At town hall meeting, candidates’ comments on patriotism cause conflict


Ricky Llamas

Justice Diane Hensen, a Democratic incumbent candidate for the 3rd Court of Appeals, and more than 20 other candidates spoke Sunday on political issues that affect the people of Austin. She made a controversial comment about another candidate, 

David Maly

Candidates from across the political spectrum convened in South Austin Sunday to continue to inform the public of their political stances as Election Day looms.

More than 20 candidates shared their political platforms at “Meet the Candidates: Austin’s Town Hall Meeting,” an event put on by ConnectPR, a nonpartisan organization, in an attempt to better educate the Austin public on the political issues affecting them. Candidates included David Collins, a Texas Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, and other candidates including people running for the Texas Senate and House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives. Candidates shared general political views and answered questions from the audience, addressing issues including education, healthcare, the criminal justice system, environmental efforts and the employment rate.

Doreen Sims, founder of ConnectPR, said this was the first year the event has been held, and although only 25 to 30 people attended, she saw it as a step toward establishing a needed, recurring event to better inform the Austin community on the issues that affect them.

She said the event went smoothly except for a conflict between Justice Diane Henson, a Democratic incumbent candidate for the 3rd Court of Appeals, and Grant Rostig, a Texas Republican candidate for state senate.

In response to remarks by Rostig, Hensen said he should consider leaving the U.S.

“I’m proud to be an American citizen in this great country, and if you are so disappointed, we will go buy you a ticket and you can return to Canada,” Hensen said.

The audience responded to Hensen’s comment with applause.

Rostig had spoken earlier about growing up in Canada and how surprised he was to come to the U.S. and see how the country is run. He said socialism has “crept into Texas,” and there is too much government control here. 

Rostig said he did not like Hensen’s comment or the audience’s response to it.

“For someone to take a legally landed immigrant who has a citizenship certificate, someone who swore allegiance to the flag of the United States and tell them to go back to their own country, they are going to buy me a bus ticket to go back, is something that I find troubling,” Rostig said.

Hensen said she made the comment during the discusssion as a citizen, not a judge, to lighten the discussion while still making a point. 

“I was being sarcastic, but I was trying to make a point, that some of the statements that are being made are just silly,” Hensen said. “I thought perhaps we needed a little levity in this group, too.” 

Printed on Monday, November 5, 2012 as: Town meeting hosts candidates' views