Craig Estes never stops campaigning.
Even though he’s unopposed in November for his fourth full term in the Texas Senate, the Wichita Falls Republican said he is always happy to talk about the issues Texans face – border security, energy, water, transportation and economic development.
He was in Decatur Wednesday to speak to the Lions Club.
“The state of our state is strong,” he said, noting that over the last 12 years, 1,100 people per day are coming to Texas – most for economic opportunity.
“We’ve led the nation in the recovery from a recession that’s gone on way too long,” he said. “We created more than half a million jobs in the last biennium – 1.4 million in the last 10 years. And we’re not just creating low-paying jobs.”
He cited lower taxes and minimal regulation as the state’s drawing cards.
“It’s pretty simple to me,” he said. “We need to go down there and keep order in society, and let you have as much freedom to do what you want as possible. That’s my philosophy and a lot of other people’s philosophy down there.”
Estes chairs the Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, and he said that has been “an education.”
“We have a porous border,” he said. “The state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to protect our border, and it’s a federal issue. The federal government in my opinion has abdicated their role.”
He cited high-resolution cameras that can see 10 miles into Mexico and spot the compounds where drug cartels hold people as slaves. He told of a rancher who has documented with photos the dead people he finds on his land after they sneaked across the border – “a Hollywood horror movie,” he said.
He said there are signs 10 and 20 miles inside the border for people who are walking. The sign has a button to push saying “If you’re dying, push this and we will come pick you up.” It’s in English, Spanish and, interestingly, Mandarin Chinese.
He also noted an electronic device found recently in the desert was to translate from Urdu – the main language spoken in Pakistan – to Spanish.
“Don’t believe that everything’s alright,” he said. “It’s unbelievable and unconscionable to say, ‘Pay no attention to those dead bodies. Everything’s fine, everything’s safe.’ It’s not.”
He spoke of the boom that bids to make Texas the second-largest oil and gas producer in the world after Saudi Arabia within a few years.
He promoted the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada as “the biggest no-brainer on planet earth” and criticized the Obama administration for dragging its feet.
But Texas’ economic boom, driven mostly by oil and gas, has a downside.
“All those people moving in puts a strain on our water infrastructure and our road infrastructure,” he said. He cited the $2 billion voter-approved transfer from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to help underwrite water projects for cities and other governmental entities and noted that this November, there’s another constitutional proposition on the ballot that would divert about $1 billion a year into highway funding.
“We will still have $8 to $10 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, enough to deal with the most catastrophic event we could expect – a hurricane right up the Houston Ship Channel.”
And even though several of his Senate colleagues are running against each other for statewide office, Estes bragged on the way the Texas Senate works.
“The thing I love about the Texas Senate – it’s one of the last bastions of non-partisanship that we have in this country,” he said. “We have our partisan differences and we have our fights, but most of the time we check our ideology at the door and try to go do what’s best for the citizens of Texas.
“The vast majority of my colleagues are good, honest, hard-working people who just want to go down there and do what’s right for the state of Texas.”
Estes opened with a couple of jokes but closed with a scripture.
“The Apostle Paul told the Christians he was writing to, to pray for those in authority over them, ‘that you may lead a quiet and peaceful life.’” he said. “Now being a public official, I understand that spiritual admonition a lot differently.
“It’s real simple,” he continued. “Why do we need your prayers? Why does Barack Obama need your prayers? All the way on down to Gov. Perry? Your mayor? Your city council? It’s because we’re just human beings, just like you. We’ve got the same failings and the same faults.”
But, he added, God has blessed this nation and this state abundantly – and Texans, more than most, should be grateful.