Decision 2018: The Texas Governor Debate

Gubernatorial debate to air live, tonight between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on NBC 5

The first and only scheduled gubernatorial debate between Texas incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and challenger Lupe Valdez (D) was held Friday in Austin.

Friday's gubernatorial debate, which was held at the LBJ Presidential Library on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, is the only one scheduled before Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Questions from the debate, with videos from each question and answer session, are posted below.

The first question asked to both candidates was whether to arm teachers in classrooms.

  • "In the aftermath of the three days of round-tables, we had multiple solutions, one of which was to give the choice to schools to arm people on the school, not necessarily teachers, but it could be a coach, it could be an administrator, it could be a staff member. It does not have to be a teacher which is very very important. It is not the state mandating that teachers be armed, but allowing schools at their choice." said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
  • "Teachers should be teaching, not being armed and being the defense. I do believe that there should be some defense there, but teachers are not the ones. If they wanted to be armed, they should have gone to the military." said Lupe Valdez (D).
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss whether they support arming teachers.

As a follow-up question to the discussion of arming teachers in the classroom, the candidates were asked their views on the state's red flag laws.

  • "I would not support a red flag law that would take guns away from people without due process," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
  • "I believe that if you're saying, 'We're not going to do the red flag laws,' then we're OK with people doing harm to themselves and others," Valdez (D) said.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss whether they support expanding the red flag law to identify persons who are a danger to themselves or others.

Third, the moderators asked Abbott and Valdez for their views on the Texas DREAM Act.

  • "The important thing that we do in the state of Texas is our job first is to make sure we educate Texas students," Abbott said.
  • "We're blaming the students because they can't go through a decent immigration system," Valdez said.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss whether they support the Texas Dream Act.

The next topic ask about rising property taxes across the state.

  • "We need to reform this in a way that will allow voter approval before taxes are increased, so my property tax plan, which you can find at gregabbott.com is very clear. It limits governments ability to raise your taxes and it gives you, the homeowner, the authority to fire your tax appraiser by adding an election process for tax appraisers," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
  • "The two most expensive things for property taxes are public education and healthcare. If you keep putting less money into this, they have to do something. They don't want to ignore their folks. They have to do something. So you are pushing the load on them and therefore bringing up the property taxes. The state needs to pay it's fair share and quit dumping on the local community," said Lupe Valdez (D).
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss what they would do to lower the property tax burden.

Moderators then asked the candidates about tapping Texas' rainy day fund to help pay for disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

  • "He calls a special sessions for bathrooms, but does not call a special session when people are dying. The rainy day fund is the biggest savings account in the United States. Governor, it rained," Valdez said.
  • "We've already spent money from the state budget that will be required to be drawn down from the rainy day fund. In a time of disaster, the governor has the authority to advance spend that money," responded Abbott.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss how to help Hurricane Harvey victims and if the rainy day fund should be tapped.

Both candidates were ask about a confederate plaque that is currently inside the Texas State Capitol and if they would take it down.

  • "Should they take it down because of the factual inaccuracy, absolutely, and I'll be working with the legislature on that issue this next session, but because the legislature was the body that put it up, it's the legislatures responsibility to take it down," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
  • "If that plaque is doing harm to someone then we should come to the table and do something about it, whether it's the legislature or somebody that puts up stuff in the building or whatever, we just need to take care of it and get it done," said Lupe Valdez (D).
Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez discuss whether the Confederate plaque at the Texas State Capitol should be removed.

When it came to Texas' border with Mexico, the candidates were asked their views on using state money to pay for National Guard troops along the border.

  • "If we're talking about a crisis, then we should take that money and put it into a genuine Texas crisis. Public education, healthcare is things that will touch both parties, rural and urban areas and all around. We need to put our money in Texas. Texas needs to use their money for things that will improve Texas, not things that the national government is supposed to be taking care of," Valdez said.
  • "The reason why I'm working to make sure that we do secure the border is because I want to go after the human traffickers, the sex traffickers, the cartel members, those who threaten us, like gang members -- the rise of MS13 gang members in the state of Texas -- I want to do something to put a stop to that," Abbott said.
Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez and Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott discuss whether the Texans should pay for National Guard troops at the border.

Both candidates were ask how they would pay for new roads across the state.

