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Stuart Spitzer and incumbent State Rep. Lance Gooden wait to be introduced at a forum at Republican Headquarters in Athens Thursday.

Republican 4th District Texas House of Representative candidates Lance Gooden and Stuart Spitzer squared off in Athens Thursday.

The candidates appeared at a forum at Henderson County GOP headquarters. Each fielded questions that had been written by members of the audience, and placed in a bowl.

During their remarks, Gooden, who lives in Terrell, praised the work of the Legislature during his first session as a reason to return him to office. Spitzer described himself as a political outsider, and the true conservative in the race.

“We cut $15 billion from the state budget this year, the greatest cuts to our state budget in the history of the state of Texas,” Gooden said. “We had 101 Republicans and 49 Democrats, and we got a lot done. But, we could have gotten a lot more done.”

Spitzer, who now resides in Kaufman, said he was glad to be back in his hometown, Athens. He said government today is not being run with the values he was raised with.

“We all know there are some problems. There are some issues that are going on in our world, and we need people who can step up and change those things,” Spitzer said.

One question from the audience asked the candidate’s opinion of the Tea Party.

“ I think the Tea Party, as a whole, has some great Ideas. I support less government. I support private property rights,” Gooden said. “The platform of the Tea Party is pretty much going for the same goals, as most everyone in this room. There are splinter groups of the Tea Party that do more harm than good for the Republican cause.”

Gooden said the Tea Party faction caused a split in the party ranks when the Speaker of the House was being chosen in 2011. Ultimately, Joe Straus was kept in the position, despite disagreement from some conservatives.

Spitzer agreed that there was disagreement among Republicans about the Tea Party.

“Tea Party folks are conservatives. There’s no doubt about that,” Spitzer said. “They believe in limited government. They believe in low taxes. Texas has always been a low-tax state, and we need to stay that way.”

The candidates were sharply-divided on support of Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus. Gooden supports him, but Spitzer doesn’t think he’s the best choice for conservatives.

“There was a split, and it came out in two different camps, the conservatives and the moderates,” Spitzer said. “I am solidly in the conservative camp.”

Spitzer said a sign that Straus is not a conservative is that he received 100 percent of the Democratic votes, when being elected speaker in 2009.

“Absolutely, I support Speaker Joe Straus. I supported him for a second term, and I look forward to supporting him for a third term,” Gooden said. “He’s a great speaker. We’ve had the most conservative session in the history of our state.”

 

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