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Democrats: We’d have responded better to Harvey

By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews.com

Democrats seeking statewide office centered their Thursday morning visit in Port Arthur around the forsaken home of a single family.

Robert and Loretta Chretien were driven from their three-bed, two-bath residence at 1329 Barbara Lane in West Port Arthur by Tropical Storm Harvey floodwater.

For most of a year, they lived in the family building at New St. John Baptist Church on Gulfway, awaiting Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance. They’re still waiting today, although now in an apartment.

Seven Democrats seeking office in the Nov. 6 election held a news conference on the vacant, gutted property, promising that if they’re elected, they’ll be ready for the next storm and when it comes, they’ll be committed to steering the full resources of the state toward victims.

“When someone cries for help you rush toward them,” said Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for governor and former Dallas County sheriff. She said Gov. Greg Abbott has called special sessions for “bathrooms” — it was a reference to the issue of transgender people, and which restrooms they use — but not for storm victims.

“The state was too slow,” Valdez said of government response to Harvey. “The state should have been right behind the first responders.”

Several of the candidates, who are touring Texas for 10 days on a bus, said the state should have tapped the Rainy Day Fund, reserve funds, to send more immediate help to victims of the coastal storms in 2017.

Nick Lampson, who’s challenging incumbent Jeff Branick for Jefferson County judge, said this county should have used its available funds to help people who are out of their damaged homes and awaiting FEMA assistance.

“That is not acceptable,” he said, noting that hundreds of Port Arthur families could be immediately assisted.

Midway through their short speeches, Chretien said he was well pleased with what the candidates assembled in his driveway were saying. “Yes, sir,” he said.

Chretien later took the candidates and news media outlets through the empty home, where he and his wife have lived since the 1980s.

Candidates for statewide office who are participating in the “Fair Shot Bus Tour” include Valdez; Mike Collier, seeking the lieutenant governor’s office; Joi Chevalier, comptroller; Miguel Suazo, land commissioner; Kim Olson, agriculture commissioner; and Roman McAllen, land commissioner.