  • "I made a commitment to voters four years ago that we would build roads without raising taxes, fees tolls or debt and what we've done through special allocations that we have made, we have been able to dedicate $7.5 billion a year, for 10 years, that's $7.5 billion to build roads in this state, without raising taxes, fees, tolls or debt. Texas now has the largest road building fund that's every existed, that I know of by any state in the United States of America without having to use taxes, fees, tolls or debt to build roads," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
  • "We need to use the taxes that we are collecting right now for those purposes. The gasoline tax, the license tax, all of these that we have agreed to use for roads and other things, yet that's not what they are being used for," said Lupe Valdez (D).
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In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the candidates were asked what they would do about rates from the Texas Wind Insurance Association.
  • "We need to appoint people who will actually have the people's and the business' aspect in mind, not just one side. We need to stop appointing people that donate to us, that take care of us, our friends and family -- we need to appoint people to these boards that actually work in that area," said Lupe Valdez (D).
  • "Small business owners up and down the Coastal Bend, they cannot afford an increase in the TWIA insurance rates, and as governor I'm working to make that TWIA insurance will not be increased," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
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Valdez was also asked about her overdue property taxes, reported in May, while Abbott chose to address his record as governor.
  • "I did what the average Texan does. Never was delinquent, but I made it in payments. I made decisions, as all Texans have to do -- 'Do I pay this bill, that bill or do I just extend the payments?' That's exactly what I did, I extended the payments," Valdez said.
  • "I've always paid my property taxes on time. As a governor, I've ensured the state of Texas pays its bills on time. I've balanced a very conservative budget to make sure that we live within our means, so that Texas will retain the high triple-A rating that we have," Abbott said.
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Both candidates were ask about a potential "bathroom bill" that may come up in the next legislative session and if they would sign it.
  • "All Texans want to make sure that they and their families are safe. One reason I talk about safety tonight is because I talk about safety everyday. That's the reason that law enforcement agencies across the state have endorsed me, that's because the law enforcement officials know that I am the governor that will work with law enforcement to keep Texans safe," said Abbott.

  • "We need to stop the fear-mongering in our laws and get down to what really matters to all Texans. To have an equality life, to have an equal and fair opportunity in this state instead of just dealing with people you don't agree with," said Valdez.

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Both candidates also responded to questions about health insurance across the state and the number of uninsured people.

  • "Over the past four years the uninsured rate among Texans has dropped 22 percent. The uninsured rate among Texas children has dropped 23 percent," said Abbott.

  • "We need to accept the Medicaid expansion and we need to invest in rural communities that have become a medical desert," said Valdez.

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The candidates also addressed their stances on the legalization of marijuana.
  • "Alcohol has no medical benefits, yet it's taxed and fined. We know that medical marijuana has some health benefits. Why can't we tax and fine those also? And as far as recreational marijuana, I think it's up to the people. The people need to decide whether that's going to be in Texas or not," Valdez said.
  • "I'm still not convinced yet. However, one thing I don't want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of a small amount of marijuana. What I would be open to talking to the legislature about would be reducing the penalty for possession of two ounces or less from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor," Abbott said.
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Both candidates were also ask about immigration and specifically about the children that were separated from their parents at the border.
  • "This is Congresses authority only, to fix a broken immigration system, and what we saw was a symptom of a far larger problem of a broken immigration system and what congress has to do is quit talking to cameras and start talking to each other in the capitol building and start coming up with some solutions to our broken immigration system," said Abbott.

  • "There's a lot of things that we're doing that are causing fear mongering also. The bathroom laws, the show me your papers law, all of these are nothing but fear mongering that we sell as something else but the truth is, all we are doing is putting fear into communities," said Valdez.

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Towards the end of the debate, the candidates were asked to describe a moment that has filled them with Texas pride.

  • "There's no moment in Texas history that has made me more proud than to see the way our fellow Texans responded to Hurricane Harvey. That's what Texas is all about," Abbott said.

  • "I came from the poorest zip code in San Antonio, and a migrant worker. From crop fields, to classroom, to candidate. From the poorest zip code in San Antonio, to be able to be the candidate for governor, and the governor of Texas, one of the proudest Texas moments," Valdez said.

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Both candidates were also given the chance to offer a closing statement.

  • "I'm running for governor because I want to give everyday Texans a fighting chance. I want to make sure that the government is fair, equal and provides opportunity for all of us," said Valdez. 

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  • "If you re-elect me as Governor, I will never stop fighting for you and your family. Together, we are going to keep Texas the premier state in the greatest nation in the history of the world," said Abbott.

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Friday's  debate was moderated by several panelists including NBC 5 political reporter Julie Fine, Telemundo 39 anchor Norma Garcia, KPRC's Andy Cerota and KSAT's Steve Spriester.

Fine was one of two panelists in the first senate debate between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) last Friday in Dallas.


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