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Holland, Pierson differ over school choice, Paxton impeachment in Texas House primary runoff

Holland, Pierson differ over school choice, Paxton impeachment in Texas House primary runoff
Holland, Pierson differ over school choice, Paxton impeachment in Texas House primary runoff 21:00

Early voting begins Monday in the primary runoff elections. Jack takes us to a State House district in North Texas where the Republican incumbent is fighting for his political career against the former spokeswoman for former President Donald Trump. From the new state law against DEI, to free speech and concerns about antisemitism on college campuses, Texans' sharp differences in education policy were on full display at the Texas Capitol last week. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson steps up his opposition to a big potential payout for the former city manager. And popular Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia agrees to stay in Dallas for another three years.

Jack Fink covers these stories and more in the latest edition of Eye on Politics (original air date: May 19).

Primary runoff battle

Early voting in the May 28 primary runoff election begins Monday. One of the most interesting races in North Texas is for District 33, where Katrina Pierson, a former spokeswoman for former President Donald Trump, is trying to unseat incumbent Justin Holland.

CBS News Texas

The conservative district is now on the radar of Republicans from across the Lone Star State. Pierson has been endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton.  

Abbott endorsed Pierson and started campaigning for her after the March 5 primary. Holland voted against the governor's school choice plan, which would have allocated taxpayer funds to send students to private schools.  

"We don't need to come up with a new government entitlement program costing anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion that only 50,000 kids can take advantage of," Holland said. "Virtually, nobody in my district could have taken advantage of it."

Pierson, however, supports the school choice plan. 

"The one thing that we know, the true ticket out of poverty is quality education," she said. "This gives the opportunity for a low-income family, or a single parent like I was, to put their child in the school of their choice."

In the March 5 primary, Abbott supported 14 Republican challengers, and of those, seven beat the incumbent and five ended up in a runoff.  

School choice isn't the only issue the two candidates are far apart on.  

Last year, the families of the deadly mass shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde pushed hard to raise the age for someone to buy an AR-style rifle from 18 to 21.

The bill ultimately went nowhere, but Holland who previously voted for constitutional carry, was among the Republicans to join Democrats to vote a bill out of committee to the full House. He said he felt it was the "right thing to do."

"I'm a gun owner myself, I own many guns, I carry a gun," Holland said. "You have to be 21 years old to drink, you have to be 21 years old to gamble, you have to be 21 years old to purchase a pistol. I felt like it was something that could have been. I was willing to be part of the conversation." 

"The district does not support any measure of gun control," Pierson said. "The district is very much constitutionally conservative."

Both candidates say they support raises for teachers. When asked about whether school districts should receive more money per student, also called basic allotment, Pierson said she'd need to look into it and Holland said he supported the idea.

Besides the issue of school choice, Pierson's other top priorities if elected include election integrity and border security. Holland listed border security, property tax cuts and public education as his top priorities.

Watch Jack's full interview with Holland below: 

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Watch Jack's full interview with Pierson below:

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Education divide

Texans' sharp differences over public education policy were on full display at the Texas Capitol last week. The Senate Education Committee held a hearing to discuss the state's anti-DEI law, free speech and concerns about antisemitism on college campuses in the wake of pro-Palestinian protests. 

Anti-DEI law

Part of the hearing's purpose was to determine whether the state's public university systems are complying with a state law passed last year to dismantle all programs involving Diversity Equity and Inclusion, or DEI.

At the UT System, Chancellor James Milliken told senators they saved or re-allocated $25 million after closing 21 DEI offices, cancelling 681 contracts, programs and trainings, and eliminating 311 full and part-time jobs associated with DEI. 

Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System, said they closed all nine DEI offices spread across their 11 campuses and eliminated 114 jobs most of them part-time. 

DEI programs were designed to boost recruitment, admissions and graduation rates of students from underserved communities. But Texas Republicans passed Senate Bill 17 last year, which not only eliminated DEI programs, but also requires universities to provide documentation they are continuously complying with the law.

"DEI ideology mirrors old Marxist talking points, dividing the world into the oppressed and the oppressors," said Texas Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican. "DEI advocates believe group characteristics such as race, sex and nationality define someone's privilege."

Democratic Texas Sen. Royce West of Dallas disagreed.

"When you say trying to divide people based on race and gender, that's been done throughout the history of this country," West said. "So that's disingenuous." 

