Here’s a closer look at candidates in the Republican and Democratic primary races for U.S. House in the March 4 primary elections.
All candidates in contested races that appear on Tarrant County ballots were sent a Star-Telegram questionnaire about their campaigns and background. Here are the responses — unfiltered and in their own words — from the candidates who replied. Spelling and grammar have not been corrected.
For too long, these outside interests have prevented leadership in education, immigration, and economic development in Texas from the bottom up. The common sentiment I hear amongst voters as I travel across Texas is that people want a return to integrity, authenticity and transparency to elected office. For too long we have made politics less about the people we serve and more about raising money and staying in power. The only way to change this is to elect more candidates who have the experience of being a person in the real world - not a career politician.
I am in the unique position to offer this perspective to my constituents.
I am a candidate who shares experiences with the ordinary Texans desiring to do extraordinary things. I have cleaned houses, worked at Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen, have owned my own business, and worked my way through college. I understand what it is like to be an everyday Texan not a politician. Therefore, my office will be about the good people of Texas, not politics.
1. IMMIGRATION REFORM
We start from the foundation of human dignity, liberty, rule of law, and what is good for Texas. We must secure our borders and provide safety for our families on and near the border. Texas must step in where the Federal government is falling short.
I am the only candidate who is boldly taking on true immigration reform with a plan to educate, and mobilize our Texas immigrants towards prosperity and independence.
I support common sense guest worker programs that are good for Texas.
STEP ONE: SECURE the Border with Local Authority and Texas National Guard. Fight human and drug trafficking to keep the border safe. The property rights of Texans who live along the border should be secured using advanced technology – the government should not take their land and build a wall on it.
STEP TWO: Identify illegal immigrants already here and allow the non-violent ones to get a work permit – NOT CITIZENSHIP – just like the government did during the Bracero Program in the 1950s.
STEP THREE: Build a wall around the welfare state by denying welfare to all non-citizens. This will turn off the welfare magnet.
STEP FOUR: Create a Texan guest worker visa program that allows migrants of good standing to come temporarily and work for honest employers when there are no Americans who will do the job. This program should be managed by Texans and for Texans.
I’ll work to influence Federal policy that benefits Texas and grants more power to Texas to set its own policy.
I support reforms that move immigrants towards legal residency status so that:
· immigrants work by the rules; pay taxes, and contribute to the Texas economy
· immigrants are not exploited
· common sense policies will encourage work, not dependency
Texas will not tolerate criminal activity and those involved will be exposed, prosecuted, and deported. We see immigration as an engine of success for the global economy with a bi-lingual workforce that enables Texas to prosper from international trade and commerce in the 21st century.
2. BUILDING A MORE PRODUCTIVE ECONOMY FOR TEXAS
Texas has one of the best economies in the union. But we cannot depend on the strong economy of today to be there for future generations without a cohesive immigration reform and economic development plan. That is why, like my agenda for immigration reform, I have taken a long view of economic policy that will be good for Texas’ future. There is no question that business has been big in Texas. I want to turn our attention to two things economically which have great potential: small business growth and development and the 18.8 percentage of Texans living below the poverty line, which is more than the national average of 15%. My vision for keeping our economy strong is to have an economic solution to growing small businesses and building up our economy from the bottom-up as well as the top down.
I want to use the best practices of micro finance to provide access and opportunity to economically depressed communities. With diligent oversight and management, micro finance can uplift communities into prosperity and lead the way to economic empowerment for working families.
3. EDUCATION REFORM
Our education system is broken and bold leadership is the only solution. It is not that we do not spend enough money on education, rather we have more dollars then sense. I have a comprehensive education reform plan that uses resources in our state beyond TEA and the legislature. We need reforms that involve the community, private sector, educators, and parents along with the executive branch of government. A breakdown in community involvement, inclusiveness, and appropriate appointments have made serious reform difficult.
My first priority is to work towards solutions in education where the money follows each student. I want to establish true school choice within the public school system and through public charter and private schools. I want to look at incremental steps that will restructure the public school system, the way it is funded, the way it is attended, and the way teachers are paid, hired, and terminated. True leadership will collaborate with all invested parties in this process including educators, parents, and the local community. True education reform and educational resource development must also include local churches and the business community who can offer much needed resources that the government is unable to provide. In order to transform our education system into all that it can be for the 21st century, we must make a collective effort for maximum benefit.
As Governor, I want to personally show up for these young women. As the Republican nominee I will not be timid in challenging Davis and those who “Stand with Wendy” on the genocidal statistics that 1800 black babies are aborted daily in the US and in Texas at twice the rate of the black population with Hispanics being close behind.
In 2012, I was the Republican nominee for Texas House of Representatives, House District 41.
In 2012, I was selected to the Future Majority Project, a forward-thinking outreach initiative intended to proactively grow the Republican Party. Major goals of the Future Majority Project are to identify and support new Republican candidates of Hispanic descent and women candidates for state office.
In 2012, I was a delegate to the Texas GOP Convention held in Ft. Worth from June 7 through June 9.
Please note that I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in late 2010, so I was unable to vote before then.
