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It's going to be a fight to the finish for the District 8 position in the Texas House of Representatives.

House District 8 encompasses Anderson, Freestone, Hill and Navarro counties.

Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) was first elected to this seat in the House in 2002. He has since served as the chair on the House Committee State Affairs and as a member of the House Calendars Committee three times. He also served as chair of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation and the House Committee on Civil Practices. And the vice-chair of the Local and Consent Calendar committees. He is being challenged in the 2016 primary in his own hometown of Corsicana by landmark family businessman Thomas McNutt.

Contacting both candidates with a series of questions, we tried to pose most of the same questions to each, however, there were areas that would not permit that. We asked that each of them answer our questions honestly and candidly. We extend our best wishes to them both. May the best man/candidate win.

Q&A with incumbent candidate Rep. Bryon Cook:

PHP: Lawmakers around the country are looking at whether local governments should still be required to publish legal notices in newspapers or whether they can just e-publish online instead? What is your stance on this issue?

Cook: For purposes of transparency, I still favor requiring that legal notices be published in local newspapers in addition to being posted on local government websites.

PHP : In the beginning, why did you seek public office? What did you want to be a State Representative?

Cook: I ran for public office to serve and get results for rural and small town Texas families and communities. I have deep roots in our community; I graduated from Corsicana High School and Navarro College and my wife and I raised our family here. My business roots are here in Corsicana as well. From protecting our conservative values (pro-life, 2nd Amendment rights, religious freedom, and personal liberties) to making sure our district gets our fair share of state infrastructure (like education, water and roads), to making sure we have a healthy local economy, I am committed to standing up and working hard for our neighbors. In sharp contrast, my 25 year old opponent was reared in Dallas, moved here less than 3 years ago, is single, and works at a family business which hypocritically hires illegal immigrants. He is backed by dark money third party special interest groups which are secretly funded from individuals in Dallas, Houston and Midland, Texas. The agenda of these third party groups is in sharp contrast to the best interests of our local communities. For example, my opponent, Thomas McNutt and his supporters want to take money and local control away from our rural and small public school districts and then centralize the control of education with a single state agency in Austin, I strongly oppose this. My opponent's supporters also strongly opposed our new voter approved statewide water finance plan, which I and our local voters overwhelming supported to make sure we have a dependable supply of water for the future. My opponent's supporters want to increase our state sales tax to the highest in the nation which will cause the average Texas family to pay more taxes, I oppose this. And my opponent's Dallas supporters are behind giving eminent domain to a private entity financed by Japanese money to build a high speed Dallas to Houston "bullet train” through our rural land (with no local stops), I oppose this. I also oppose allowing dark money special interest groups that are secretly financed to attack political candidates, my opponent was recruited to run by these outside special interest dark money groups and they and my opponent continue to dishonestly attack my record. Standing up for our local families, like saving two hundred good paying jobs at the Pactiv manufacturing facility in Corsicana, is why I serve in the Texas legislature. You can see from the mudslinging by these dark money groups, they don't want our community to have an effective voice in Austin. I will not be bullied by them and proudly stand up and work hard for our neighbors.

PHP: What are the things you stand for?

Cook: First and foremost, I stand for the conservative values of the hard working people of District 8. I am a recognized and respected leader in the Texas House that can get things done. I will use my strength in Austin to protect the rural values of this district. Meanwhile my 25 year old opponent and his outside dark money supporters continue their dishonest attacks to cover up my opponent’s hypocrisy and lack of understanding of the needs of rural Texas. For example, my opponent says he is against illegal immigration, while he hires illegal immigrants in his own businesses (Collin Street Bakery and Navarro Pecan Company). He says he is for conservative values, but he is an investor in an online marijuana-smoking paraphernalia head shop that targets its joint rolling equipment, smoking pipes and bongs to teenagers and students. This is wrong. Also, my opponent was caught just 4 years ago cheating in a college election and was fined by the university's student judicial body. My opponent then moved to Corsicana but forgot to move his voter registration from his home in Dallas, so he illegally voted in the 2014 Republican primary in Dallas. In short, my young opponent fails to grasp the connection between his political positions and his business practices.

PHP:How would you rate your performance thus far?

First, you need to know that the outside special interest groups financing my opponent's campaign create phony and false ratings to deceive voters. For example, a dark money financed group out of Houston which goes by the name of "Texas Right to Life" has been criticized by religious leaders statewide for their false ratings. In truth, I am rated 100% pro-life by three of the four largest pro-life groups in Texas and as chairman of the Texas House State Affairs Committee, I have been a sheppard of more pro-life legislation and saved more babies lives than any previous Chairman of this committee. My other local and conservative endorsements are from real organizations that have members who live and work in our community. These endorsements include the NRA, Texas State Rifle Association, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas DPS Troopers Association, teacher and education groups, local law enforcement associations, landowner and property owner groups and real conservative groups like the Association of Republicans of Texas that was founded by our state's first Republican U.S. senator, John Tower. I also want to point out that one of the most egregious and phony dark money groups supporting my opponent is named "Empower Texans." This phony group gets 99% of their dark money from a single family in Midland and this entity has been publicly condemned statewide for its dishonesty and has recently had their lobbyist fined $10,000 for unethical lobbying activity.

PHP: In your previous terms as State Representative, have you accomplished everything you set out to do?