In the House chamber, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus held a news conference to speak out against the state law against DEI programs.

"We're not going back," said Texas Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Democrat and Chair of the Caucus. "We've made much progress on the backs of those who made tremendous sacrifices and DEI programs were designed to remedy past discrimination."

Free speech & antisemitism on college campuses

The Education Committee also discussed various pro-Palestinian protests at UT Austin, UT Dallas and other campuses. 

Texas DPS says during two protests, 134 people were arrested at UT Austin, and that nearly half were unaffiliated with the university. Republicans have praised UT Austin's President Jay Hartzell for calling in police to make arrests to prevent major disruptions as seen at Columbia University and UCLA.

"It was an organized effort to rally comrades from across the state to emulate what was happening at Columbia University," Creighton said. "It was an effort to intimidate Jewish students and faculty. While I personally disagree with pro-Hamas groups and advocacy, I respect everyone's right to protest on campus when they follow the rules." 

Some who spoke at the hearing disagreed with Creighton's characterization of the protests.

"You say you support free speech and yet you sit there and thank Jay Hartzell, Greg Abbott, the DPS troopers who enacted violence on my classmates, my friends, and my sister," said one. "You can't have it both ways."

"I'm a protester and I have absolutely no affiliation with a terror group, but I have been called terrorist many, many times and it's outrageous," said another.

During the hearing, the Anti-Defamation League reported a substantial increase in antisemitism on college campuses, including in Texas since the October 7 terror attack by Hamas against Israel.  

"ADL recorded 732 campus-based antisemitic incidents of the 922 annual total between October 7 and the end of 2023 alone," said Courtney Teretto with the ADL. "On Texas campuses, there was a 109 percent increase of incidents recorded between October 7 and the end of 2023 compared to the entirety of 2022."  

One Jewish student, Levi Fox, told Senators some of the protesters openly displayed hatred toward him and other Jews. 

"When chants for peace and love by Jewish students are met with chants praying for the number of Jews' deaths everywhere, that's terrifying," Fox said. "When people feel so brazen to call for the deaths of Jews and not just say, but say it with pride, that's terrifying."

Fox also said he's seen firsthand Jewish students taking off yarmulkes, hiding their Stars of David and skipping Hillel Shabbat due to fear.

Gov. Abbott issued an executive order in March that requires all higher learning institutions to review their free speech policies to establish appropriate punishments for antisemitic rhetoric on college campuses.

Dallas updates

Police Chief Eddie Garcia has agreed to stay in his role through May of 2027.

Interim City Manager Kim Tolbert announced the news Thursday, about one week after CBS News Texas reported that Chief Garcia had received interest from the city of Houston whose police chief had resigned effective immediately. 

Garcia signed an addendum to his initial offer letter. Under the new agreement, Garcia's salary remains more than $306,000. But beginning in November, he'll receive a $10,000 retention bonus every six months. If any city manager in the next three years fires Garcia for convenience, the Chief will receive a year's salary.

He's also agreed to help the city find a new chief when that time comes. 

Meanwhile, this past week, Mayor Eric Johnson stepped up his opposition to the city and its taxpayers having to pay a $423,000 severance to former City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who's now the City Manager in Austin. 

Dallas mayor opposes "golden parachute" severance pay for former city manager 03:10

Broadnax invoked the provision in his contract for severance, citing the fact that eight council members suggested he resign. 

Council Member Paula Blackmon confirmed she was one of the eight who thought it was time for Broadnax to leave Dallas. She said in February, before he resigned, she saw during a council discussion on how much should be in a city bond package, Broadnax was growing frustrated. She says others noticed it too. 

"A council member came to me and said, some of several of us think it's time for him to go, and we know how you feel," Blackmon told Jack in a one-on-one interview. "Do you still feel the same way? And I said I thought last week, when it was the bond discussion, and just seeing, you know, the look on his face, and how he really felt, I think, hindered in doing his job ... And I said, I agree, it's time for him to go."  

Blackmon worked two years ago with the Mayor and other council members to try to force Broadnax out, but they didn't have the votes. She says the Mayor is now raising valid questions to the City Attorney about whether Broadnax should be paid a severance.

Watch Jack's full interview with Blackmon below:

Dallas City Council Member Paula Blackmon on retaining DPD Chief Eddie Garcia 10:17
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