Also keep in mind that the Governor of Texas is provided an expert staff on legislative and state government issues to help him/her implement his/her goals, work with the Texas Legislature and the Congress, and help lead state government in general.
Keeping state taxes low means more businesses and jobs are created, which result in more state money, through existing state taxes and fees, to invest in public education, health care, public safety and other state programs.
I am proposing The Texas Immigration Reform to identify more than one million undocumented immigrants in Texas. My plan would prohibit their use of state welfare services, require them to pay U.S. income taxes, follow all state laws in Texas, including carrying vehicle insurance, pay all state licenses, fees, and penalties, and protect U.S.-born children of this very important Texas workforce from being cruelly separated from their parents.
I would OPPOSE increasing the state sales and use tax, OPPOSE expanding the state sales and use tax, and OPPOSE creating a state personal income tax.
As governor, half of my gubernatorial appointments to state boards, commissions and agencies would be women. (Gubernatorial appointments require the advice and consent of the Senate).
As vacancies occur which require gubernatorial appointments, for each commission, board, and agency, I would first select a qualified woman, then a qualified man, in that order.
I would support legislation to allow a statewide election to require future governors to always select women for half of their appointments.
Campaign phone number: (512) 682-1082
Concealed Handgun Law and the most significant property right measure in the last 50 years, the Texas home equity lending constitutional amendment, which was approved by the voters by almost a 2/3's margin. Additionally, I have served 11 years as the statewide elected Texas Land Commissioner during which time record setting revenues were achieved for the Permanent School Fund and the Permanent University Fund, as well as the greatest increase in Texas veterans benefits through my leadership as chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board. I have been a vocal and consistent defender of the oil and gas industry, and fought in federal court to protect mineral rights of Texas property owners. I have been the most vocal and successful opponent of the federal government's efforts to use the Endangered Species Act to negatively impact the Texas economy and the property rights of Texas landowners.
In summary, I know how to lead and I know the most important component of successful leadership is to obtain and maintain the respect of those whom you seek to lead. That can be done by being straight, honest and direct with the voters, as well as the 31 members of the Texas Senate. My simple promise to Texan's is that I will tell you what I truly believe, instead of telling you what I think you want to hear. I firmly believe that the next generation is far more important than the next election, and that politicians are simply just passing through. We will be soon forgotten, but what we do or fail to do will be remembered. My goal is to insure the Texas of tomorrow, does not look like the California of today.
Cut waste, implemented efficiencies, and consolidated agencies with and at the Texas Department of Agriculture resulting in excess of $50 million returned to the taxpayers of Texas; Developed a 6-point immigration reform plan that does not include amnesty and starts with border security; Brought national attention to the federal government’s failure to secure our border by procuring a Strategic Military Assessment of the Texas border and aided in funding Operation Drawbridge (with budget savings from the Texas Department of Agriculture) that has resulted in the apprehension of over 20,000 seeking illegal entry and the confiscation of over 40 tons of narcotics; Sued the Obama EPA over job-killing mandates; Championed private property owners rights legislation and passage of a 2009 state constitutional amendment protecting home and landowners from eminent domain abuses; Worked with the private sector to launch a voluntary, consumer education water conservation campaign to meet our state’s water needs
Former Member of the Texas House and Senate:
Fighter for Free Enterprise Award (Texas Association of Business), Friend of the Taxpayer Award (Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy), Civil Justice Leadership Award (Texans for Lawsuit Reform) & Realtors Hall of Fame (Texas Association of Realtors); Consistently rated one of Texas’ top conservatives while serving in the Texas House and Senate; Sponsored and passed the State Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman; Passed major workers’ compensation reform; Recognized as a leader for a quality and accountable education system; Worked to pass historic tax cuts in both the House and Senate.
Both parties have let us down. Failing to secure our border is unacceptable. Border security is paramount to the future success of Texas and I have been actively working on this issue for years, not just before an election like my opponents. I have developed a six-point plan which starts with border security and does NOT include amnesty. Real issues deserve results and leaders who can deliver. I know I can because I have delivered on conservative issues time and time again and will not allow a liberal minority to sideline or slow down the critical issues facing Texas. David Dewhurst has had 12 years to lead and wants four more, all while saying he is for term limits. It shouldn’t take more than a decade to get things right.
Texas is great, but I believe we can do better. Texas needs a fighter. Texas needs a leader with a clear plan of action.
To provide voters transparency and accountability, I have outlined Ten Steps to a Strong Texas in my Contract With Texans which clearly defines my priorities as Lieutenant Governor. To learn more please visit www.toddstaples.com .
These priorities are:
Secure the Texas Border
Cut Taxes, Grow Jobs, Limit Size & Scope of Government
Get State Spending Under Control, Lower Debt, Increase Transparency
Strengthen 2nd Amendment Rights, Defend Our State’s Rights
Defend the Sanctity of Life, Improve Women’s Health, Uphold Traditional Family Values
Demand Student Focused, Parent Driven, Transparent and Quality Education System
Improve Healthcare, Reject Obamacare, Demand Welfare Reform
Defend Private Property Owners’ Rights
Uphold and Expand Tort Reforms
Apply Conservative Leadership on Transportation and Water Priorities
1. Border security, and crime along the border that eventually migrates through the rest of our state, is one of the biggest problems facing Texas. As the next attorney general, I will create a Border Security task force that will restore law and order to South Texas and the border area. Bringing together a special task force of law enforcement professionals and assistant attorneys general, working with local district attorneys and local prosecutors, will make a significant positive impact on this ever increasing problem. It is unthinkable that Texans living along the border are afraid to go out on their property at night for fear of who and what they might encounter. We need to send a stong signal to drug, sex and human traffickers and other terrorist and criminals that if you break the law in Texas, you will be prosecuted through the criminal justice system and you will go to jail.
