You've seen the attack ads on TV. State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, Mark Shelton were throwing elbows Thursday during their first debate.
The District 10 race is one of the closest in the state.
Republican Mark Shelton is a state representative and pediatrician trying to unseat Davis, a Democrat, lawyer and former Fort Worth city council member.
In a Trinity Campus auditorium Shelton and Davis took no prisoners as they leveled attacks. Shelton claimed Davis is violating conflict of interest rules.
"Wendy has used her office to enrich herself with contracts with the NTTA and other entities," Shelton claimed.
Senator Davis pushed back as she dismissed Shelton’s claims that her legal work for the North Texas Tollway Authority is a problem.
"Mark Shelton is being dishonest in his attacks on me. By the way, if we want to talk about where someone’s interests lie my opponent has now taken $40 thousand from the payday lending industry," Davis said.
Shelton and Davis couldn't be more different on many of the major issues that will face the state senator from District 10.
While both oppose public school vouchers, they do not agree on how to fund public education.
Davis wants the GOP-controlled legislature to restore the $5.2 billion cut from schools last session at a time of growing enrollment. Davis slammed Shelton for supporting the budget that did that.
"Mark Shelton voted to take money away at time when we had unbelievable increases in that population while simultaneously understanding that at least 40,000 to 50,000 educators were going to lose their jobs," said Davis. "Do we need to restore that money in the next legislative session? You bet."
Shelton isn't pledging to restore the public ed dollars that were cut. He says increased school funding should come through an improved economy.
"The people of Senate District 10 wanted a balanced budget without raises taxes. I understand the economy is rough and unemployment is high and long term the way we fund our schools is by having those businesses grow and an increase in the revenues," said Shelton. "Controlling state spending is the number one priority of the constituents at this time."
Davis and Shelton also tangled over the state’s fastest growing expense, Medicaid. Davis supports the federal healthcare plan referred to as Obamacare. She wants Texas to accept the $100 billion federal dollars available under the plan to provide Medicaid to more of the state’s uninsured. Davis says rejecting the money would hit Texans in three ways.
"Number one, in the higher county property taxes you are going to pay. Number two because a third right now of your insurance premiums are going for uncompensated care. And number three if that federal money is turned away by the state of Texas we are going to be subsidizing healthcare in states elsewhere in the country who are going to be more than happy to take that care," Davis said.
But Shelton says Texas’ portion of the cost for expanding Medicaid would eventually break the bank and raise private insurance premiums. So he wants the state to reject the federal money and improve the system it has.
"The Medicaid system can be managed better. We did Medicaid managed care in the Valley. Tarrant County has been under Medicaid managed care since the 90’s. And the rest of the state can do it too. And we improved our Medicaid fraud situation," Shelton told the audience.
The Shelton-Davis race is pivotal for both the Democrat and Republican parties because of a procedural measure called the two-thirds rule. If Davis were defeated every Democrat in the Texas Senate would have to stick together to prevent unwanted legislation from coming to the floor for a vote. On many contentious measures that would be difficult to do.