Q&A: Republican candidates running for U.S. Congressional District 2 talk priorities, health care, immigration

Early voting begins Tuesday and ends March 2.

Early voting begins Tuesday and ends March 2.

Fourteen candidates, including nine Republicans, are running in the primary election for U.S. Congress District 2 in Texas, which covers parts of Harris County, including Cy-Fair, Spring, Klein, Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood. We asked each candidate why they are running and got their thoughts on several key issues.

David Balat
Experience: health care executive
Top priorities:
1. Health care reform
2. Infrastructure improvements
3. Economy

[email protected]

What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?

As a flood victim that suffered catastrophic damage to our home resulting in the loss of all our possessions, I share in the frustration and anger of those in the district that have suffered. As your representative, I will work to secure the funding to improve existing infrastructure as well as new infrastructure needed for the growth of our city. I also intend on working with leadership at every level to focus our efforts and ensure that the money is being used for its intended purposes.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

A good immigration and naturalization process is one of the enumerated powers of Congress, and they must take this up to protect Americans. The physical safety of American families and fiscal responsibility needed by bringing in those that will produce for our economy and communities are important elements when considering an immigration policy. Unfortunately, the challenges we face are that of safety from those that wish to do us harm, financial burden due to those that wish to come here to be served rather than serve and a lack of assimilation into our culture. The current Congress lacks focus and is derelict in their constitutional duty.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

I am the only candidate that has developed a health care plan that focuses on free market solutions. You can read my plan at davidbalat.com.

My priorities are to repeal Obamacare and several other regulations that benefit the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries as opposed to physicians and patients. I am the only candidate to have pledged that I will not take any contributions from the health insurance or “pharma” lobbies to demonstrate my commitment to the fight.

I have also been a part of a local effort to make care affordable in our communities. I believe in demonstrating real-world solutions and not just going to [Washington,] D.C., to legislate.

I’m seeking to be a true representative and not one that aspires for politics as a career option.

Dan Crenshaw

Experience: retired Marine

Top priorities:
1. National and border security
2. National debt and spending
3. Economy


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?
The first thing we must do is order the Army Corps of Engineers to review the contingency plans and emergency procedures for flood control. Had the Army Corps of Engineers used updated plans, they would have known venting the Lake Conroe dam would result in massive flooding in Kingwood and Atascocita. Furthermore, we must work with the executive branch using our funding powers to compel [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] into using maps that are updated to the new topography and new runoff amounts due to construction. Overall flooding damages can be mitigated by modernizing our plans and maps to account for increased water flow rates over our ever-expanding concrete metropolis and updated crisis management plans for the [Corps].

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

It is key that our system requires local, state and federal law enforcement cooperation, so that criminal aliens do not fall through the cracks and commit heinous crimes that pose a significant risk to our communities. We must also emphasize better cooperation with our southern and northern neighbors in accepting deported illegal aliens. I absolutely do support the deportation of criminal illegal aliens that have committed crimes in the U.S,. and I support the deportation of criminal illegal aliens and the deportation of individuals that are encountered and apprehended by federal immigration authorities. If we get a border wall and enhanced security measures, end sanctuary cities, and end chained migration, then I will consider supporting legislation that gives legal status to the “Dreamers.” The real priority to stem the tide of illegals using our health care and education system is border security, ending chained migration, and ending “anchor baby” laws.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

We need a free-market, patient-centered health care system. Unfortunately, Obamacare was a massive government takeover of the health care system, and it has been an unmitigated disaster. Congress needs to immediately repeal this horrible law, and the president needs to sign it. Obamacare has caused health care costs to go up, has kicked millions of Americans off of their health insurance plans, and has increased taxes, all of which have been detrimental to the health care system.

We need to replace it with a health care system that puts patients first, encourages competition, allows consumers to buy health insurance across state lines and expands health savings accounts.

I understand all too well the experience of being a patient in socialized medicine, both in the military and the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs]. When no one is held accountable, and there’s no competition, quality of care suffers and prices skyrocket. We must give states the flexibility to experiment with solutions that deliver the cheapest and highest quality care to the most people. As Americans, we should all agree on this common-sense goal.

Jonny Havens

Experience: lawyer, veteran

Top priorities:
1.Support President Donald Trump’s agenda
2. Secure the borders
3. Bring ethics to Congress


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?
I will support the Army Corps of Engineers and the Harris County Flood District’s effort to tailor a local solution to mitigate future flooding, including supporting funding for a third reservoir. I will not support the federal government dictating solutions to Houston.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?
The biggest challenge in immigration is securing our border. I support building a border wall with Mexico where it is the most cost-effective way to secure the border. But because of real issues regarding the cost and harm of eminent domain, there will be portions of the border that can be secured more cost effectively using advanced technological sensors and more active patrolling by the Border Patrol.

