HOUSTON - In the battleground race to represent Congressional District 7 on Houston's west side, Republican challenger Wesley Hunt alleges over the airwaves that incumbent Lizzie Fletcher has done little or nothing to protect jobs in the oil and natural gas industry.
"Can you imagine Houston's economy without Texas energy? Lizzie Fletcher can. Lizzie Fletcher would push us into the Paris Climate accord and the socialist Green New Deal," says Hunt in a political ad.
And yet Fletcher has repeatedly expressed her opposition to the controversial proposal, writing in an April 2019 Houston Chronicle Op-ed, "This Green New Deal transfers whole sectors of our economy, not just energy, to government control. That will not only disrupt the economy but stifle the kind of entrepreneurial innovation and energy we need to address climate change."
Fox 26 asked candidate Hunt to back his accusation. He says Fletcher's endorsement of the Biden-Harris ticket reflects "implicit" support for the Green New Deal.
"The Vice Presidential pick for the Democrats is Kamala Harris which was the co-author of the Green New Deal in the Senate, so when they call on Nancy Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi calls on Lizzie Fletcher they are going to have her vote," said Hunt.
When the pandemic struck, global demand for crude collapsed. Congresswoman Fletcher proposed a huge government purchase of the excess supply to fill the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve - an emergency 770 million barrel reservoir stored in underground caverns along the Texas and Louisiana coast.
While Fletcher's Bill would have provided some welcome relief for energy producers, Hunt contends Fletcher couldn't convince Democratic leaders in the House to include the emergency oil buy in the pandemic relief measure known as the CARES Act.
"Of course it didn't pass the House because that entire party is interested in ending the oil and gas industry as we know it," said Hunt.
Congresswoman Fletcher was eager to respond.
"My opponent has just been saying things he wishes were true. He says I support the Green New Deal and I have said clearly, explicitly for as long as I can remember said that I don't. I have been outspoken about my opposition to the Green New Deal. It's been well documented. I wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle opposing the Green New Deal and explaining why and I have never backed down," said Fletcher.
As for her bill to mandate a huge federal purchase of surplus oil for the nation's strategic petroleum reserve, Fletcher says it was Hunt's own party which has de-railed the effort, not her own.
"Perhaps he hasn't read that I got the House Majority Leader to support this legislation, so this has very much been a collaboration between the House and the Senate and what I would remind Mr. Hunt is that it is the Republican Senate that has failed to act on further COVID-19 relief which is where we hoped this legislation would be introduced," said Fletcher.
And yet in the days after passage of the CARES Act Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer called Fletcher's SPR bill and similar legislation a $3 billion "bailout for big oil".
The future of the oil and gas industry is a particularly critical issue for swing voters in Texas-7, home to the so-called "energy corridor" and the thousands of high paying jobs the companies based there provide.