Republican voters in Texas House District 108 will have a hard time choosing a nominee based on policies. When asked to detail their views at a forum Tuesday night, candidates Court Alley, Morgan Meyer, and Chart Westcott repeatedly used the words “agree” and “echo.” Meyer even uttered the word “ditto” once.
“We’re certainly going to agree with each other, because we’re three Republicans sitting up here,” Westcott said during the event hosted by the Park Cities Republican Women club.
Because the candidates have so much in common politically, each tried to highlight what separates them personally. For example, Meyer twice said he’s “the only one who has skin in the game” regarding education. His two daughters attend Hyer Elementary School in University Park; Alley’s only child is still a toddler, and Westcott has no kids.
During the same discussion of education, Alley mentioned his status as a small-business owner when promoting merit pay for teachers: “If I paid my guys based on how long they sit in a room, I’d go out of business.” Alley owns Caruth Marketing, a firm he operates largely from his Devonshire house.
Westcott, who spoke last on the education topic, was the only candidate to bring up the “Robin Hood” financing system by name. “I’ll fight hard to get every dime I can from the state of Texas back into the Highland Park Independent School District,” he promised, only moments after the M Streets resident said, “I don’t live in the Park Cities. I know better than that. I can’t afford those taxes.”
People familiar with Westcott and his family may find such a statement curious. His last two campaign-finance reports have detailed $100,000 worth of contributions from his parents, Carl and Jimmy Westcott of Highland Park. Chart Westcott is a partner and general counsel of Commodore Partners, a private equity company that is a subsidiary of the family’s investment firm, Westcott LLC.
Westcott mentioned his father during his opening statement. He said Carl became a success despite a ninth-grade education, and Chart is running because “liberals are attacking the American dream.”
But Alley and Meyer both mentioned in their opening statements that they personally had to perform manual labor and take part-time jobs to put themselves through school. When discussing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants — something all three candidates oppose — Alley said, “That’s not fair to, frankly, people like me who had to pay our own way through college.”
Meyer tried to provide further contrast between himself and his rivals by citing his 15 years of experience as a commercial litigator for the Bracewell & Giuliani firm. “What I do currently is what I would do in Austin,” he said. “I am the only candidate who would not need on-the-job training.”
Westcott, who holds a law degree from SMU, made a similar claim after citing his service on the Texas Real Estate Commission and his experience lobbying for legislation such as Alicia’s Law, which targets sexual predators and child pornographers. “I’m the only candidate who has already done what this job requires, which is getting things done in Austin on behalf of Texans and the voters of District 108,” Westcott said.
The only distinct, but slight, difference in the candidates’ policies was on the subject of same-sex marriage. All three cited the voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2005 that said marriage in Texas could only be between one man and one woman.
“When the people of Texas have spoken, it’s our job to protect that vision,” said Meyer, who spoke first on that topic. But he also added that “government needs to stay out of it. I’m all about less government, and less intrusion into our personal lives.” The other two candidates did not go that far.
At least one member of the Park Cities Republican Women believes the GOP voters of District 108 can’t lose on March 4, no matter which candidate wins the primary.
“They need to run for different offices, because they’re all so good,” Mindy Stenger said after Tuesday’s forum. “Their talents are being wasted. We need all of them representing us in Austin.”