U.S. District 21 candidates spar in first debate

August 29, 2018

The two candidates vying for the 21st Congressional District seat sparred about the economy, regulation and immigration in their first debate Wednesday.

Democrat Joseph Kopser, an Army combat veteran and entrepreneur, and Republican Chip Roy, a longtime staffer for several Texas politicians, are looking to replace U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is retiring after serving 16 terms in the district that includes parts of San Antonio, Austin and the Hill Country.

Kopser touted his military and business history and positioned himself as a centrist problem-solver.

“I see a new problem and that is our government, our politics are so divided,” Kopser said. “But I promise you, just as I crossed the oceans and crossed deserts in service to this country, I can cross the aisle when needed.”

Roy pitched his candidacy as a bid to rein in the federal government so Texas could find solutions that work for itself, instead of what he said was a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington, D.C.

“Let Texas be Texas. Let California be California,” Roy said. “Let us decide how to live and then watch the country reunite again and prosper again.”

On the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he had reached a preliminary deal with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, both candidates agreed the 24-year-old pact has been vital for the Texas economy. Kopser said Trump was creating uncertainty in the business community by upending NAFTA.

“I want to fix and improve NAFTA, not throw it out,” he said.

Roy argued the president is just doing his job by negotiating, but he said he preferred a trilateral agreement with both Mexico and Canada. Trump has said he could impose tariffs on Canada if the countries can’t agree to terms.

“This is going to come through Congress, and it’s going to be up to Congress to exercise, importantly, its Article I function to check the president,” he said.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce hosted the debate at the Pearl Studio; board chair Shaun Kennedy was the moderator.

A second debate is scheduled for October in Austin.

Dylan McGuinness covers county government and local politics for the Express-News. Reach him at dylan.mcguinness@express-news.net and follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.

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