After eight terms as representative for Texas’ 31st Congressional District, John Carter, R-Round Rock, could face his toughest challenge yet Nov. 6.

Carter will square off against MJ Hegar, D-Round Rock, whose travails as an Air Force medical helicopter pilot in Afghanistan have captured national attention.

Hegar, who has a bestselling book chronicling her life, has outraised Carter in the traditionally red district, primarily funded by money flowing in from national Democrats.

In a recent poll conducted by the New York Times/Siena College, Carter had a 15-point advantage over Hegar among a small sample of voters. Hegar’s camp argued an internal poll completed in late September showed Carter with just a four-point lead.

QUESTION 1

With extreme drought conditions continuing the grip the state of Texas, how will you as a federal representative work to secure greater funding and methods for catching and saving rainwater for future drinking water supply?

Carter: As the representative for TX-31, I understand that water issues are one of the top concerns for Central Texans. Not only did our district experience wildfires due to drought conditions this summer, many of our Texas families rely on the agriculture industry for survival in Bell County. In the 2018 Energy and Water funding bill, I supported over $1 billion for grant funding to assist states with drought mitigation projects, including maximizing rainwater-collecting abilities. Water is Texas’ most precious resource and I remain committed to making sure that Texas’ water infrastructure has the funding it needs to address concerns.

Hegar: As your representative, one of my top priorities will be investing in infrastructure here in the district. There are so many opportunities for new infrastructure, from roads and schools, to water resources and drinking water supply. I will always advocate for more funding to be directed to our district, and will work to create incentives for new businesses to tackle our most urgent problems like extreme drought conditions, the need for rainwater catchment, and long-term planning for our drinking water supply.

QUESTION 2

In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs established a national registry for veterans and service members exposed to “burn pits” in theaters of war. Yet, researchers say it will take years to investigate a connection between the toxins burned and those who have died or are suffering long-term serious health problem. What do you propose doing to close the gap between documented health ailments and medical help?

Carter: As the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs subcommittee, I secured $10 million this year for clinical treatment for veterans exposed to open burn pits. A portion of this funding will go towards research through the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence. We still have a lot of work to do in this area, but as chairman, I’m in the right position to ensure this issue gets the attention and funding it needs to help veterans that are suffering with the after-effects of open burn pits.

Hegar: I believe every veteran returning home after serving our country should have access to high quality, affordable medical care, and that the only qualification for someone seeking access to VA resources for long-term health problems should be that they served. Too often, the burden of proof is put on the veteran and his or her family. I believe the VA should provide care for all of the health ailments veterans struggle with, and that all steps to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals must be taken.

QUESTION 3

The Killeen area has a large population of veterans who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for health care coverage and other benefits. In recent years, long backlogs at the VA have prevented some veterans from receiving the coverage they need. How will you work to decrease the backlog at the VA and ensure that certain veterans receive the benefits and coverage they have earned?

Carter: I’m proud to say that this year alone, my office has assisted over 700 veterans and their families with issues involving the VA, but frankly, veterans shouldn’t have to deal with the backlog, inefficiencies, and red tape at the VA. As Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, I just passed the largest funding amount for the VA in the agency’s history. This funding will go towards implementing the CHOICE program so veterans have options to seek care elsewhere. The bill also included stronger oversight and investigative options over the VA so we can nip these ongoing problems in the bud.

Hegar: I served three tours in Afghanistan as an Air Force rescue pilot and understand what our military and their families go through in a way that most politicians in D.C. can’t. I have received care from the VA and know that there is a lot of work to be done to reduce wait time and make sure veterans can receive help when they need it. I will stop any effort to privatize the VA while streamlining services for veterans to get better care.

QUESTION 4

What measures do you support to ensure your constituents have access to affordable health care? Do you support continuing or strengthening the Affordable Care Act, or do you believe there is a more effective way to ensure that coverage?

Carter: Obamacare has been a disaster for Texas. It has raised premiums 82 percent for Texas families and given them less options. I support repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a free-market healthcare system where competition drives down costs, increases options and those with pre-existing conditions are still protected. As a father of four children, I want to see parents in charge of their child’s care, not government bureaucrats.

Hegar: As a soldier wounded in battle and mother of two, I understand the importance of quality medical care and know firsthand the struggles that so many families go through to afford quality healthcare. I also worked for a local hospital network in Round Rock and believe all Americans deserve access to quality affordable care. In Congress, I will fight to make healthcare more affordable for Texans by eliminating waste, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and fixing the problems in the system without letting insurance companies call the shots.

QUESTION 5

Killeen and surrounding cities have a crucial economic connection to a fully staffed Fort Hood. In recent years, Fort Hood has lost some of its fighting force. How will you fight to ensure Fort Hood retains or increases its troop force in the coming years?

Carter: We must ensure Fort Hood is getting the funding necessary to continue being a crucial base to national security. Since I’ve represented Ft. Hood, I’ve secured over $1.1 billion for the base. This funding has gone towards renovating barracks, replacing outdated motor pools, and making sure Fort Hood is home to an effective fighting force with the resources they need to be successful on and off the battlefield. Because of those investments, this year we were able to grow Fort Hood, adding a new Security Force Assistance Brigade, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure Fort Hood is a premier installation.

Hegar: I will oppose base closures and realignment because I know how vital a fully funded and staffed military is to the economy of our community and our country’s national security.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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