticket at the Sher­a­ton Austin Ho­tel, Nel­son told the Amer­i­can-States­man that he be­lieved a Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial de­bate was im­per­a­tive.

“I’ll be proud to sup­port who­ever comes out of the pri­mary, but I, for one, would like to see a de­bate, and I think I speak for a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who are go­ing to vote in this pri­mary that they want to see them have a real dis­cus­sion of the is­sues,” Nel­son said. “I think in the ser­vice of democ­racy, debates are vi­tal, so I think we should em­brace that.”

Nel­son and O’Rourke both said they would not pub­licly en­dorse ei­ther can­di­date be­fore the runoff.

De­bate over debates

“We’re hav­ing a de­bate about whether to have de­bate, and there shouldn’t be a= de­bate about that,” White, a Hous­ton en­tre­pre­neur, told the States­man on Sun­day.

“Pass­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of de­cid­ing on a de­bate to your staff isn’t a true sign of lead­er­ship,” White said. “She should be out there say­ing, ‘Let’s have a de­bate, and my staff will pick a date, and we’ll be there.’ And I think the strat­egy that they are us­ing is just to de­lay.

“We’re less than four weeks away from the start of early vot­ing,” said White, who would pre­fer mul­ti­ple debates. “If we don’t pick a de­bate date in the next week or two, there just won’t be one.”

Valdez’s cam­paign spokesman Juan Bautista Dominguez said Sun­day, “We will be glad to work out a de­bate sched­ule closer to the runoff date when vot­ers are more en­gaged, but this pri­mary won’t be won on 30-se­cond de­bate sound bites.

“It’s go­ing to be won by go­ing to ar­eas of the state where we know we need to build on our sup­port, make im­prove­ments and have real, val­ues-based con­ver­sa­tions,” he said.

White said his cam­paign has said “yes” to a num­ber of de­bate of­fers from news or­ga­ni­za­tions and Demo­cratic Party groups.

“From what we’ve heard, her team, they just don’t re­spond to re­quests; they are just not in­ter­ested in work­ing out the de­tails,” White said.

White said Valdez’s cam­paign has also in­sisted that joint ap­pear­ances, like one Sun­day night at Sun City Texas in Ge­orge­town, not in­clude any ques­tion­ing of the can­di­dates.

Ka­rina Kling, the po­lit­i­cal an­chor for Spec­trum News’ “Cap­i­tal Tonight” in Austin, is among those seek­ing to put to­gether a de­bate.

“We’ve been work­ing with both of them,” Kling said Sun­day. “White’s team has con­firmed, but we have not got­ten any con­fir­ma­tion from Valdez. Her team has said they are still con­sid­er­ing debates.”

Valdez stum­bles

Valdez hasn’t al­ways per­formed well when asked ques­tions she didn’t know in ad­vance.

In en­dors­ing White over its home­town can­di­date in the March Demo­cratic pri­mary, The Dal­las Morn­ing News wrote, “We were dis­ap­pointed by her gross un­fa­mil­iar­ity with state is­sues, how­ever, par­tic­u­larly an al­most in­co­her­ent at­tempt to dis­cuss state fi­nanc­ing. At one point, Valdez, 70, vol­un­teered that she didn’t know whether the state was spend­ing $8 mil­lion or $8 bil­lion on border con­trol. (It’s closer $800 mil­lion.)”

On Wed­nes­day, in an in­ter­view for Spec­trum News, re­porter Max Gor­den asked Valdez about her fail­ure to win the nom­i­na­tion out­right by cap­tur­ing more than half the vote in the March pri­mary.

“You’ll have to re­mem­ber there were nine of us, and if ev­ery one of them got 2 per­cent, I still couldn’t get 50 per­cent be­cause of the amount of folks there were,” Valdez said. “But you’ll also re­mem­ber I got the high­est vote count. I had 43 per­cent of the vote. I tried to get that 50, but with so many of us that just wasn’t pos­si­ble. Now that there are just two of us, we can ac­tu­ally de­cided who’s go­ing to be the can­di­date.”

Of Valdez’s faulty pri­mary math, cam­paign spokesman Dominguez said, “She mis­spoke.”

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Beto O’Rourke, Demo­cratic can­di­date for U.S. sen­a­tor, leaves a town hall-style meet­ing at South­west­ern Univer­sity in Ge­orge­town on Sun­day.

Demo­cratic at­tor­ney gen­eral nom­i­nee Justin Nel­son

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