Importantly, building the border wall only addresses one category of illegal immigrants, those that cross the border between ports of entry. Two other categories of illegal immigrants must be addressed as well: (1) immigrants who cross through ports of entry illegally and (2) immigrants who enter the country legally but overstay their visas. To truly secure our borders, we must invest the resources to prevent illegal entry through ports of entry and to quickly and efficiently remove those immigrants who overstay their visas.

After securing our border, we must address chain migration and shift immigration policy towards merit-based migration.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?
Obamacare should be repealed. Congress should then pass a new health care reform law that restores competition to the health care markets. The new health care reform law should accomplish the following goals: (1) give all taxpayers similar tax treatment for health insurance, removing the unbalanced and market distorting presence of employer-provided healthcare; (2) implement market reforms such as expanding health care delivery options, increasing price transparency and permitting sale of health insurance plans across state lines; and (3) strengthen the individual health consumer’s market power by enhancing Health Savings Accounts and permitting individuals to associate to purchase group insurance.

Justin L. Lurie

Experience: founder/CEO, investment firm
Top priorities:
1. Economic growth
2. National and border security
3. Congressional term limits


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?
Dredging of the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston to increase water capacity [and] stricter enforcement of legal and illegal sand mining operations along the river producing unreasonable downstream sediment resulting in significant loss of water capacity. Housing should not be built within the design flood pool of reservoirs. In Washington, we can make regulations to notify home purchasers where their home is sitting or being constructed, so they are aware of the flood problems. [I do] not believe it should be regulated if they can or cannot build, but consumers must be informed. Increase transparency and reporting on the current status and condition of our flood control resources, including dams, reservoirs, water capacity in the bayous, rivers and lakes. The media should report more often and create a flood-educated populace, so there is greater accountability. The [governmental] process and policy decisions should be transparent so the tradeoffs and priorities will be clear.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?
I support comprehensive reform in one single bill to include the following: superior border protection. The security professionals must be tasked to design and build the most effective and cost-efficient method to prevent illegal entry of people and goods into our country. This will likely include a wall, drones, fencing and more. End chain migration and move to a merit-based system. Much like Canada and Australia, a points system is implemented based on type of education and accomplishments. We can tailor this system to our American needs and also allow a limited amount of seasonal workers to assist in agricultural and other industries. Eliminate the visa lottery system—[Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] can only be revisited once the first two priorities are solved.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

To increase accessibility, affordability, and the quality of outcomes, we need to institute free-market principles into our health care system. Currently, the system is an enormously confusing labyrinth of overcomplicated and market distorting practices. We need to make significant, yet simple reforms. Enabling these changes will cost the taxpayer very little, yet will be extraordinarily beneficial: immediate tort reform; transparency on pricing from all providers; pricing will only decrease if a value decision can be made; price equality—all people should have the same pricing.

Kevin Roberts

Experience: state representative, District 126 (2016-18)
Top priorities:
1. Funding Hurricane Harvey relief
2. Improving transparency
3. Combating the opioid crisis


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?

This is the issue that unites all of us in District 2. Whether you live in the Lake Houston area, along the Cypress Creek, near the Addicks Reservoir, or are near West University, all of us either were affected by the flooding personally or we have friends and neighbors that were. Many of us are rebuilding for a third time in 27 months and our next congressman owes it to them to secure long-term investments in our infrastructure. If I am elected, I will be relentless in demanding action from federal agencies to deliver the support necessary for individuals and businesses to recover. If this means that I personally have to call FEMA and other federal agencies every single day, then I will do it. Families can no longer afford for the red tape to keep slowing them down. Additionally, I will also work tirelessly to deliver on infrastructure improvements. In order to stop this cycle of flooding, we must do several things, including: building another reservoir on the Cypress Creek; securing the dollars for dredging of Lake Houston, Cypress Creek, and the San Jacinto River, among other waterways; and the need for FEMA to immediately revise the flood plain maps so that local and state officials can make better decisions about future development.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

