It’s not all that unusual for front-runners in political contests to duck debates. That’s part of political gamesmanship.

The front-runner may want to avoid giving opponents an opportunity to raise questions he or she might prefer not to answer. They’d much rather have a controlled monologue through their paid advertisements and campaign pronouncements than a potentially risky dialogue.

Thus it is that in red-state Texas, the Republican statewide candidates in this year’s general election have shied away from debates with their opponents and also largely avoided meetings with newspaper editorial boards.


They are assuming that their Democratic opponents are unlikely to break that party’s 20-year drought in statewide elections in 2014 and that the voters won’t hold them accountable — any more than they did Gov. Rick Perry in 2010 for stiffing newspaper editorial boards.

The most prolific GOP debater has been the gubernatorial nominee, Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott. He agreed to the most debates of any Republican statewide candidate — two — with Democrat Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth state senator.

She wanted six, but Abbott’s campaign said no, two was quite enough, thank you. Those debates took place Sept. 19 and 30.

Abbott, however, is unique among the Republican candidates in agreeing to more than one debate and in meeting with some editorial boards.

State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, agreed to one debate with Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. That happened Sept. 29.

For comptroller, Republican State Sen. Glenn Hegar of Katy finally responded to repeated debate challenges from Democrat Mike Collier, an auditor, certified public accountant, and corporate financial consultant. They’re scheduled to face off Oct. 29, just two days before the end of the early voting period.

For attorney general, another GOP state senator — Ken Paxton of McKinney — literally seems to be hiding out. He’s ducking not just any debate with Democrat Sam Houston, a lawyer from Houston, but also invitations from editorial boards.

Probably chief among the questions Paxton doesn’t want to answer concerns a potential felony indictment for breaking a state law he had voted for as a legislator — by failing to register as a securities salesman.

Paxton has already agreed to pay a State Securities Board penalty of $1,000. The Travis County district attorney’s office will wait until after the Nov. 4 election to consider whether to present the matter to a grand jury.

Nolan Hicks, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, said Paxton’s campaign spokesman, Anthony Holm, “physically blocked” him when he attempted to question Paxton after a rare appearance at a sheriff’s association meeting in San Antonio in late July.

Veteran Texas political journalist Dave McNeely can be reached at


  1. Politicians of both parties are so brazen lately that they think “only the little guys” need to be accountable by answering questions, etc.

  2. Not surprising that Republicans are ducking debates. When you have been running on the same thing for so long, and not executing that very well, it’s hard to justify your stances on the issues. In the 2 Gubernatorial debates, Abbot never answered a question. He spoke and smiled and tried to sound genuine but never said anything of substance.For him that meant he did well because he didn’t screw up. Wendy was also vague on some questions but at least she went after Abbot and challenged his positions. With more campaigns being run exactly the same way, in both parties, it’s hard to find anyone who will really put themselves out there for the people to really see or take a risk because they are all afraid of losing.

    • Don’t get ahead of yourself, Wendy Davis along with plenty of Democrats dodge questions that they can’t execute because of their repetitiveness when it comes to their stance. Another thing I find awkward about Miss David is that she seems to agree with portions of the republicans views. For instance she claims to support the second amendment but it is difficult to tell whether that is just a cheap gimmick or her actual view. Another person I would like to point out is Misses Libby, her stance on business also goes in par with republicans, she claims to have assisted business growth in her area but that isn’t very unique if you are trying to go against republicans who have a better stance on business friendly policies. In my personal opinion I would love to see people share the ideology of Walter E Robb (CEO of Whole Foods), he is fiscally conservative (R) but his view on capitalism is very intriguing, he points out that many people (like him in his past) were shows the “evil” within capitalism, he grew up with the mentality that all businesses wanted to scam people, they were the reason for poverty, etc. (that was when he was a “socialist”). Ironically he said he started a business (and this is when he learned many things that weren’t true about capitalism like “evil”) He realized that more competition = higher quality good/services/ more efficiency for businesses, and he also considers himself a “conscious capitalist” which in his own words signifies your business is focused on more than making a profit, it is focused on doing a positively act towards humanity. He also claims that the problem in this world isn’t too much capitalism, the problem is that that there isn’t enough of it.

