Congressional District 31: What's Up With John Carter?

Democratic challenger can't get incumbent to talk with her; neither can we

John Carter
John Carter

Democrat Mary Beth Harrell would seem to face an uphill battle to unseat Republican John Carter in the conservative Congressional District 31, which stretches from Williamson Co. north to Erath Co., but one has to wonder if Carter could pull a Clayton Williams simply by continuing to talk.

Mary Beth Harrell
Mary Beth Harrell

Harrell has challenged Carter to appear in a candidates forum organized by Temple public television station KNCT. The race is one of several that KNCT hopes to spotlight Oct. 16-20, but station manager Max Rudolph told the Temple Daily Telegram that all candidates in a particular race must appear, or that race won't be featured. Thus far, Rudolph said, Harrell and Libertarian Matt McAdoo have accepted, but no word from Carter.

Carter's responses as to whether he would accept were ambiguous at best, if not downright confusing. "No, no, no – I don't believe I'm going to be able to do that," he told the Telegram. "I mean, that's public television, and that's public radio. I will have to think about that. I might do it. I haven't decided yet."

In fact, Carter hasn't been quite clear on whether he'd be willing to debate at all. Earlier this summer, he told the Austin American-Statesman, "People earn the right to debate me. ... I will determine how and not them." He went on to say that the criteria for earning this right is "credibility." Harrell responded in a press release, "The bottom line is, the voters are calling for a candidates' forum with Carter and me so they can judge our credibility. That's the voter's job, not Carter's."

We'd love to ask Carter whether being the official nominee of one of the nation's two dominant political parties constitutes credibility or whether it might come from being a military wife and mother for most of her life (Harrell's son is serving in Iraq), but we can't contact him. The two phone numbers on his campaign Web site aren't working; we called his congressional office, which gave us a different number that was never answered, not even by a machine; a promise from his congressional office that the campaign would call us had not been kept as of press time. Perhaps we lack "credibility."

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Elections
Legal Heat Rises on Vote-by-Mail
Legal Heat Rises on Vote-by-Mail
Dallas Dems file criminal complaint against attorney general

Michael King, May 15, 2020

Austin Election Ticker: The Endorsements Begin
Austin Election Ticker: The Endorsements Begin
Delia Garza's Twitter tangle, Central Labor Council likes, and more

Michael King, Jan. 17, 2020

More by Lee Nichols
From the Music Desk
From the Music Desk
On Willie, Billy, Stevie Ray, Blaze, and more highlights from four decades of covering Austin music

Sept. 3, 2021

Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015


Elections, John Carter, Mary Beth Harrell, Matt McAdoo

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle