Editorials

Here’s which candidates the Star-Telegram endorses for the 2018 midterm elections

This year’s Election Day is what Super Bowl Sunday yearns to be: a shared national experience where nearly everyone has a rooting interest and isn’t just hanging around for the commercials and cheese dip.

Here are the Star-Telegram’s endorsements in today’s key and competitive state and local races:

For U.S. Senate: Electing Beto O’Rourke is good business

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz represent the hard left and right of American politics.

Neither stands in the middle ground, where the real work is done to lead America.

But only O’Rourke seems interested in making deals or finding middle ground. That is why the El Paso Democrat would make the best senator for Tarrant County’s future, and the future of Texas.

O’Rourke’s “new way” campaign against politics-as-usual has drawn attention, and also money.

But much of what he says, particularly about immigration and healthcare, sounds like what Texas business conservatives used to say before the emergence of New York Republican Donald Trump.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn says we shouldn’t deport Dreamer students over their parents’ mistakes. Former Gov. Rick Perry, now energy secretary, has said a border wall “doesn’t make sense.” President George W. Bush endorsed a path to legal status for those who came illegally but worked peacefully, supported the economy and showed good character.

These are the same Texas values that O’Rourke now defends.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wanted to beef up spending on public schools and find a “Texas solution” to improve healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

O’Rourke now champions both.

Cruz and O’Rourke both support free trade, which is essential for success in Fort Worth and Texas. Our city is emerging as a leading global distribution center, and Mexico is Texas’ No. 1 trade partner.

But O’Rourke would have more room to oppose the president’s questionable trade and tariff decisions, which threaten Texas.

O’Rourke raised eyebrows here when he called for further review of the locally built Lockheed Martin Aeronautics F-35 fighter jet. But he also says the plane is essential to protect the U.S.’s air superiority, and said he will protect jobs.

This endorsement did not come without some disagreement. Cruz is closer to Texas’ and Tarrant County’s views on issues related to faith and values, and also on energy policy.

But Cruz was elected with no experience in any council or legislature, and it shows. His intransigence prevents him from currying support or negotiating deals to help Texas.

This Editorial Board has recommended conservative Republicans such as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for president, along with U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

But Cruz does not measure up. This office needs a reset.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses Beto O’Rourke for U.S. senator..

For governor: Greg Abbott, without a doubt

Gov. Greg Abbott is often ranked as the state’s most popular politician, and it’s obvious why.

Abbott, a Republican, is like a wise judge presiding calmly amid the rowdy mayhem of the Texas Legislature. He may not always be right, but he earns respect.

Texas Governor
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Sue Ogrocki AP

Abbott’s steady calm hand will be needed as Texas goes into a new legislative session. The Texas House will have a rookie speaker and apparently will move closer to the political center. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a bombastic Houston Republican and ally of President Trump, is a conservative blowtorch as leader of the Texas Senate.

Abbott and Patrick have built a closer relationship in recent years, but when Abbott wants his way, he gets it.

The governor bucked Tea Party Republicans to support funding for pre-K education, although more is needed. Abbott also was willing to consider changes in Texas’ gun laws after several tragedies, although gun rights activists have pushed back.

Much of the next legislative session will revolve around business and money: how to sustain Texas’ growth and success, and how to pay for both public school needs and coastal recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

Gubernatorial race
Lupe Valdez is the 2018 Democratic nominee in the race for Texas governor. J. Scott Applewhite AP

Abbott is the best champion for Texas business and a strong economy, as long as he stays away from past distractions such as an unfriendly, overly punitive “bathroom bill.”

Dallas Democrat Lupe Valdez, a 40-year law officer, federal agent and county sheriff, had the experience to spark thoughtful discussion on law enforcement, crime fighting, gun rights and border issues. But, beyond that, she disappointed.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses Greg Abbott for governor.

For Congress: Ron Wright knows Arlington best

Arlington Republican Ron Wright has waited 18 years to serve his city in Congress.

For 11 years, he served as district director and then as chief of staff under now-retiring U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, learning the ins and out of Washington. When he came home as tax assessor-collector for Tarrant County, he was still expected to run for Congress someday.

Ron Wright
Ron WRight Courtesy Courtesy

As a 30-year Arlington resident and a city councilman for eight years, Wright knows the city and its needs. For example, he speaks knowledgeably about General Motors’ SUV assembly plant, the jobs it brings to Arlington and the potential impact of a change in federal fuel economy standards.

Make no mistake: He is even more conservative than Barton, particularly on tightening immigration restrictions and on whether Dreamer students born elsewhere but raised and educated here should be allowed to stay. We differ with him on that.

Like Barton, he has said he will join the intransigent House Freedom Caucus. That is a drawback and will hurt his ability to build alliances as a freshman lawmaker.

Jana Sanchez
Jana Sanchez Courtesy

Waxahachie Democrat Jana Sanchez has run a more energetic campaign focused on national issues such as healthcare. Both candidates oppose using the government’s power of eminent domain to take private land in Ellis and Navarro counties for a planned high-speed rail line from Fort Worth or Dallas to Houston.