    • By the way Miss David’s political campaigning didn’t really seem to question Mr. Abbott, rather it portrayed some type of aggressiveness as if she was trying to attack him with debatable “evidence” provided on her side. One thing I did notice about Abbott was that his campaigns at first stated what his views were, and afterwards he went in to attack Miss Davis. So basically my point being that >>It isn’t surprising that both democrats and republicans alike are dodging and attacking each other in debates<< This is just your average politics.

      • By the way it is extremely dull of you to claim Abbott didn’t answer a “single question” in both debates. Were you actually paying attention or did you decide to pick what you wanted to hear? Both David and Abbott answered questions asked in the debates.

  3. fed-up, hard to disagree with you, or the article for that matter. For both sides the name of the game is to win, and as the article correctly points out there really is no upside for any candidate with a double digit lead to risk exposure to a Clayton Williams moment. They will NOT lose a significant lead by out and out refusing to debate, but it could be exploited to take a bite out of that lead. Personally I think debates have the potential to be an excellent tool for voters to decide who they wish to vote for. Here in Tarrant County the real trick is getting people to actually get out and vote. Although the early numbers look better, less than 38% voted in the last mid-term here.

    • One reason that many people do not go out and vote is because Tarrant County bleeds red, sure you have your segregated communities of people who bleed blue but just because there is a lack of voters doesn’t signify that the democrats have chance in Tarrant County. What happens is if a candidate (D) tries hard enough to make things interesting and they become persistent in the mentality that they will win, then this is the moment when people come out and vote in big numbers, but the majority of them aren’t voting for Democrats. If Texas ever gets a democrat that seems to have an influence in the state, this is when you’ll see vote turn outs increase drastically. Last time I checked, I believe Tarrant had 10,000 more people show up for the early elections.

      • Citizen, absolute cop out response that illustrates the problem perfectly; “we can’t win”. As a life long Republican I recall very clearly casting a vote for a female candidate for Governor because of something the Repubican candidate said shortly before the election that I simply couldn’t live with. She won as I recall and did a satisfactory job. If your logic ruled the world major sporting events would be cancelled every year, thank god it doesn’t as we just watched two WILD CARD teams go 7 games in the Major League Baseball World Series, two teams that played a 162 game season just slightly north of the .500 mark.

        Tarrant County totals as of 10-29-2014 . 18,101 voters, making a cumulative total of 134,548. 31,796 ballots-by-mail, of which 24,437 have been returned to date.

        We can talk about total turn out the morning of the 5th of November or late in the evening of the 4th. With rain in the forecast for election day and the last day for early voting being Halloween, I anticipate less than 40% is a certainty. Less than 2010’s 37% and change? Not sure, one thing’s for sure all the cards will get turned over pretty soon. Harris County, a Democrat stronghold by the way, as are all the other 5 Texas Urban Counties (Tarrant being the lone Republican urban county) is down a full 20% to date.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I understand Texas will eventually become blue, the state has a huge outside influence. For instance roughly 50% of Dallas (the city) residents are from out of state, the most popular outsiders are from New England and the west coast. Tarrant country will eventually turn blue, it’s just a matter of time. I wonder what next state will continue the cycle that has ruined many states economically. Low cost of living/ Economically strong state (R)> Attracts outsiders (–D)> State’s urban areas start to go blue (-D)> These once red cities/towns start to become hipster capitals (+D)> 100% of all urban counties in the state lean blue due to heavy outside influence(++D)> State becomes corrupt because of too much government spending, state’s urban areas are too expensive, too many regulations (+++D)> State is officially corrupt (+++D)> People leave the state because “republicans ruined the state”, and they move on to a low cost of living/ economically stable state (R) and the cycle starts all over! Examples of this: Illinois, California, New York, NE, etc.