2. Out-of-control federal regulations and policies are the second biggest issue facing Texans. As attorney general, I will continue to fight the Obama Administration’s overreach on climate change, photo-id, pro-life laws, Voting Rights Act cases and many other issues that are a constant threat to Texans and our way of life. The current administration has decided that it can circumvent our laws and constitution through agency rulemaking and executive orders. Unfortunately, many of those actions have harmed the Texas economy and trampled our rights. Other states look to the Texas attorney general for guidance and assistance with regard to important fights we need to have about the role of the federal government and the rights reserved to the states and their people.
3. Finally, I want to conduct a thorough review of the attorney general’s office and make certain that the 4,200 employees and the over half a billion dollar a year budget are working efficiently for Texans. Every large state agency I’ve managed has had room for improvement. I will provide better customer service at a lower price for the people of Texas. In particular I believe we need to thoroughly examine the Child Support Division of the office of the attorney general. This division is by far the largest and it plays a critically important role in the lives of many Texans. Under Texas Family Law, our goal is to always take action that’s in the best interest of our children. I will ensure that the Child Support Division is responsive to parents and judges to make certain that Texas Children are well cared for.
Comptroller of Public Accounts
Nearly every business in Texas works directly with the Texas Comptroller’s office, and so the Comptroller’s office needs to foster new business creation and work with Texas businesses to fairly enforce the tax system and work through disputes in the best way possible.
I am running to advance free enterprise, limit government, grow the Texas economy and work constructively with the private sector in Texas.
My background is in having direct oversight of the Comptroller’s office for the past three years as House Ways and Means chairman. In that time, I have held countless hearings and passed two important, major tax bills. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t in the Comptroller’s office, and that experience has made me passionate about my ten-point Performance Pledge to the voters and the ideas in them.
I believe that I am the most experienced, most substantive, conservative candidate running for this important office who has a specific plan of action and vision for how we can improve the office of Texas Comptroller.
1. Revenue estimation – The revenue estimation area of the Texas Comptroller’s office directly impacts how much the legislature can spend each biennium on all government services. The unfortunate fact is that the last two revenue estimations were the most inaccurate in state history. While the Texas economy is particularly dynamic right now, I believe we can do better in this area. It is my intention to provide more regular revenue estimation reports for the legislature and the public, and if I am elected, as part of a top to bottom review of the office, we will see what improvements can be made in the revenue estimation function in the office.
2. Business facilitation – The Texas Comptroller’s office is either enabling business and economic growth or constricting it, through helping businesses start up or working through tax disputes, for example. We cannot have an adversarial relationship between the Texas Comptroller’s office and Texas businesses, and that’ the one complain I’ve consistently heard across Texas over the past three years. The Texas Comptroller’s office, should I be elected, will make clear that we will be fair to all Texas businesses, with customer service improvement always in mind.
3. Ensuring fairness for taxpayers – Texas desperately needs to level the playing field in the direction of the taxpayer and away from the state.
As Texans, we have a long heritage of fighting for our rights and standing up to whatever powers would seek to deprive us of our freedoms. From our right to keep and bear arms to our rights to pass laws as a state, constitutional liberties are what enable us to live freely in Texas.
Texas needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights—and one that ultimately is preserved in the Texas Constitution—so that these important rights cannot be changed on a whim. Taxpayers are the underdog in our current system. There are many inequities, but we can correct most of them—ultimately making fair treatment permanent through a constitutional Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Such a Texas Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment should put an end to these inequitable and unfair practices, and mean that the State would:
1. Stop cheating taxpayers on interest payments – Texas taxpayers deserve parity in the way interest is applied to tax refund claims and assessments. The State today treats its money as being more valuable than a taxpayer’s money. If a Texas taxpayer underpays taxes, the State charges interest on the unpaid tax at a significantly higher rate than the rate it pays when the State has to refund money to a taxpayer.
2. Stop collecting tax assessments until appeals are final – Texas taxpayers deserve their day in court before they have to pay. Texas Taxpayers can be faced with losing their businesses when hit with large tax assessments that may not be correct. Under the State’s “Pay to Play Scheme,” the State begins enforcement and collection actions before you can even get to the courthouse. I’ll put an end to this decades-old unfair practice.
3. Quit making taxpayers wait to get their money back - The Texas economy is strong and getting stronger and taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait for their tax refunds. I’ll make sure Texas Taxpayers have a right to timely refunds. When I’m Comptroller, if you overpay your taxes, I’ll make sure you get them back without a long wait.
