Texas Republicans highlight energy issues as a closing argument of campaign

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HOUSTON – When last week’s presidential debate turned to oil and gas, Republican congressional candidate Wesley Hunt perked up.

Running to represent part of the self-proclaimed energy capital of the world, Hunt said he immediately realized the exchange between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden would resonate not only in western Harris County, but across Texas.

Pressed by Trump at the tail end of the debate to clear up his position on whether he wants to ban fracking, Biden said he would "transition" from the fossil fuel industry that powers much of this state's economy.

“The oil industry pollutes,” Biden said. “It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”

Republicans in Texas have latched onto this section of Thursday’s debate as a sort of closing argument in an election cycle where they find themselves in the unusual position of fighting to protect their dominance in a state that polls, political spending and campaign activity suggest has become a political battleground just days before Tuesday’s election.

And in a general election where the performance of the incumbent president is on the ballot, Republicans have also found themselves defending — or in some cases distancing themselves from — the Trump administration on its response to the coronavirus pandemic and the federal deficit.

But political analysts said Biden's comments gave Texas Republicans material for an offensive political maneuver in the last stage of the campaign.

“This is dangerous talk for us,” Hunt said in an interview. “There are 250,000 jobs affiliated with the oil and gas industry, but it impacts millions of people because of the industries that are tangentially related.”