But Wright clearly knows more about Arlington, east and south Tarrant County and the people of District 6.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses Ron Wright for U.S. Representative, District 6.

For state Senate: Powell a better choice for Fort Worth, Arlington

Beverly Powell of Fort Worth has led an area school board and the Texas Wesleyan University board of trustees.

First as a real estate agent and developer, then as an education leader, the Democratic nominee has deep roots in Fort Worth and state Senate District 10.

Current State Sen. Konni Burton, a Colleyville Republican, prides herself on being an independent voice for conservative voters. She has done honorable work to help reform the criminal justice system to better protect Texans’ liberty.

Senate District 10
State Rep. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and Democrat Beverly Powell face off for the Senate District 10 seat in November. Anna M. Tinsley Star-Telegram

But her $500,000 in campaign contributions from a West Texas-led conservative group shows she is anything but independent.

Burton is far too independent from leaders and needs in Fort Worth and Arlington. She does not work as closely as our state senator should with business and government leaders.

What’s more, she opposes routine state and local economic development measures and tax incentives that bring needed jobs, development, growth and success.

Beverly Powell’s record is flawed. In the 2000s, her business partnerships suffered liens and debts, and she was sued along with one partnership in a 2006 tax dispute.

She should have explained that clearly, openly and up front. She must become a leader for openness and transparency.

But Powell’s life of leadership in the area and at Texas Wesleyan still makes her the best senator to speak for Fort Worth and Arlington.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses Beverly Powell for State Senator, District 10.

Vote ‘no’ on Arlington City Council term limits

Are the residents of Arlington ready to fire half of their city council?

That’s effectively what will occur if voters pass the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would term limit council members.

We believe it’s a bad idea.

Arlington City Council
A group of citizens led a peition drive that led to a successful Arlington City Council term limits election in November.. Bill Hanna billhanna@star-telegram.com

The proposition would amend the city charter to limit the mayor and council members to three two-year terms.

That’s six years total -- hardly enough time to shape the city in any meaningful way.

More than that, the proposal would consider current and past council service -- that means five sitting council members could be forced out over the next two years.

Yes, that would be unfair to the council members, who presumably have hopes of running for reelection.

But term-limiting city council members would cause far greater long-term damage to the city and its citizens, by prematurely ending the service of effective local leaders.

Local elected government, like many other jobs, has a significant learning curve. There is a budget process to master; millions of dollars in contracts to review; relationships with constituents, private-sector interests, developers and other agencies -- police and fire protection -- to form and grow.

All of this takes time and effort. Once gained, such expertise is extremely valuable, especially in the hands of a capable leader.

But with only six years of service permitted, an effective council member may be forced to leave office just as he or she is making an impact.

The revolving door would leave much of the decision-making to bureaucrats and lobbyists. Their power and influence would continue to grow, siphoning away the influence of democratically elected leadership.

For those still in doubt, consider what Arlington would be without Tom Vandergriff. As mayor, he helped transform Arlington into the vibrant, competitive city it is today, attracting developers and industry -- not to mention Major League Baseball -- to the Metroplex.

Vandergriff was mayor of Arlington for more than 25 years -- because transformation on that scale takes time and expertise.

If local leaders aren’t effective, people can term limit them by voting. But let’s not set arbitrary limitations on the local leaders who serve our communities well.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses voting “no” on Proposition E, term limits for Arlington City Council.

Yes for JPS bonds: More psych beds, suburban clinics

Increasing the availability of beds for psychiatric patients with long-term needs has been a struggle for Texas.

Most Texas hospitals don’t have nearly enough beds to accommodate the demand.

Dallas-Fort Worth, in particular, has failed in this area.

John Peter Smith Hospital, with one of the few purely psychiatric emergency rooms in the region, has only 96 beds dedicated to mental health care. That’s 96 spots for a population of more than 2 million people.

JPS Bond Package 01.JPG
John Peter Smith Hospital Star-Telegram archives

The appalling lack of availability for psych patients appears to be a recurring problem. Space constraints mean that patients, once stabilized, are released but usually without any long-term treatment plans, medication or follow-ups. That often means they return to the hospital after the next episode or incident. It’s a cycle of despair and poor treatment of those who need mental health care.

A new master plan for JPS psych care and suburban clinics is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The hospital system commissioned a “blue ribbon” committee to study what was critically needed. The committee proposed 298 psych beds.

Now we are getting somewhere.

Though 298 psych beds don’t seem like much for our sizable population, it is significantly better than 96.

With the additional beds, four new suburban clinics and upgrades to the central hospital, this bond package proposal will help satisfy more of Tarrant County’s growing mental health care needs.

Though an election date on this plan hasn’t been solidified, we can help voice the need for a better JPS.

A more efficient JPS makes for a healthier and happier Tarrant County.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses voting “yes” on Tarrant County Hospital District Proposition A.

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