4. Stop making taxpayers guess what the law is - Texas taxpayers should have the right to accurate tax guidance when needed. Taxpayers just want to know the correct way to report taxes, but the rules that are in place today almost guarantee that, in many instances, they get no guidance at all.
5. End lopsided dispute and appeal processes - Texas taxpayers deserve a truly fair and impartial forum for settling tax disputes. From start to finish, the process today gives the State advantages that the taxpayer does not get. Worst of all, if a taxpayer actually wins a tax dispute before an administrative law judge, the Comptroller can still–and often does–reverse the judge’s decision. Even Illinois has a better system than Texas for resolving tax disputes and I think that is shameful.
The seven points of my proposal, which is item #4 of my Performance Pledge to the voters, are:
1. AUDIT FAIRNESS: If the IRS opens a federal audit, any subsequent state audit will be limited in scope and time only to that which the IRS is investigating.
2. SIMPLIFY REFUND PROCESS: If a federal audit uncovers facts that conclude a taxpayer is due a refund from the state, the state should make it easier for the taxpayer to obtain that refund.
3. ADJUDICATION BEFORE PAYMENT: If a legal tax protest is underway, a taxpayer does not have to pay the full tax amount until it is adjudicated.
4. EXTEND PROTEST PERIOD: The time requirement to file a tax protest will increase to 90 days from 30 days.
5. INTEREST RATE PARITY: Taxpayers should receive the same interest rate on refunds due as the state charges taxpayers when collecting deficient taxes.
6. DEFINED TIME PERIOD: The statute of limitations on tax audits will be limited and cannot be continually extended.
7. MADE PERMANENT: Once passed and implemented, this Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights should be offered as a Constitutional Amendment and left to the voters to make permanent.
I am running for office because the office is faced with serious internal and external challenges and problems. The next Comptroller would be best qualified if he has the experience, training, and skills of a true accountant, a true financial treasurer, a true Chief Financial Officer to properly address the necessary solutions to these many challenges and problems because another career politician does not have the skills to solve our challenges or take advantage of our opportunities.
· Implement Lean Six Sigma into state government. Sigma experts estimate there is $10-$15 billion in wasteful spending in state government. I plan to begin with the Comptroller’s office.
· I will use the Texas Expenditure Limit (TEL) in determining the amount of funds available to the Legislature for the budget. The reason is sound. Since 2003 the Legislature has spent in excess of $17 billion over the state’s (TEL) according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank group, while leaving critical issues like water and roads virtually unfunded. We must learn to prioritize our state spending to ensure continuing economic growth.
· I will establish a new statewide business partnership program. It will consists of: (1) The implementation of quarterly online and regional town hall meetings; (2) The establishment of six regional business advisory panels that will work closely with the Comptroller’ office to identify ideas that will grow the economy; (3) Set up task force to identify all regulations, permits, and laws that impede business growth; (4) The broadcast of weekly radio commentaries highlighting the economy, tax updates, and highlighting the newest innovations and business practices taking place in Texas.
Advancing these priorities are essential to our state’s future financial health. The reason is sound: The state of Texas can gain great benefits from the development and design and establishment of a clear 20 year financial plan for the state that provides workable and proven solutions. I believe the Comptroller must lead and rather than follow the lead of other politicians. He must set the policy ideas and the path to ensure that Texas remains economically strong. I have prepared an economic plan that address the needs and solutions for many of our current issues, most notably, it provides for a pathway to generate the necessary funds to pay for the $900 billion without a tax increase over the next 30 years. My plan calls for changes in the budget process, tax policy reforms, education reforms, and the establishment of citizen and business advisory groups to provide direction in regulatory, education, and legislative changes to enhance and support our economy and our quality of life in Texas. In addition, I will focus on building and fostering a pro-business climate between the business community and the Comptroller’s office.
Additionally, my specialty of human capital management will provide for a senior leadership perspective which understands that ultimately the only resource any organization has is that of its employees. Human capital is the most precious capital of all forms of capital. Without human capital, there is no other form of capital. With my expertise, I'll lead the GLO to ensure that we are recruiting the right people, with the right talent, and the right time. And, that we are providing the kind of career development potential for each and every employee so as to maximize their career growth.
Finally, as an authentic conservative, I understand that the work of the General Land Office must be constrained to its Constitutional scope and focus. Executive branch agencies almost always expand their scope beyond their original charter and insulate themselves from the public. We need to make sure this never takes place at the GLO. As Land Commissioner, I'll use my knowledge and love of Texas and my ability to articulate conservative solutions - to lead the GLO toward conservative solutions which benefit all Texans.
I'll work to educate the public and the Legislature on why we must stop diverting at least $1 billion annually toward the education of non-citizen children of illegal immigrants. I'll work to convince the Legislature that we must refocus Texas education funding on Texas children and lawful residents. And if we can successfully get the Legislature to pass such legislation, we'll lead the fight back to the Supreme Court to challenge Plyler v. Doe.
I'll reject efforts to have the Alamo designated as a U.N. World Heritage Site. The mere possibility of such a designation has already been used as influence to reject new construction in San Antonio. While the U.N. will not have control or authority over the Alamo, they will exert influence and I will reject such arrangements. There are no problems at the Alamo that require the U.N.'s help. There are no problems at the Alamo that Texans can't solve.
