State House finalists meet in forum

District 10 runoff candidates discuss issues for Sept. 28 vote as accusations swirl

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Former Texas House District 10 Rep. John Wray (left) speaks during a candidate forum hosted by the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday evening. Wray and Brian Harrison (right) will meet on Sept. 28 in a special runoff election to fill the vacant District 10 seat. The forum was moderated by Ross Weaver, the chair of the Chamber legislative affairs committee.

Amid some interesting developments — including the setting of a special election runoff date and some accusations from one campaign against the other — the two remaining Texas House District 10 finalists met in a candidate forum sponsored by the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday night.

The forum at the Midlothian Conference Center was an opportunity for former District 10 Rep. John Wray of Waxahachie and former Trump administration official Brian Harrison of Midlothian — both Republicans — to express their views on issues for the benefit of voters.

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order setting Tuesday, Sept. 28 as the date of the special election runoff. Early voting will take place the week of Sept. 20-24 at the Ellis County Election Office and at four voting centers throughout the county. Election Day polling will be conducted at 14 locations throughout the county. A list of locations can be found on the Ellis County Elections website.

Also on Tuesday, the Harrison campaign sent out a news release accusing the Wray campaign of doctoring a video of Harrison speaking at an Ellis County Republican Party event.

The Harrison campaign said the video, of Harrison answering a question on schools in which he clearly stated his support for public schools, teachers, and parents and explained that his own children attend public schools, was altered to falsely represent the opposite view.

“We are disgusted that Wray, who quit to ‘spend more time with his family’ just a few months ago has decided he must invent positions Brian does not hold and then attack him,” said Cassie Hoyer, Harrison’s campaign manager.  “John Wray has demonstrated for years he is untrustworthy.”

The audience gathers for a meet-and-greet with state House District 10 candidates Brian Harrison and John Wray at the Midlothian Conference Center on Wednesday evening.

The Wray campaign did not provide a public response.

But on Wednesday, there was no campaign rancor as the candidates stuck to discussing topics broached by moderator Ross Weaver, the chair of the Midlothian Chamber legislative affairs committee.

Harrison introduced himself and said he is running because the country is at a crossroads.

“There is no right or freedom on an individual level that is safe right now,” Harrison said. “There is no regulation they are afraid of putting out that will crush individual liberties and freedoms, and business.”

Wray, who held the District 10 seat for three terms before not running for re-election in 2020, touted his experience and said he wants the district — which includes all of Ellis County and a small portion of Henderson County — to have an effective voice in the next special session, which will be open after the Sept. 28 vote.

“It takes a while to figure out how to manage the process and be an effective legislator,” Wray said. “I don’t need that. I’ve already got it.”

The subject of public schools came up, and that’s where the two candidates differed the most. Both said they support public schools, but Harrison said he supported school choice, the position held by the Republican Party, and Wray said he was against a voucher system where public dollars are used to fund private education.

Wray said the people who have influenced him the most were members of his church who were community leaders and inspired him to enroll in college and engage in philanthropy and community service. Harrison said his father, who rose up from poverty and became a successful homebuilder, was his greatest role model, and also cited former President Ronald Reagan.

On reduction of property tax burdens, Harrison said abolishment of them should be the goal. Wray said as a former member of the state House Ways and Means Committee, he was involved in property tax cuts and promised to re-introduce a bill that would allow counties to hold referendum votes to drop the property tax in favor of a sales tax.

Wray said executive leaders such as the governor, county judges and mayors have too much power to issue orders while the legislative branch is not in session and there need to be checks and balances. Harrison said the executive overreach extends to agencies such as the one he oversaw as chief of staff of the Department of Health and Human Services and that he worked to rein in the overreach of bureaucracy by putting into place sunset rules on regulations.

Asked about ways in which the state can reduce taxes, Harrison said the main problem is spending too much money, and one way to reduce spending is more state control of Medicare. He also said he was able to cut $50 billion in spending at HHS.  Agreeing with Harrison, Wray said 30 percent of the state budget is spent on public health and that the state is left to pick up the tab for underfunded federally-mandated programs.