AUSTIN — Ten GOP hopefuls for Texas House in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are being pounded in attack ads that slam them on health care and schools.
On Tuesday, the pro-Democratic super PAC Forward Majority Action Texas was to begin a barrage of cable TV and digital ads, part of a planned $2.6 million advertising buy in North Texas before the Nov. 3 election.
The ads cast several of the area’s Republican House candidates as tools of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and criticized another for allegedly using his clout as mayor to push his local schools to fritter away money on an ice rink.
Some of the targeted GOP hopefuls pushed back on Monday, calling Forward Majority an “extremist” group from out of state that wants to flip the Texas House to the Democrats to influence the once-a-decade drawing of U.S. House and legislative maps anticipated next year.
“They’re spending more this time because they’ve got more because the economy’s doing great and these Democrats have free money to use,” Republican consultant Craig Murphy said of the super PAC’s efforts. Murphy represents two of the GOP House candidates, Garland state Rep. Angie Chen Button and Mansfield Mayor David Cook.
In one of the health care ads, referring to four-term GOP Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, Forward Majority says, “We can’t afford Jeff Leach.”
The super PAC noted that Leach has applauded a Texas-led suit that could overturn Obamacare, and said his inaction on protecting those with preexisting health conditions from again being slapped with high premiums will result in unaffordable coverage.
“Special interests give big to Jeff Leach,” the cable TV spot says. “We end up paying.”
Leach fired back, calling the ad a lie by “out-of-state extremist liberals” and denouncing the health care stances of his Democratic opponent, Lorenzo Sanchez.
“I’m proud of my record on health care access and affordability, including supporting coverage for preexisting conditions, expanding coverage and protecting patients,” Leach said in a written statement.
In another Forward Majority spot, a former Marine from Dallas chides three-term Plano Rep. Matt Shaheen for cheering on Twitter as the Affordable Care Act sustained a legal blow from a federal judge in December 2018.
Says the Iraq war vet, identified only as “Gary S” in the ad, “It’s sickening to me what politicians like Matt Shaheen do for the insurance industry.”
Shaheen spokesman Jordan Berry replied, “This is a false attack from an out-of-state dark money super PAC trying to mislead voters on … Shaheen’s fight to make sure preexisting conditions are covered for Texans. Matt will continue to fight for better, more affordable health care.”
Last year, Shaheen and other GOP targets of Forward Majority voted for a bill that would let the insurance department re-create Texas’ high-risk pool to allow residents who have preexisting conditions to obtain coverage.
The state’s previous such pool had a peak of about 28,000 covered lives, at a time when Texas had 6 million uninsured. In 2013 the Legislature abolished it, after Obamacare’s prohibition of medical underwriting for past chronic conditions and ban on lifetime limits on policies in the individual insurance market helped sick Texans, said Stacey Pogue of the Austin-based liberal research and advocacy group Every Texan.
“More than 1-in-4 nonelderly Texans has a preexisting condition — like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or asthma — that would have resulted in a denial of individual market coverage prior to the ACA,” she said.
Button, a six-term House member, comes under fire in a Forward Majority ad for “profiting off investments in health insurance companies” and “looking out for herself, not us.”
Murphy, the GOP consultant, said the Democratic super PAC is hypocritical to attack Button on health care. She supported protecting people with preexisting conditions with a high-risk pool and providing more price transparency on prescription drugs, he said.
“The vast majority of Forward Majority’s large donors are investors who, like Button and her opponent, presumably invest in drug manufacturing companies as most investors do,” Murphy said. “But Forward Majority even has contributors who work for medical insurance companies and medical manufacturers. … Not a single one of their large donors this year are Texans.”
In another ad, Mansfield’s Cook, who is running for an open House seat in southern Tarrant County, comes under fire for pushing one of the eight Dallas Stars-promoted ice rinks built in the region to promote hockey.
The Mansfield StarCenter, which opened two years ago, was ultimately built without a $1.8 million contribution from Mansfield schools, though Cook and the city council initially asked the school district to consider being a funding partner.
“Those are David Cook’s priorities,” the ad says of the plan, which came just a few years after the Legislature’s 2011 school budget cuts. “Are they yours?”
On Monday, though, Cook said as soon as school district taxpayers pushed back on the idea, he and the city council retreated.
“It’s very misleading,” he said of the ad, noting the state budget cuts came some five years before the council’s ice rink vote.
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