League of Women Voters hosts local candidate forum

Story by Lizzie Thomas | Staff Writer, Video by Melanie Pace | Broadcast Reporter

The League of Women Voters held a meet-and-greet and forum between local candidates for State Representative for District 56 and McLennan County Commissioner, Precinct 2 at the Mayborn Museum on Tuesday. Charles “Doc” Anderson, Katherine Turner-Pearson, Doris “D.L.” Wilson and Patricia “Pat” Chisholm-Miller were candidates who participated in the forum.

Each race has two candidates. The forum was a facilitated discussion, moderated by Stephen Orr, a member of the organization, who asked written questions that someone from the audience had presented, to which each candidate had one minute to respond.

Running for District 56 is Republican Charles “Doc” Anderson and Democrat Katherine Turner-Pearson. Some of the hot topics for the District 56 debate were property taxes and funding education. The candidates agreed on the broad strokes that the state needs to shoulder more of the burden of funding education and property taxes need to change and be lower, rather than rising as they have for the past several years. Pearson had additional thoughts about both:

“We need funding from the state first, and we need to get it up to 50 percent,” Pearson said. “We also need to simplify how we decide which schools get the state funding. Because of my time on the [Appraisal Review Board] panel, I know there are some key things we can do that aren’t being done [about property taxes].”

To several questions about Medicaid rising and maternal mortality, Anderson’s responses were variations of “It’s a very convoluted situation,” mixed in with references to ongoing studies and expressions of hope that the state will come up with ideas.

He said only three out of 10 doctors see Medicaid patients because many think they’re better off without it.

Pearson said the Texas legislature has helped shut down clinics for women, which was decided unconstitutional, but the damage was already done. She said the state needs to focus on healthy mothers as well as healthy babies. About rising Medicaid costs, Pearson said one of the reasons only three of 10 doctors accept Medicaid is it’s so slow to get repaid, so she said the state needs to start fully participating in affordable healthcare.

“I learned a lot about what’s on your [the constituents’] mind. I’m running because I care about the community. I’m asking for your vote and your confidence in me,” Pearson said in her closing remarks.

In his closing remarks, Anderson first thanked his family and team, then contrasted himself with Pearson.

“My opponent has expressed support for Beto O’Rourke, a socialist,” Anderson said.

According to O’Rourke’s speech at Common Grounds on Friday, he said that he supports immigration reform – making the laws better rather than changing how they are enforced – and making tuition more affordable.

Running for County Commissioner, PCT 2 is Republican Doris “D.L.” Wilson. Wilson has worked as a surveyor for the Department of Transportation for 33 years, building roads and bridges – a major part of the county commissioner’s job description. Running against Wilson is Democrat Patricia “Pat” Chisholm-Miller, who has worked for the current county commissioner for over 22 years.

The crux of the county commissioner forum was who would better represent the interests of everyone in the precinct, specifically regarding roads. Wilson was concerned for the interests of residents of unincorporated, rural areas. He said that the rural areas’ roads are suffering not because there is an underlying problem with the soil, as Chisholm-Miller was saying, but because they have been neglected for 20 years.

Another topic discussed was economic development.

“Some of the biggest issues are economic development for rural cities and urban areas,” Chisholm-Miller said. “From the county perspective, we need to look at salaries. We need to not only bring up companies and tourism, but also make it so our own people can enjoy what comes with that.”

Ivy Hamerly, a member of the League of Women Voters, said the League was formed to make information available on when, where and how to vote as well as to inform the public on the candidates running. Students can become members for $5 and both men and women are encouraged to join.

Hamerly said that now is the perfect time for Baylor students to start being civically engaged — participating in discourse and the opportunities and organizations available.