I support defunding of sanctuary cities as well as accountability for elected officials who deliberately implement policies that are contrary to federal law, which is why I voted to ban sanctuary polices in Texas that had penalties for elected officials who failed to comply with federal detainer requests. Additionally, I support the building of a wall and increasing the amount of border agents that defend our country. We need to give the Border Patrol more tools: sensors, cameras, aircraft support, among other items. I was proud to vote to keep state resources on the border as well during my time in office and I would also support reimbursement from the federal government to the state, as Texas has been leading on this issue in the face of federal inaction during the Obama years.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

Above all, the American people need to have options for choosing health care options that suit their needs. Rather than expand options in the marketplace, Obamacare reduced them and, in turn, caused prices to rise so fast, people could not afford the few options available to them. Instead, we need federal rules to allow for buying insurance across state lines, individuals and small businesses to be able to band together in Associated Health Plans so they can then negotiate for health coverage like corporations and labor unions are able, and we need to allow people to save or spend dollars tax-free on their health care premiums. Another major issue that must be addressed [are] the rising drug prices, which is a major component of health insurance. We need to be demanding reform at the FDA to bring drugs to market more quickly and allowing generics to be brought to the marketplace more easily that we do now.

Jon Spiers
Note: Spiers did not respond to requests for comment


Rick Walker

Experience: entrepreneur/CEO
Top priorities:
1. Funding Hurricane Harvey relief
2. Reducing spending
3. Conservative values


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?
The fight to end our flooding and bring us recovery is personal. My family and I suffered the complete loss of the first floor of our home and I’ve labored alongside my neighbors to help them recover. I will fight for relief and improve flood mitigation for seniors, families and small businesses by demanding SJRA give those of us downstream flood insurance, dredging Lake Houston and the San Jacinto River, decreasing Lake Conroe’s pooling level, and adding three permanent board members to the SJRA.

There are plans to request federal funding for mitigation projects for the westside of Houston, but no serious flood mitigation funding requests are even being discussed for the Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita and Huffman areas. We’ll change that.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

Our safety from threats both foreign and domestic must be the primary concern of the United States. A robust defense starts by securing our borders, continues through an unwavering support for our troops and ends with a no-nonsense approach to foreign policy.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster that has left many of us frustrated. The quality of medical care has not improved, doctors are discouraged and, most importantly, we the people are frustrated. We must improve health care by removing state-by-state restrictions and encouraging competition. Free market solutions along with tort reform and improved health care savings accounts are the meaningful changes that will improve our broken system.

Kathaleen Wall

Experience: entrepreneur

Top priorities:
1. Preventing future floods
2. Smaller federal government
3. Limiting federal regulations


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?

I will ask to be placed on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where my focus will be finding solutions to alleviate flooding in the Harris County area. I will fight for resources and coordination to ensure Harris County residents have a solution in place that keeps them safe and protects their life and property.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

I will help end illegal immigration and help our president finally secure our border. I will enforce laws that are on the books and end sanctuary cities. I will fight to improve our schools and boost our science, technology, engineering and math focus to ensure Americans have a better future.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

We are off to a good start with repealing the Affordable Care Act since the tax bill repealed the individual mandate. I wll go finish the job and totally repeal the Affordable Care Act. I will promote health savings accounts, competition across state lines for insurers, protecting patients with pre-existing conditions and let states decides what health care systems they need to offer their citizens. We need lawsuit abuse in the medical industry to stop. This will also bring down the cost of health care.

Malcolm Whittaker

Experience: patent lawyer
Top priorities:

1. Eliminating the deficit
2. Eliminating regulations that cost jobs
3. Repeal unnecessary laws


What initiatives will you pursue to help limit flooding in the region?

Texas A&M [University] has created a plan to protect the Houston metropolitan area from storm surge. This has a projected cost of $4 billion-$8 billion. I would introduce legislation to allow the federal government, along with the state of Texas, to pay for this project to protect us from flooding.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our country when it comes to immigration, and what kinds of reform would you advocate for?

I support a merit-based immigration system. As the child of immigrant parents, I know that immigrants can be big contributors to America and her success.

What are your priorities when it comes to health care?

Federal law should be reformed to allow many different organizations to offer insurance. This would allow everyone to purchase reasonably priced medical insurance.

For example, I am an Eagle Scout and a member of an organization of Eagle Scouts. This organization has members of all different ages. Some earned their Eagle rank many years ago. Others are still teenagers.

The reason that insurance for small groups is so expensive is that for a small group, if one participant needs an expensive medical treatment, the premium of all of the members of the small group will have a huge increase to cover this. If an organization has a large number of members, old and young, health and less healthy, the average premium for each member can be reasonable and manageable. I would support legislation to allow this reform.


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