Cook: There is always more that can be done and needs to be done. Still I am proud to have worked closely with Gov. Abbott this past legislative session to have delivered what Gov.Abbott called the most productive and conservative legislative session in the history of Texas. I am proud to have beefed up our State's border security with an extra 250 DPS and Texas Rangers (all done without raising taxes). I am proud to have passed the strongest package of pro-life legislation in the history of Texas. I am proud to have restored 2nd Amendment gun owner rights with open carry and other gun owner protections. I am proud to have cut property taxes and cut business taxes while increasing funding for public education. I am proud to have helped pass our state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman and strongly oppose the federal court ruling to the contrary which is why I worked hard to pass a new state law to protect our religious leaders who refuse to perform same sex marriages. I am also proud to have protected our future supply of water with a new state voter approved statewide water plan (that was opposed by my 25-year-old opponent’s dark money supporters). I am proud to have improved transparency in our state government and was honored to recently be awarded a Texas Taxpayer Hero Award from former Republican Comptroller Susan Combs. I am especially proud to have saved good paying jobs right here in our community. In short, I am proud of the communities and conservative families I represent and will not be bullied by outside dark money financed special interests that are trying to take away our voice in Austin.

PHP: If so, what are your new goals for the next session?

Cook: I called for and held an interim legislative hearing in Austin on Dec. 10 to get the ball rolling on preparing legislation to pass Gov. Abbott's call for new state legislation to ban Sanctuary Cities in Texas. So, I look forward to working with Gov. Abbott on this legislative initiative. Additionally, I look forward to continue working on legislation to make our state safer and better educated with work force skills which business demands. We must continue to improve our water, transportation and energy resources that our growing population and future generations will require. Most importantly continue to advocate for rural values which is of great importance as our state continues to become more urban.

PHP: If not, what are the areas that you feel you still need more time to accomplish what you set out to do? And why do you think you deserve more time to accomplish these goals?

Cook: I have a legislative career of working hard for our rural district and for the future of Texas. I am not afraid of taking on tough issues in developing policies that will benefit our state.

PHP: How many more terms do you plan to pursue this position?

Cook: I serve at the pleasure of the local voters. It is an honor and duty to represent and fight for our local families and communities in the Texas legislature.

PHP: Do you have any loftier goals in Texas politics?

Cook: No.

PHP: What are some mistruths that have been circulated about you during this campaign?

Cook: I respectfully offer the same answer as provided above. The outside special interest groups financing my opponent's campaign create phony and false ratings to deceive voters. For example, a dark money financed group out of Houston which goes by the name of "Texas Right to Life" has been criticized by religious leaders statewide for their false ratings. In truth, I am rated 100% pro-life by three of the four largest pro-life groups in Texas and as chairman of the Texas House State Affairs Committee, I have helped shepherd more pro-life legislation and saved more babies lives than any previous chairman of this committee. My other local and conservative endorsements are from real organizations that have members who live and work in our community. These endorsements include the NRA, Texas State Rifle Association, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas DPS Troopers Association, teacher and education groups, local law enforcement associations, landowner and property owner groups and real conservative groups like the Association of Republicans of Texas that was founded by our state's first Republican US Senator, John Tower. I also want to point out that one of the most egregious and phony dark money groups supporting my opponent is named "Empower Texans." This phony group gets 99% of their dark money from a single family in Midland and his entity has been publicly condemned statewide for its dishonest and even had their lobbyist recently fined $10,000 for unethical lobbying activity.

PHP: What makes you the best candidate in this particular race?

Cook: I get conservative results that match what I say and take on tough issues. Most importantly, I am a real resident of this district. In sharp contrast, my 25-year-old opponent has lived here less than three years and makes his living by hiring illegal immigrants in his family owned bakery and pecan business and by investing in an online marijuana-smoking paraphernalia head shop that targets teenagers and students.

PHP: If there are any other areas/topics you would like to address or discuss, please note them here:

Cook: I believe it is important for all conservatives to vote this election year in both the primary and general election to elect a Republican president who will repeal Obamacare, fix immigration, defend our country from terrorism, respect state's rights, and get the federal government's nose out of where it doesn't belong.

Q&A with State Representative candidate Thomas McNutt:

PHP: Why are you seeking public office? Why do you want to be a State Representative?

McNutt: I am offering the voters in our district a conservative choice who will fight to stop illegal immigrants from entering our state, end sanctuary cities, and stop the incentives like in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

PHP: What are the things you stand for?

McNutt: I am a constitutional conservative. I know that our rights of life and liberty are granted by God. I believe that government should exist to defend those rights, rather than whittle them away with heavy taxation and burdensome regulation.

PHP: Having never served in the House of Representatives, why do you think you would be an effective State Representative for this district?

McNutt: I am a man of principle and I am pledging to represent the conservative values of our district. Our current state rep is out of touch with our district. I am going to fight to ensure that our liberties and values are represented.

PHP: What are your goals for your first term? What is it that you think you need to accomplish?

McNutt: I will fight to end illegal immigration and end the magnets that attracting the illegal immigrants to our state. We need a leader fighting for our conservative values and not for special interests in Austin.

PHP: What is your long-term goal? Will you only seek the position of State Representative, or do you have higher aspirations?

McNutt: I plan on representing our district well to ensure that we have a conservative voice in Austin.

PHP: You say that you are running for office because you are tired of politicians. What is your definition of a politician, and how do you plan on not becoming a politician if elected?

McNutt: Byron Cook is a the definition of career politician who has lost sight of his district. He supports illegal immigrants, he has authored legislation giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, and has a liberal voting record. I plan on being open and honest with the voters that I represent and fight for their conservative values. I will not represent special interest groups or ignore the values of our district.

PHP: What are some mistruths that have been circulated about you during this campaign?

McNutt: I am a man of my word and principle. My opponent continues to spread lies and mistruths wanting to distract voters from his record. If I were Byron I would not want to talk about his record for authoring a bill to provide drivers licenses for illegal immigrants and his failure to end sanctuary cities.

PHP: What makes you the best candidate in this particular race?

McNutt: My values are in line with those of the voters of the area. For too long we have elected politicians who ignore the needs and conservative values of the district. I am going to fight for our conservative values when elected.

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