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White sweeps endorsements at Travis County candidates’ forum

Friday, January 29, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Bill White, the former mayor of Houston and the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary race for governor, didn’t show up last night at the Travis County Democratic Primary Candidate’s Forum, but that didn’t stop several of his more colorful opponents – including Houston businessman Farouk Shami – from getting onstage and making a pitch for endorsements.


Despite the fact that White was not in attendance, he won the endorsement of all of the eight Democratic groups that announced their support at the end of the evening.


The forum took place at the Millennium Youth Complex on Austin’s east side. In addition to the gubernatorial hopefuls, local Democrats heard from candidates in 14 upcoming races, from the Lieutenant Governor’s race to the races for Justice of the Peace.


But it would be hard to top the governor’s pool for color and variety.


Public school teacher and retired Air Force officer Felix Rodriguez Alvarado spoke first. He told the crowd of 150 or so that his first priority as governor would be creating jobs, a priority, he said, he shares with President Obama. “We also need some sort of health care system,” he said.


The candidates’ forum allows local Democratic groups the chance to ask questions of their candidates, and Dave Taylor, president of the Northeast Travis County Democrats, asked Alvarado about his claims that casino gambling would be the main source of revenue for Texas during his administration.


“I wouldn’t call it the main source but an additional source of revenue,” Alvarado responded. “If you go to Louisiana or Oklahoma you will see thousands of cars filled with people leaving Texas money there. That money should stay right here. From what I have studied, the income from casinos would be somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion dollars a year, and casinos would employ 11,000 to17,000 people a year. I also propose using the income from those casinos to replace our old, run-down schools. So that would mean two sources of jobs, and we need both because we need to put Texas to work.”


Much of the crowd erupted in applause when Shami took the stage after Alvarado. And though the Palestinian-American businessman wrestled with the English language throughout his presentation, he didn’t lack for ambition.


Shami promised the crowd that he would bring 100,000 new jobs to Texas in his first two years of office or he would pay the state $2 million. “We need to build the infrastructure of our roads, our highways, our bridges to make them safer,” he said, “so within two years everyone will have job in the state of Texas.”


He also promised to make Texas the richest state in the world while ridding it of what he sees as numerous untoward influences. “I will promise you a state of no discrimination, no special interest groups, and no lobbyists. I want people to know the American dream is still alive, and everybody will have a job, and we all will live in love and peace.”


Dr. Clement E. Glenn wasn’t short on ambition either. The Prairie View A&M professor talked about his plans to, as he said, “connect the governor with the community.” He aims to do this by creating a system whereby each of the 254 counties of Texas has a board of governors, each of which represents one of five institutions in that county – governance, business, family, worship, and schools. “My cabinet will have governor generals,” he explained. “Each will be responsible for one of those five institutions statewide, and we will work with the board of governors in each community because each community’s problems are unique.”


Glenn said that system would be the foundation for a new community-based, shared form of state governance. “Everybody has a responsibility to solve our problems,” he said. “My neighbor’s problem is my problem.” 


Last to speak was Star Locke, a rancher and Gulf War veteran from Port Aransas. He wore a cowboy hat and vest and spoke in a thick drawl. His only issue of concern seemed to be border security, which he tied to national security, job growth, and the economy.


“After my involvement with the Israeli army in Desert Storm,” he said, “I decided borders can be the death of a nation. Our border is in total flames. There has been a cost of $338 billion to us because of problems on the border. How many jobs does that equal? Sixty-two thousand people have been murdered across that border and on this side of the border in the last year; 1800 people were murdered just across the border from El Paso just this last year. The drug cartels are in total control of Mexico. Mexico is corrupt to the core.”


His solution to the border problem is simple, if unlikely to find much support from the average Democrat. “As Governor I want to build a Texas defense force along the line of the Israeli Defense Force,” he said. “I need an army of 30,000 combat troops backed up with 60,000 support troops. This drug war needs to be fought on the border, not in the streets of Austin, or Dallas.”


In addition to Bill White, two other candidates, Bill Dear and Alma Ludivina Aguado, did not speak at the forum.

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