I'll work with the Legislature to build a framework whereby we restore custodianship of the Alamo to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The GLO can continue to have a checks and balances role, but we must respect the historic role of the DRT and restore custodianship of the Alamo to the 7,000 women of the DRT.
I'll immediately halt efforts to close the historically important Rollover Pass on Bolivar Peninsula. We'll then formulate a plan to save it for future generations of Texans while addressing erosion concerns.
I'll work with the Legislature to bring together the work of the Veterans Land Board and the Texas Veterans Commission into one unified work. Not only will this reduce redundancy and waste, but it will provide a much more effective and streamlined experience for our Texas Veterans. In view of Texas Veterans benefits, all services from low cost mortgages, to nursing homes, to cemeteries, to job aid, to education assistance, to navigating the Federal VA, will be housed in one streamlined organization. It is vital that this new work remain under the direct oversight of the directly elected Texas Land Commissioner, as this person must be the single person who can be easily and directly held accountable for how our veterans are cared for.
What in particular about your background, skills and experience makes you qualified for this office? My experience as an elected member of the Texas Legislature, coupled with my broad executive management experience in the private sector, makes me the most uniquely qualified for this office. Unlike some of my opponents, I am neither a lawyer nor a lobbyist; I am a successful and experienced entrepreneur who built and managed multi-million dollar businesses with hundreds of employees for more than three decades.
I bring a business and managerial skill set that will allow me to effectively run a large agency like the Texas Department of Agriculture in a manner that is beneficial to taxpayers and stakeholders in the Agriculture industry.
I also have the conservative experience that Texans trust, which is why I’m endorsed by the former Agriculture Committee Chair, Rick Hardcastle, and the following individuals and groups: Gary Polland/Texas Conservative Review, Terry Lowry/What’s Up Radio Program/Link Letter, Congressman Ralph Hall, Department of Public Safety Officers Association, Texas State Fire Fighters Association, POLICE, Inc., Senator Kevin Eltife, several local mayors and county commissioners, numerous Republican party officials, and Donnie Gay, 8-time PCRA world champion bull rider.
1. ) Property Taxes: The reform of our property tax and property appraisal system is key to sustaining the Texas agriculture industry, because family farmers and ranchers are suffering due to oppressive property taxes.
2) Illegal Immigration: Facilitate cooperation between local landowners and law enforcement to stop illegal trespassing on private property and ensure that immigration regulations are enforced.
3) Water: Overhaul the burdensome bureaucratic water regulatory system to enable farmers and ranchers to effectively do their jobs while preserving our precious resources.
As a former rural School Board Member, Ag Teacher, and a six term veteran of the Texas House of Representatives I have a proven record of standing up for Texas citizens against the encroachment of big government. I've authored numerous pieces of legislation that have supported our veterans, restored local control, and downsized the size of the state government. As Chairman of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee I have had direct oversight over the Agriculture Commissioner and the inter-working details of the Department. During my tenure in the Texas House I also served as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Public Safety committee, which centered my energy in establishing Texas' security and effective solutions to the serious threat on our border. Out of all the candidates in this race, I am the proven conservative champion with a realistic, out in the pasture background in Texas Agriculture and I would be humbled to carry your prayers, support, and votes in the upcoming election for Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
I am the fifth generation of my family who grew up ranching in South Texas, and I was raised on the 2,300 acre cow-calf operation I currently run. Before the drought, we could run upwards of 500 head of cattle, now we’re down to 200 due to the water shortage. I not only have experience dealing with water issues as an agricultural producer, but I am also the only candidate for Agriculture Commissioner who has actually represented Texas landowners in water rights, property rights, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Water Act issues. My experience directly translates to the work the Texas Department of Agriculture must do to take back management of our rivers, streams, and surface waters from federal management. Texas must be permitted to manage and develop our water resources effectively to meet the needs of our population and economy. We must also work to protect our property rights in unwithdrawn groundwater; you need an expert on water, and no other candidate has the depth and breadth of experience on this issue that I have.
I hold a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Texas. I clerked at the United States Court of Federal Claims—the nation’s only court for holding federal agencies responsible for takings of private property for public use without just compensation.
I also have been a leader in agriculture. Through the San Antonio Livestock Exposition’s Leadership Extension and Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension, where I was named as a Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leader, I taught ag leaders how to accomplish objectives at the state capitol. My legislative experience began over a decade ago as counsel to former Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena). I have not only run a major House committee, but have also accomplished important legislative successes as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas, as its’ Associate General Counsel and as chair of the South Texans’ Private Property Rights Association. I have also been a grassroots Conservative leader, putting our Party’s principles into action as a County Chairman, SREC member, and more over the last decade. No other candidate has the unique combination of agricultural, legislative and legal experience necessary to be an effective Agriculture Commissioner.
