In a two-way Republican primary for Texas’ 12th Congressional District, long-time incumbent U.S. Rep. Kay Granger and challenger Chris Putnam answered questions of potential voters at a candidate forum held Monday night.
The forum, sponsored by Cowtown Republican Women, boasted a full room of observers as candidates tried to win votes by touting their conservative credentials and support for President Trump’s agenda.
The district covers the western part of Tarrant County along with portions of Parker and Wise Counties.
Granger is running for her 13th term in the House of Representatives, having previously served as mayor of Fort Worth. She is a former public school teacher who grew up in Fort Worth.
Putnam got involved in local government and served on the city council of Colleyville, a small city in northeast Tarrant County. He retired from a career in the technology industry two years ago and is a lifelong Tarrant County resident.
Putnam was first to speak, saying he’d be a fighter in Washington D.C. He didn’t hold back from criticizing Granger in his opening statement.
“I fundamentally believe that public service is not supposed to be a lifelong career that enriches politicians,” Putnam said, later mentioning Granger’s connection to the beleaguered, heavily-scrutinized Panther Island project and her son’s management position within the project.
“If we close our eyes to this kind of corruption and nepotism, then we are a part of the problem. We have a responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable.”
Granger’s son, J.D. Granger was the executive director of the Panther Island project, which has been plagued by mismanagement and accountability problems for years amid reports that it’s still in the design phase well over a decade into its development. Granger did not directly address Putnam’s criticism of Panther Island.
Putnam also questioned Granger’s pro-life stance, saying that she called herself a pro-choice Republican earlier in her political career and has yet to sign on to the Heartbeat Protection Act of 2019 by Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The bill would make abortions that are performed after a detectable fetal heartbeat a crime.
In response to his criticism, Granger said she is pro-life and has a voting record of over 10 years demonstrating that belief. She admitted to being pro-choice when first elected over 24 years ago, but said that her position has evolved since then.
She stressed endorsements by national pro-life groups, National Right to Life PAC and Susan B. Anthony List, as evidence that she is pro-life.
In her remarks, Granger emphasized her seniority in the House and position as ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, saying a freshman congressman could not accomplish the things she is able to do, like supporting the defense industry in Fort Worth.
She also pointed out that she was asked in 2014 by then-Speaker Boehner to lead a task force to inspect the border crisis and make recommendations about it.
“We made it a priority to put money in the budget for the wall. I was endorsed by President Trump because of my work on the border,” Granger said.
Putnam took issue with Granger’s record on border security, however, saying she’d supported President Obama’s DACA executive order and other incentives for illegal immigration. He said he plans to work with law enforcement to “send the loudest message possible on border security” and encourage a national ban on sanctuary cities.
Putnam has been endorsed by Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Club for Growth, a free-enterprise advocacy group that has given Granger a lifetime rating of 68 percent.
Club for Growth has been blistering Granger with ads, including one launched on Monday comparing her to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Putnam also highlighted his record on Colleyville’s city council of cutting taxes and implementing term limits.
When asked at the end of the forum to say one or two positive things about the other candidate, Granger hesitated.
“I’m trying to think…he talks a lot. He talks well,” she said.
Putnam said he appreciated Granger’s service for over 30 years and how she has prioritized serving Fort Worth.
“My differences on issues don’t diminish that,” Putnam said.
The Republican primary will be held on March 3, but early voting begins February 18.
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.