(From left) Candidate for Texas Senate District 25, Steven Kling, has challenged Sen. Donna Campbell to a shootout and public debate.
(From left) Steve Kling, the Democratic candidate for Texas Senate District 25, has challenged Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) to a shootout and public debate, which she declined. Credit: Composite / Steven Kling Facebook ; Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In a political stunt you might find only in Texas, the Democratic candidate for State Senate District 25 earlier this week challenged incumbent Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) to a public debate – and a shootout.

Army veteran Steven Kling is Campbell’s long-shot challenger in the Hill Country district that includes New Braunfels, Boerne, and part of north Bexar County. He sent a letter to Campbell on Monday through certified mail, inviting her to participate “in a political dialogue held in a most Texas fashion.”

“While we can both agree that voters should likely choose another metric for representation beyond marksmanship, a lighthearted, public forum will give Texas voters the opportunity to evaluate both candidates and their positions and help them make a wise and informed decision,” Kling wrote.

Kling’s campaign manager, Joe Green, said the shootout idea came from a tweet Kling posted in June, critiquing Campbell’s stance when she held a toy gun at a picnic shooting gallery. Adding a test of marksmanship to a debate seemed like a good idea.

“We saw this as a good way to hold her feet to the fire and give the residents of Senate District 25 the debate they deserve,” Green said.

Jon Oliver, Campbell’s campaign spokesman, said she would not be accepting either invitation – to debate or to shoot.

“There’s no one in Senate District 25 that doesn’t know where she stands on the issues,” he said. “She’s proud of that legislative record.”

In a statement tweeted by a Texas Tribune reporter Friday, Campbell said she found it insulting that Kling tried to “mansplain” how to use a gun.

“Mr. Kling’s campaign is failing to attract support, donations, and attention and this publicity stunt won’t earn him any new traction,” she said in the statement. “The fact remains that he is ill-equipped to debate me or stand up for the people of this district in the Texas Senate.”

Green fired back and asked why Campbell would not accept a debate invitation.

“If they truly believe Steven is ill-equipped for a public debate and to defend his position, they should be ready to accept our invitation,” he said.

“To make it clear, the point of the shootout was not to teach Donna Campbell how to use a gun, but to showcase responsibility and training, and have a friendly shooting competition, which is common in Texas,” he added.

Though Campbell will not be debating or engaging in a shootout with Kling, there will be at least one more opportunity for voters to see the two candidates at the same event and ask questions, Oliver said. However, he did not give specifics, and said Campbell’s schedule remains undetermined.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.