Lastly, we must have an Agriculture Commissioner dedicated to helping solve our state’s border security and immigration problem. The two former legislators running both supported the shift of higher education costs for illegal immigrants to the backs of legal Texas residents. The other candidate running testified before Congress against workplace verification of immigration status for employment. Both positions increase the incentive for illegal immigration into our state. I have seen firsthand the detrimental impact of illegal immigration on rural communities through rising social services costs, and increased danger farmers and ranchers in South and West Texas face from smugglers. I will work to secure our border by providing support to local law enforcement with TDA’s CDBG funding, and rather than turning a blind eye to market-distorting illegal labor as the other candidates have, I will work to reform our legal agricultural visa system using my close relationship with our Texas Republican Congressional Delegation. Agriculture must have strong legal workforce regulations that do not include amnesty or even the status quo, which is a de-facto amnesty, so that qualified workers can come to Texas to work and then return home, rather than current policy which incentivizes wholesale, permanent migration of families. We also must protect the border at the border, rather than 100 miles inland where rural residents are placed in danger from smugglers.
We also need to multiply our water harvesting capabilities by ten. Water harvesting is the only truly sustainable water management tool we have right now. State or executive level management of harvesting policy needs to be put in place. The logical oversight office would, again, be the Agriculture Commission. We also need to continue the development of desalination plants throughout the state. The deeper brackish waters that lie below our current, fresh groundwater sources are eminently recoverable. Texas must also encourage further research into better desalination processes, should the time come that the state needs to look to the Gulf of Mexico as a water source.
Texas needs to take a long, hard look at its overall water policies. Texas is the only western arid state that still relies on rule of capture in deciding water rights. This has not only put all of our water reserves at risk, especially in these times of drought, it has created a massive logjam of conflicting water rights suits in our courts. All of the various water districts that are now in conflict with each other need to be sewn together and put under one executive-level ruling body.
Texas has an opportunity to turn an important corner and lead on some very important issues both statewide, nationally, and internationally. But it's going to take someone who doesn't fall into the status quo and someone who isn't afraid to take on tough issues. I truly believe that someone is me.
I believe the re-introduction of hemp into Texas agriculture will prove to be a revolution in our agribusiness. Hemp uses half the water of cotton, produces two and a half times the comparable fiber, and it requires no pesticides whatsoever (cotton uses 25% of the world's total pesticides-another avenue of greater profit). Further, taxation on personal use of hemp/marijuana can be used to fund and improve our education system and a myriad of health care programs. Additionally, an end to prohibition will realize an estimated one-quarter to one-third reduction of border problems as well as an enormous reduction in Texas' prison population.
Oil and Gas business experience: as a small business owner in the Oil and Gas space, I am intimately familiar with the impact the Railroad Commission’s regulation has on economic growth, job growth, and capital investment decisions. I have created jobs and have invested in our Texas economy and understand the regulatory environment that, first, protects Texans, and, second, ensures the Texas oil and gas industry continues to drive an even stronger economy and lead this country to energy independence. Our business has also allowed me to participate in a variety of aspects of the industry, from drilling wells to owning mineral and royalties. As a mineral owner, I understand the value of private property rights and continued development of our resources. Finally, we have done work all across the country, and I have seen the impact other states’ regulatory regimes has on their respective economies. I know what it takes to protect Texans and allow continued job growth and economic success in this state.
Regulatory law experience: prior to starting an oil and gas business, I was a regulatory attorney at one of the world’s top law firms, fighting federal overreach and the EPA on behalf on business and jobs, including Texas jobs. For example, I successfully represented one of our state’s largest coal producers and power generators against the EPA’s unjust enforcement of the Clean Air Act. In addition to filing lawsuits against the EPA and other Federal agencies, I have experience with the rule-making process and fighting agencies through their own internal processes. This is more than a political talking point – it is about a fundamental difference in governing philosophies. Texas has regulated energy production longer and better than anyone in this country, and we believe Texas is imminently better suited than the federal government to regulate Texas energy.
In order to ensure Texas continues to regulate Texas energy development, we have to understand and anticipate incremental steps career bureaucrats may take to get a foothold through seemingly innocuous, tedious rulemaking. I have experience participating in that process, and succeeded in thwarting Federal Government activity. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I have actual experience regulating an industry. As a gubernatorial appointee to a Texas agency, I helped direct a staff of government employees, set policy for an industry in Texas, and participated in the complex rulemaking process. As the Chair of the Budget Committee, I also managed the budget and worked to protect Texans’ tax dollars by moving the agency from one wholly dependent on general revenue, to a semi-independent agency responsible for its own budget – a budget funded by the industry we regulated. I fought to create an efficient agency in order to ensure we were good stewards of our resources did not unnecessarily burden an industry with fees. In fact, we were able to cut fees in the process. Finally, as a member of the board, we oversaw technological upgrades to create further efficiencies – something the Railroad Commission will be doing over the course of the next few years.
Judicial Experience: in law school I was fortunate to work with now-Justice Alito, who reinforced in me the value of the Constitution, the rule of law, and limited government; I saw those principles applied to a variety of circumstances. After law school I worked for a federal district court judge and a federal appeals court judge, where those values were further reinforced. I learned how to find solutions to extremely complex issues while staying true to those principles. This experience positions me well to exercise the Railroad Commission’s quasi-judicial functions, such as rate setting, and deciding disputes between parties. It also positions me well to address and solve difficult and complex issues that might arise, such as eminent domain, property rights, and any other complex issue we have not yet anticipated. Additionally, I was a part of numerous cases involving the EPA and the current administration, which was a truly unique opportunity to witness first hand the tactics employed against business and the free market, as well as the decision making process employed by judges and courts when faced with those tactics. This experience, coupled with my business and regulatory experience, uniquely prepares me to serve Texas on the Railroad Commission.
