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State House District 54 hopefuls take on national issues at forum

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 4:30 am

LAMPASAS — Incumbent state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, and his challenger, Democrat Claudia Brown, met in the Lampasas Independent School District’s board room Tuesday for a forum as the November elections grow near.

While the forum, hosted by the Lampasas County Retired Teachers Association, centered on education issues such as teacher retirement benefits and public school funding, both candidates touched on national issues tied to this year’s presidential, congressional and Senate elections, particularly health care.

Brown, a retired teacher and former Killeen City Council member, said she supported the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Brown said the provisions of the act would be a benefit to the state’s uninsured and characterized the use of the nickname, “Obamacare,” given to the act by detractors as demeaning.

“Obamacare is just a made-up name given to demean his health care program and demean the president of the United States of America,” said Brown. “It actually sounds treasonous to me.”

Aycock said the act would be detrimental to Texans and come between them and their doctors. Aycock said the act would be a strain on the state’s budget and could cost Texas an additional $10 billion, though he believed the number may be closer to $27 billion. “That will crowd out every other item in the state budget,” he said.

The candidates also discussed another issue making headlines in the national news — voter ID laws.

Brown used Aycock’s support of a state law, which would require voters to show a government-issued photo identification prior to casting ballots in-person, as one of “three strikes” against her opponent.

In August, a three-judge panel in Washington ruled against the law, stating it imposed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and also noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.

Texas is just one of about 33 states, including Pennsylvania, Mississippi, New Hampshire and others, wrestling with the issue of voter ID laws.

Aycock said he “absolutely” supported the law.

“You have a photo ID to open a bank account, get on a plane, write a check, anything in life,” he said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask people to have a photo ID when they vote.”

The discussion and questions about national issues in local races wasn’t surprising to either candidate at Tuesday’s forum.

“You’ll always have national issues talked about in local elections,” Aycock said. “The difference this time is the impact those issues, like (the Affordable Healthcare Act) will have on the state budget.”

Brown also said it was important to explain how decisions at the state and national level impact their lives.

“Some people just want to turn off the TV,” Brown said. “I try to redirect them so they see how it will affect them on a local level.”

In the end, just how much weight local voters will give to the candidates’ opinions on national issues remain to be seen.

“I’m not running for president,” Aycock told the audience in his opening remarks. “I’m running for state representative.”

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