— By BRIAN SMITH
Former Texas Workforce Commission chair Tom Pauken came through Weatherford Thursday looking to drum up support for his Republican gubernatorial campaign.
Pauken, who retired from the TWC last year, said he was brought back into politics after becoming disillusioned with the soundbites and rhetoric from Austin insiders trying to beat up on President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
“It’s easy to beat up on the Obama Administration, but what are we as Republicans offering?”
Pauken said in an interview prior to speaking at a Bush Legacy Republican Women luncheon at the Doss Heritage and Culture Center. “I wrestled with running but I saw too many insiders in Austin who are more concerned with themselves than maintaining conservative principles.”
Pauken says Republicans are losing traction in the state to Democrats who have taken hold in many of the major cities partially, he says, because of being reactive rather than proactive on issues. He wants to bring Republican strengths back to the level seen when he chaired of the Texas Republican Party in 1994.
“We have a target on our back here, there’s no doubt about it,” Pauken said. “We need to outsmart, outwit and outwork Democrats if we are going to continue being strong here.”
Pauken said education reform is a top priority if he is elected. He said helping get House Bill 5 passed, which cuts the number of student achievement tests from 15 to five, while continuing an increase in the number of vocational and technical classes offered to students shows he is for ongoing education reform.
“We’ve become too trapped in test learning and not in real learning,” Pauken said. “When the average age of a plumber is 56 and an electrician is 55, it shows the need is out there for vocational and technical students who can get themselves a good wage.”
He said strengthening the Mexican border with the implementation of a special intelligence unit working specifically to get drug cartel monies out of the state is another priority. The recent organized attempted hit by a drug cartel in Southlake shows the problem is hitting much closer to home, Pauken said.
“The feds are responsible for border security but we need to do our part as well,” Pauken said.
He also talked about Texas jobs and the economy.
“(U.S. Attorney General Eric) Holder had no problem with Continental and United merging and all those jobs leaving Texas,” he said.
Pauken criticized fellow Republican candidate for governor Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for joining with Holder in a lawsuit blocking the American Airlines-US Airways merger. Abbott eventually withdrew from the lawsuit, which Pauken said could cost Texas thousands of jobs if the merger is not approved.
“It would be devastating to our economy if that was to happen,” Pauken said.
He said his support across the state has been grassroots with many education and veteran groups wishing him well. Pauken said he is aware Abbott has raised more campaign funds, referring to it as “a big hurdle that must be overcome.”
“I’m simply trying to get us out of this mess we’re in by using common sense business principles,” Pauken said. “I’m a small business owner and have worked on the workforce commission, so I know how business works and how we can get out of this. I want to reunite the Republican Party.”