Senate Bill 4 and healthcare were primary topics brought up in the first public debate between Democrat Erin Zweiner and Republican Ken Strange, who are vying for the Texas House District 45 seat.
Zwiener, a progressive Democrat, said SB4, which was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2017, is one of the worst and most disgraceful laws in her lifetime.
According to the Texas Tribune, SB4 outlaws sanctuary cities in Texas. It also requires local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials to allow enforcement to ask about the immigration status of a person they lawfully detain.
“Another provision of the law is the ‘show me your papers’ provision,” Zwiener said. “Any individual law enforcement officer is empowered, if they suspect someone is not in the country with documentation, to demand proof. That’s just opening the door to racial profiling. My Texas is better than that.”
Strange said he is a proponent of SB4, as added border security and identification measures can help save the lives of immigrants who are crossing deserts and dangerous conditions to come to the U.S.
“I am for SB4. By having sanctuary cities, we are encouraging people to come across on the border,” Strange said. “People are being abused trying to get to these sanctuary cities we are supporting. We need better laws for people to come here, and not protect them from breaking the law.”
Zwiener told Strange not to “dress this up” as a law that protects immigrants.
The candidates also discussed their plans to give citizens access to healthcare, despite having opposite ideas on how to do that.
Strange said the state officials should look at any federal dollars left on the table to build a sustainable program that provides good healthcare for all, without burdening the state.
Although Strange was not specific on how to build these programs to fund healthcare, he was not a proponent of expanding government programs, such as Medicaid.
Zwiener said Texas left $6 billion on the table last year when the state refused to expand Medicare, which could have insured more than one million people.
After the debate, Zwiener said in a statement that she was disappointed her opponent could not present solutions to the problems addressed at the debate.
“I’m not in this to represent the folks who share my party label, I’m in this to represent everyone,” Zwiener said. “And I will fight for each and every Texan. What choice you have this election is between the status quo and someone who is ready to get in there and get to work. Someone who is not afraid to tell the specifics.”
In his closing statement, Strange said he has been in public service his entire adult life through the Air Force, as a volunteer fireman and current director of Wimberley EMS.
Strange said he has received the endorsement of the two previous HD45 representatives, including a Democrat.
“They know (I’m the best for the job) because we’ve worked together. This is going to be a tough job and I’m here to do it,” Strange said. “I’ve proven over the years that I can do this and I will continue in my years of public service at your capital.”