House District 44 candidates talk about border security, school choice, water


House District 44 candidates answered questions on a number of issues facing Gonzales County during the Republican candidate forum held Thursday, Feb. 15, at American Legion Post 40. The event was co-sponsored by the Gonzales Inquirer and the Gonzales County Republican Party.

Below is a transcript of three of the questions answered by three of the candidates: Greg Switzer, Alan Schoolcraft and the incumbent, John Kuempel. David Freimarck was not able to attend. The forum can be seen in its entirety on the Gonzales Inquirer Facebook page.

What is your top legislative priority if elected to represent House District 44 for the next term?

Schoolcraft: Just one, that is so hard. I can give you three, but I cannot do a single one. I'll go border security above all else. If we don't stop the invasion of our country, then I guess nothing really else matters. I'm of the opinion that it is no longer a question of if we're going to have a terrorist attack. It's just a question of when. There's 1.9 million “gotaways.” We don't even know. If they're trying to avoid being brought in, there's got to be a reason for it. That is an existential threat to us, and we have to put a stop to it.

Kuempel: I think the three of us may share priorities, but I agree. The number one priority is closing the border. We've seen it time and time again. I'm proud to say that I supported $6.6 billion last session to go to the border and aid Governor Abbott and his efforts and I voted on legislation that would help him do that. We have people coming in that don't like us. We know that as of January … there were 151 terrorists caught in Texas on the terrorist watch list — and that's the ones that we caught. It's terrifying what it's going to do to our way of life, what it's going to do to our economy.

Switzer: Closing the border is the single most important act we can do right now. We have got to stop the bleeding. We've got to stop this invasion and we've got stopped also bleeding our tax dollars into funding them. Texas has an estimated of 17 million illegal aliens in Texas. That doesn't include all the ones that have been shipped across the country. We've got 17 million, according to all the stats that you've read. Closing that border is very important for the protection of all Texas.

One of the most hotly contested topics at this time in the Texas Legislature is establishing an Education Savings Account or school voucher program that would allow public funds to be redeemable for tuition fees or other educational related expenses at a private or parochial school of their choice. Do you support creating such a program in Texas and please explain the reason for your stance and where would the funds come from to support your stance?

Kuempel: I do not support ESAs and here's why. In a rural district like Gonzales or Nixon or Waelder that money will come out of your property taxes. To begin with, it will cost you $2 billion to pay for the kids that are already in private or parochial schools. That'll come out of the historic tax decrease we just got. Number two, that money will leave without accountability. That money can go anywhere. They can go to illegal aliens, they can go to schools teaching Sharia law — it can go anywhere, and there has to be no sign of that student's academic achievement. Once that money leaves, you'll never see it again. But I am here to protect our rural schools.

Switzer: I'm for the school choice as long as you're for school choice. My personal opinion, I believe, doesn't really matter. This is a republic form of government. The position that I'm running for as a representative is to represent your voice — your voice. So whatever it is that you've decided that you want is what I will go to Austin to represent and what I will advocate for and that is the vote I will cast. As far as school choice and the money goes, there are some things that people don't discuss about that you probably haven't heard and that is we've got money going to the illegal aliens that needs to the end. You've also got creating a bureaucracy, a new level of unelected bureaucrats who will administer that money and the startup fee is approximately $4 million.

Schoolcraft: I 100% wholeheartedly approve of, endorse, push for, advocate for school choice. We had a recent report from TEA that less than half of our children in our public schools are performing at grade level. Yet the same system, year after year after year after year, our only solution is throwing more money at it. School choice is the process of saying your tax dollars will follow your child. If you are happy with your local schools, great. If you want to put your child in another alternative that fits their needs better, your tax dollars will follow your child to that next school. They keep throwing out this illegal alien thing. That's a red herring. The Supreme Court told us back in the 1980s we have to educate aliens, illegal aliens, and this is no different, so anyone who's ever voted to fund schools has voted to send illegal aliens to public schools.

The population of Texas is expected to increase more than 70 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 29.5 million to 51 million and water demands are projected to grow from 17.7 million acre-feet per year now to 19.2 million acre-feet in 2070. The 2020 water supply was roughly 16.8 million acre-feet per year and is expected to decrease to roughly 13.8 million acre-feet per year by 2070. What solutions do you have to help overcome this water shortage and increase reliability of the state’s water supply?

Switzer: As I've driven across quite a bit of the counties, especially up in Guadalupe County, I see a great deal of development. When it comes to apartment buildings and rental homes or projects for rental homes, this is a big part of your water being taken away. One of the reasons that this is happening is an illegal usage of eminent domain where developers are coming from out of state or even out of the country to develop these properties under some guise that it's supposed to be affordable housing. They're taking your water and then they're selling it back to you. Well, I come from a family of cotton farmers. And this is really near and dear to my heart. It's very important, I understand exactly what it means to have your own water.

Schoolcraft: One of the most memorable debates I have from when I was in the legislature before was watching two representatives at the front mic and the back mic debating water. It has been contentious for probably 50 years and it's never gonna go away. I think giving, for example, Gonzales County, more control over the water that you have under your ground here as opposed to having for example GBRA drilling here and selling off your water someplace else — that's absolutely one of the first things we need to look into and say “What are you doing?” Local folks having control over the drilling, the use, the distribution, the sale of their water, I think, is paramount.

Kuempel: I can remember a constitutional item that incentivizes watering infrastructure to meet those growing needs that we have, whether it be for agriculture. I have worked closely and I am endorsed by the Farm Bureau and The Poultry Raisers Association, knowing what they need to go forward. For the energy, what we need to drill here, drill now. We've done that every session. Water will always be fought over — it always will — but we need to protect the Carrizo Wilcox, protect our local interests, try somehow to manage whether it be East Texas or West Texas, some of the water rich regions in the state — manage the growth to keep us prosperous as we go forward and those people move here.