February 12, 2015
By Joe Southern
The two contenders in the runoff election for Texas House District 13 squared off in a candidates forum Feb. 5 at a meeting of the Austin County Republican Party at Tony’s Restaurant.
Bringing the campaign into Carolyn Bilski’s back yard, she and Leighton Schubert, an attorney from Caldwell, answered about 20 questions posed by the moderators and the overflow crowd of spectators crammed into the back room of the restaurant.
Bilski touted her experience having served the last 20 years as the Austin County judge and the eight years prior as a member of the Sealy City Council. Schubert presented himself as an energetic, fresh face ready to bring new ideas and enthusiasm to Austin. This is his first bid for public office.
The two are seeking to replace Lois Kolkhorst, who was elected in December to the senate to finish the term of Glenn Hager, who was elected state comptroller. Schubert and Bilski were the top vote getters in a special election in January but neither had enough votes in the four-way race to win outright. The runoff election will be held Feb. 17.
Other than the political insider versus outsider perspective, both offered similar answers to questions that ranged from water concerns to gun rights, border security, availability/accessibility, legislative goals and campaign financing.
“The sole job of the state representative is to be the voice of the people … my sole job is to be your voice,” Schubert said.
“I bring a great deal of experience and leadership and I’m ready to go to work,” Bilski said.
The two themes Schubert kept reiterating were building local relationships and protecting local water resources. Bilski touted her working relationships and networks and talked about fiscal responsibility and building the economy.
When asked about their willingness to be bi-partisan both said they represent all the people of the district but drew the line at compromising their conservative values.
“We need more public servants who will stand up for what’s right and not what’s popular,” Schubert said.
“When you call, we are not going to ask if you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ label. We’re not going to tolerate it,” Bilski said.
The candidates were asked what would be their top goal or priority if elected, especially since the legislative session is under way. Bilski said she has been carefully monitoring the session and is up to speed on legislation affecting the district. She said her priority would be to hire the best available staff, network with friends already at work in the Capital and to forge new relationships.
Schubert said his priority would be to protect the rural way of life in Texas.
“We need to make sure water is controlled at the local level,” he said.
He also talked about protecting small businesses from margin and franchise taxes and building the economic infrastructure to promote economic growth.
Bilski said she would work with the local groundwater districts and support legislation that help conserve and protect local water resources. As far as surface water goes, she noted that the Lower Colorado River Authority is currently working on a reservoir. She also said that she would finally be in a position to help force Houston’s hand in creating the Mill Creek reservoir near Wallis, which has been on hold for decades.
“It’s very important that we start on that right away,” she said.
Schubert said the state’s water plan predicts that there will not be enough water by 2060 to sustain the predicted population. He called for investment in the water infrastructure.
“We need to use all the tools in the toolbox to make that happen,” he said.
When asked about their accessibility, both candidates said they would have listed phone numbers, texts, email addresses and district offices. Bilski, pushing the point that Schubert has a law practice to maintain, said she would be more readily available to the people of the district as a retiree.
“I will not have another full-time job. I will be your full-time representative,” she said.
On the subject of open-carry guns, both candidates said they were concealed handgun license (CHL) holders and strong supporters of the Second Amendment.
Schubert said laws similar to those for the CHL should be applied to those seeking an open-carry permit. Emphasizing that the laws would be for law-abiding citizens, he said, “we need the same procedure for open-carry.”
Bilski said there was a benefit to having a concealed weapon – attackers wouldn’t be aware of it – but said that people should have a right to open-carry a gun.
“You can have your shotgun in the back of your truck, so I think it’s weird that you should have to hide your pistol,” she said.
On the subject of border security and illegal immigration, both agreed that more needs to be done.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” Bilski said, adding that “drug cartels are coming over in numbers.”
Schubert took a strong stand.
“If it’s illegal, it should be prosecuted,” he said.
He blamed the federal government for failing to do its job and said he supports the effort Texas has made to fill in the gap and turn back the tide of illegal immigration. He said the state has spent $640 million since 2006 on border security and illegal immigration.
Schubert and Bilski were asked about their campaign contributions. Schubert said he has taken “zero dollars from PACs” (political action committees).
“I want to be beholden to one group – the people of District 13,” he said.
Bilski said she began her campaign with $27,000 of her own retirement funds. She said donations make up a lot of her funding but noted that she has received money from the Farm Bureau – the “Ag PAC” – and a medical association.
This video clip shows part of Leighton Schubert’s closing statement during the House District 13 candidates Forum held Feb. 5 at Tony’s Restaurant – CLICK HERE.