Agency Efficiency: over the past several years, the RRC has gone from a staff of about 1200 to one of about 740, and technology has not been upgraded for over a decade. During that same time, the oil and gas industry has experienced a meteoric rise and has become one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world. As a result, the commission’s resources have been strained, and backlogs have occurred for certain permits and reports. To ensure the industry continues to create jobs and invest billions of dollars into our economy – as well as lead us to energy independence – we need to increase efficiencies at the commission. This will require implementing new technologies at the commission (currently underway), attracting and retaining highly qualified staff, and providing leadership and vision from the commissioners. On this last point, when commissioners are engaged in the regulatory process, they can direct efforts of staff to focus on specific bottlenecks. Perhaps more importantly, commissioners can guide the regulatory process by engaging staff early in the process to find efficient solutions to problems rather than wait until a solution is proposed (that could be harmful for continued growth) and then work to overrule staff and start over from scratch. With respect to the first two points, I would use my experience in the private sector to run the commission more like a business. Additionally, as a former appointee by Governor Perry to a state agency, I have the experience managing a government staff and budget, as well as overseeing the agency’s technological upgrades. And as the Budget Committee Chair, I oversaw the process of moving the agency to a semi independent, self-directed agency that was funded by the industry we regulated rather than general revenue. We were able to save taxpayer money as well as reduce fees in the process. I can go to work at the RRC on day one, which is why I am the only candidate in this race to have been endorsed by a former Railroad Commissioner – three have endorsed my campaign.
Sunset Review: the RRC has been under sunset review for the past two sessions and will undergo sunset again in four years. In 2011 we were dangerously close to losing the RRC – the oldest agency in Texas and gold standard in energy regulation –, which could have been devastating to an industry that is driving our strong economy and leading the energy renaissance in this country. It is imperative that the next Commissioner works to repair the relationship with the legislature and help guide the RRC through sunset. As a former board member of a state agency, I have been through the sunset process and am familiar with the process. Moreover, I am proud to be endorsed by multiple members of the current Sunset Commission, as well as multiple other current members, and will commit myself to working with the legislature to resolve all remaining issues and get the RRC out of Sunset review.
Fight for Texas: Although broadly categorized, this entails keeping the federal government out of energy regulation in Texas and assuring the citizens of Texas that the Commission is working for their best interest. On the first issue, the federal government – the EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service specifically – are working to regulate, or simply disrupt, the production of oil, gas, and coal in Texas. Whether it’s methane emissions in North Texas, the pressurization of oil fields in East Texas, or using a chicken and a lizard in West Texas to halt production (in the second largest oil field in the world), it is no secret that the Federal Government has been and could be a thorn in the side of this industry; its attack on the coal industry is more overt. The need to keep the federal government out of Texas is more than a political talking point – it is important to ensure the continued development of our resources and economic success of this state. These agencies have throughout the years shown hostility toward the development of fossil fuels, which of course could be devastating for Texas. Moreover, multiple layers of regulation (state and federal) add significant costs and inefficiencies and could hurt economic growth.
Finally, Texas’s resource plays are geographically diverse and the regulations must be tailored to ensure protection of Texans as well as maximal resource development. Texas knows what’s best for Texas and has been doing it longer and better than anyone – we, not the federal government, have the expertise to ensure we do what’s best for Texas. As a former regulatory attorney, I often represented Texas industries against federal agencies, including the EPA. I represented one of the state’s largest coal producers against the EPA in its attempt to enforce the Clean Air Act, which would have killed thousands of jobs in Texas and threatened energy reliability in this state. We were successful in defeating the EPA’s potential harmful overreach. Regarding the second part of this answer, the RRC must ensure that Texans know and believe that the RRC is working for their best interest first. Commissioners are elected to serve Texans and must work to protect their health and safety, as well as property rights, etc. Often times the interests of the industry and the interests of Texas align. But when they do not, Texans’ interests must come first. Having formerly worked with now Supreme Court Justice Alito, as well as other federal judges, I have the experience and track record of addressing very complex issues and finding solutions that protect the rights of Americans, and Texans specifically. I am proud to be endorsed by a number of grassroots groups across the state, as well as groups like Farm Bureau, Texas Cattle Raisers, and more.
My ability to work together with many different folks, my skills and knowledge in Texas government, and my willingness to find new, innovative solutions will serve me well as Railroad Commissioner.
Unfortunately the Railroad Commission is trying to oversee a 21st century industry with a 20th century mindset. That needs to change.
I will also work to create an Office of Public Advocacy within the Railroad Commission. The office will serve as a watchdog for citizens with grievances before the commission, and can assist them during the hearing process.
Supreme Court Chief Justice
· Jury Trials are being reversed over 74% of the time.
· There is presently a cloud over the Texas Supreme Court because of the long running ethics case against the current Chief Justice.
