Hosted by the Montgomery County Republican Party, the forum featured 10 of 12 candidates who have reportedly announced for Congressional District (CD) 8, a historically heavily Republican district that encompasses all or portions of nine counties including a sliver of Harris County.
Candidates attending included:
- Rudy Atencio
- Paulette Carson
- Jameson Ellis
- Martin Etwop
- Jonathan Hullihan
- Ryan Jarchow
- Morgan Luttrell
- Dan McKaughan
- Jonathan Mitchell
- Taylor Whichard
In her first question, moderator Shelley Sekula-Gibbs asked how candidates would support law enforcement and ensure justice for both victims and the accused.
Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL and former special advisor to the Department of Energy under President Trump, noted that as an adjunct professor at Sam Houston State University teaching law enforcement he has taught every police chief in the State of Texas.
“When the political narrative…made our law enforcement officers the enemy, and nobody spoke up about that- that is wrong,” said Luttrell. “We need a voice [in Congress] to do just that.”
While all agreed that law enforcement agencies needed more funding and support, several candidates warned that the answer should not be a federalized approach to policing.
“I see recently a push to defund the police and obviously the only thing that could possibly fill that vacuum would be federalized police and that’s something I take a very hardline stand against,” said Atencio, who previously ran for Congress in Washington in 2020, appears to have switched parties during that race, and announced his intention to challenge Brady earlier this year.
“Name one thing the federal government has ever touched that they’ve made better,” said Ellis, a small business owner who also voiced strong opposition to “red flag” laws that would deny gun ownership to some citizens based on mental health concerns.
All candidates expressed opposition to congressional Democrats’ plans to federalize elections and support for election audits.
Hulihan, Atencio, and Carson said Congress should not have certified the 2020 election results, and Ellis and Luttrell specifically mentioned Rep. Steve Toth’s (R-The Woodlands) legislation that would require broad review of the 2020 election in Texas.
Etwop, an immigrant from Uganda, noted that his home country required a photo ID to vote and said he would support a full forensic audit of elections in all fifty states, but Jarchow suggested that part of the problem is that under the current system audits give little information about the validity of votes cast.
Citing Biden policies that have resulted in a border crisis, a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and shuttering of the Keystone Pipeline, Sekula-Gibbs asked by a show of hands who would support impeaching the president.
All 10 candidates immediately raised hands in support of impeachment, and again in support of removing General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who reportedly told Chinese military brass he would warn them first if an attack from the U.S. had been ordered by Trump.
While the candidates largely agreed on most issues such as keeping the congressional filibuster, securing the border, and impeaching President Biden, when Sekula-Gibbs asked who would support declaring war on China if the communist country attacked Taiwan, only Etwop and Jarchow indicated they would.
“Should we go to war with them? We already are,” said Jarchow. “China is our enemy; we are not allies with China, and if we don’t start dealing with them now, it could escalate into some sort of physical situation we don’t want to be in, that’s not ideal.”
All 10 expressed urgency in securing the border, and Atencio, whose father is from Venezuela, said the open borders were related to rising crime, but said he supported a path to citizenship as part of a comprehensive strategy.
In addition to criticism for Biden and Democrats in Congress, several candidates scolded elected Republicans in Texas and elsewhere for failure to act on conservative priorities.
“In 2016, the Republicans held the House, the Senate, and the Presidency,” said Hullihan, a former Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) now serving as a Naval Reserves Commander. “When Trump was under attack, they cowered, they didn’t support him. We could have passed real conservative legislation at that time and we didn’t.”
“It’s a game; we’ve been victims of a game for a long time, and I’m tired of it,” added Hullihan.
Ellis also took aim at Gov. Abbott for lack of action on election audits and border security saying, “When it comes to election integrity one of the things I think would help would be to elect a governor to Texas that is going to be a conservative 100 percent of the time and not just when it’s election cycle.”
Reportedly there are additional candidates planning to run for CD 8, although new boundaries under redistricting are not yet finalized leaving the dates for official filings and the primary elections yet to be determined.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.