Federal, state and county candidates in the upcoming Nov. 2 General Election made an appearance at a candidate forum last week, with only two Democratic candidates appearing at the event.

Republican District 27 U.S. Representative challenger Blake Farenthold made his way to the podium to speak to the nearly 100 attendees carrying a life-size cardboard cutout of Solomon P. Ortiz, who did not attend the Sept. 29 event. The mock-up drew laughs and cheers from Republican supporters, while Ortiz's son, District 33 State Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., also a Democrat, looked on.

"Basically, my platform is simple - I'm going to Washington (D.C.) to work hard and do less for you," Farenthold said to the crowd. "I believe government needs to get out of your lives and get out of the way of business and create jobs by creating less regulation and a predictable regulatory environment, as well as lowering taxes."

Ortiz Jr. and District 34 State Rep. Abel Herrero, both incumbents, were the only two Democratic candidates at the Republican-heavy event.

Herrero and his challenger, Republican Connie Scott, both offered differing views on a variety of topics, including Herrero stating he would like to see the Children's Health Insurance Program expanded, while Scott countered that parents must begin taking responsibility for providing their own children with health insurance, rather than relying solely on the taxpayer-funded program.

The pair also disagreed on the possibility of providing enabling legislation in next year's legislative session that could lead to a countywide drainage district being put before the county's voters.

Scott said she would not make a decision for the county's constituents on the issue, instead leaving it up to them to decide if they wanted or didn't want a countywide drainage district. Herrero, however, said he would not support sponsoring the legislation that would allow such an election to take place.

"I am always for giving the people the right to vote on anything," Scott said. "Yes, I think you bring it back to the county and give the Nueces County residents an opportunity to vote on it."

"I do not support a bill that will create a tax," Herrero countered. "Unlike my opponent, I am not going to say one thing when it appears that it doesn't involve a tax. But that bill would create a tax to communities and entities that are not being taxed right now."

The question arose again during a segment of the forum set aside for Nueces County Judge candidates, of which incumbent Loyd Neal was the only one in attendance. His challenger, Clarissa Gonzalez, did not appear at the event.

When asked by a member of the audience if the county has pursued federal assistance for implementing improvements proposed in the county's $1 million Master Drainage Plan, Neal answered with a simple, "Yes."

"What was the outcome of that?" the audience member asked.

"No," Neal said half-jokingly in a response that drew laughter from the crowd.

The county had pursued federal stimulus funds from the government last year, but was unsuccessful in attaining any money for the drainage projects. Neal has been a longtime supporter of the formation of a countywide drainage district in order to fund drainage improvements all across the county.

"If there was ever a time that we needed a centralized, coordinated countywide drainage district, it's now," Neal said. "The people stood up at (Corpus Christi) City Hall (on Sept. 28) and said, 'Help me.' We can't help them until we can have an open, honest discussion and then present something for you to vote on. I'd never put anything on your back that you don't vote on."

Also in attendance was the Republican challenger for Precinct 2 Nueces County Commissioner, Gil Hernandez, who said he was hoping to be elected in order to further the Republican-controlled court's pledge to fiscal responsibility.

"It is my responsibility to be a good steward of your taxpayer dollar," he said.

Hernandez's Democratic opponent, Joe A. "JAG" Gonzalez did not attend last week's forum.