Thorny Politics Arise Between Pruneda and Morris

Last Sunday Feb. 17, Andrew Morris, Democratic candidate for Texas House District 64, called a particapant in his town hall a "plant" after the person asked Morris about being "pro-choice."

The question from Bryce Goodman, directly asked, "Can you definitively say right now you are a 100 percent pro-choice, and will stand for unmitigated abortion access, even late-term abortion?" 

Morris' direct response to the question was that the issue was "It's more than just abortion, it's women's healthcare in general." He also included "it’s all well and good saying he is 100 percent pro-choice" but if it means that women’s health clinics are being shut-down across the state – then that’s not good enough.

Morris specifically called the question planted from his Democratic primary competitor Mat Pruneda and said he was "tired of women being reduced to just their uteruses." Pruneda has long spoken out about Morris not taking a harsh enough stance on abortion, he claims Morris' plant claim is meant to "distract" from this.

"I do not send plants to other candidates events. Women's reproductive justice, specifically the term 'Abortion,' is a something that Andrew Morris has long been hesitant to address firmly," Pruneda said.

Pruneda said Goodman has no ties to his campaign and purely knows him through activist events such as the work with the Confederate Monument on the square.

"Perhaps Bryce was not a plant, but I remain unconvinced because Mat has run a dirty smear campaign this entire race after agreeing that we would run clean, issues-based campaigns," Morris said. "If we are going to win in November, we must be focused on helping all the constituents of this district; not attacking each other on how we present the same platform. Republicans love to see what they call "left-on-left violence."

Goodman, who said he is an independent and doesn't like "party politics", also said he asked the question on behalf of his girlfriend who is a Democrat.

"My girlfriend helped me write the question with the express goal of trying to formulate a question that would force Andrew to definitively state that he was indeed pro-choice and in favor of unrestricted access to abortion procedures," Goodman said. "We want to know, because if he wins the primary, he'd be her candidate."

Both Goodman and Pruneda believe Morris refuses to take a defined stance becuase it will affect his appeal to moderate Republicans and funding.

"I assume, he's adamant about the idea of me being a plant because he knows it's a reoccurring question that's stymied his campaign in the past,"Goodman said. "My speculation, based on his response, is that he didn't want to have a sound bite of him stating he's pro-choice or in support of abortion, as it could be used against him post-primary, and lose him the currently hypothetical moderate republican base."

Morris said he doesn't understand why people would view his stance as "weak", but it may be in part to how he doesn't use the exact words Pruneda does.

"Once again, for the record, I'm vehemently pro-choice and will vigorously support a women's right to choose: choose to get access to a woman's health clinic. Choose to get preventative care screenings. Choose to get the birth control she wants. And yes, choose to get an abortion, if that's her decision: as a man, I have no right to say otherwise. I also think I need to reiterate once again that women's health is not a single-topic issue and it does women everywhere a gross disservice to continue making this vitally important issue only about abortion," Morris said.

Goodman said his original question was longer and meant for Linsey Fagan, candidate for U.S. Hose District 26, as well, who he said has been "intentionally vague" on this subject from possible direction from their shared consultant Caleb Milne who worked with Republicans previously.

"I think his response, while in favor of a woman's right to choose, still gives me pause based on his demeanor and how he answered it. I felt he was saying he was pro-choice, but if push came to shove he'd relent if it meant putting other services at risk," Goodman said. "Which to me is a clever way of seeming pro-choice to his Democratic base, while enabling him to avoid the matter and appease Republicans by saying it's too risky to broach in future legislative sessions."

Pruneda said Morris' "plant" claim "is a disappointing display of character" to misdirect voters.

"I understand when some feel under attack they may make misstatements as a defense mechanism. I would hope he would retract his false statement about 'plants.' If not, my volunteers and people who know the history of this topic, in this primary, know the truth," Pruneda said.

Morris, although not convinced, said he would rather focus on other issues.

"I'm disappointed that when we should be looking out for our constituents, I'm using my precious time to respond to blatant smears,"  Morris said. "So let this be the end of it, and let's talk about the complexities of solving income inequality, environmental concerns, our public education system, and women's healthcare - which is under attack, and needs our defense."

Update: An earlier version of this article didn't include Morris' exact response to the question at the town hall. It has now been updated with quotes from his town hall.

Header image photographed by Scott Webb courtesy of Unsplash
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