What in particular about your background, skills and experience makes you qualified for this office?I meet the qualification of the Texas Constitution under Article 5 Section 2. I also have practiced law for 37 years. I have been a policeman, prosecutor and judge. I have served in the Texas Legislature as a State Representative for sixteen years.
Supreme Court Justice, Place 6
Nothing can be done to correct what happened to my wife in the Obama Democrat’s Probate Court as approved by our Texas Supreme Court, but what I can do, is make damn sure it does not happen to you.
Our service men and women need to know we are fighting for their constitutional rights domestically as they fight in foreign lands.
Art.1.Sec.15. of our Texas Constitution states, “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.” Since 2000 74% of all jury verdicts reviewed by our Texas Supreme Court have been overturned, reversed. This is not conservative, not constitutional and does a disservice to our service men and women defending our constitutions in harm’s way.
Supreme Court Justice, Place 8
In 2004, Harris County citizens elected me to the 334th Civil District Court. They reelected me in 2008. In 2009, the Trial and Appellate Specialists named me Trial Judge of the Year. In 2010, Texas citizens elected me to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals where I currently sit as a Justice.
I am running because I believe we need a fresh perspective at the Texas Supreme Court and greater representation for the voice of women. Seven of the current nine members of the court are Governor Perry appointees and seven are men. I will bring a renewed Constitutional restraint to this court and a variation of voice to the dialog on State law and policy.
Court of Criminal Appeals Justice, Place 3
Guest Lecture UTHSC Department of Psychiatry on Expert Witness Testimony. Lecturer San Antonio Police Department Academy. Lecturer NISD Alternative Schools. Active in Booster Club and Sports Programs, including school sports photographer at Ronald Reagan High School 2002-2006. Assistant Photo Editor Yearbook BYU 1981-82. Church Mission to Argentina 1976-1978.
1. Significant changes in scientific evidence in many areas that have exonerated several wrongfully convicted defendants. The TCCA promulgates rules of evidence for criminal trials and those rules should address these changes and the admissibility of such evidence
2. Online filing of briefs and records to that court. Most appellate courts across the State have implemented this and I would work to do that at the TCCA.
3. Legislative changes in discovery rules, in light of the Michael Morton Act and exoneration. One way to do that would be to educate judges on these changes and the obligation the State has to turn over specific information to the defense. The TCCA administers funds that educate judges.
Court of Criminal Appeals Justice, Place 4
Innocence Project of Texas - Board member
Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association - Board member
- Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year 2013
Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association - Board Member
- Mentor in the Second Chair Program
- Lawyer of the Year 2013
University of Houston Law Center - Student mentor
Houston Bar Association - Member of Criminal Appellate Bench/Bar Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Committee
Star of Hope Homeless Shelter - Volunteer
I am the only candidate in my race who is board certified in criminal appellate law. This is a significant achievement involving passing a six hour exam. Not just any lawyer can take the exam; there are several prerequisites. First, you must have handled a certain number of cases and oral arguments. Second, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys must recommend that you be allowed to even sit for the exam. Finally, a panel reviews your experience and recommendations and determines whether you will be allowed to take the exam. Fewer than 120 Texas attorneys are certified in criminal appellate law.
Currently, seven of the nine judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals are former prosecutors. With my background form the defense perspective, I will provide some much needed balance to a court that is perceived to often turn a deaf ear to the concerns of individual defendants. In these days of Michael Morton and numerous exonerations, a prosecutor has little understanding of what it is to represent an individual and fight for every piece of information that is easily available to the prosecutor.
One of my opponents has been a prosecutor for some 20 years. His experience and perspective is already well represented on the Court.
A key part of being a good Court of Criminal Appeals judge is writing opinions that serve to educate the bar on proper criminal law procedures. Opinions should clarify the law - not make it more murky. As an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center, I have been educating future lawyers for nearly 15 years. Additionally, I frequently teach at the State Bar of Texas Advanced Criminal Law Course which trains judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys.
Significantly, I am the only person in this race with extensive practice in federal court. This is extremely important because many of our state court convictions end up being challenged in federal court. When the Court of Criminal Appeals fails to fully consider every issue, federal courts are left to “guess” at what the Court’s decision was. A judge should always see the end game and write an opinion which will answer any questions the federal court might have.
Currently, convicted defendants can file one writ of habeas corpus, absent extraordinary circumstances. But the entire court does not consider each writ of habeas corpus. As it stands today, a writ of habeas corpus is only considered by one judge of the court, if relief is going to be denied. It is my belief that all nine judges should participate in each case.
Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Place 9
I am currently a member of the Course Planning Committee for this year’s Advanced Criminal Law Course put on by the State Bar of Texas. I was recently awarded the 2013 C. Chris Marshall Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Education of Texas Prosecutors from the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association. At the 2013 State Bar of Texas Advanced Criminal Law Course, I presented the Court of Criminal Appeals Update highlighting the significant decisions from the most recent term of the Court of Criminal Appeals, and I have been presenting this subject almost continuously since 2007. I also presented the United States Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals Update at the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update, again something I’ve been doing almost continuously since 2007. I served as a faculty advisor at the Matthew Paul Advanced Appellate Skills Course in Waco. I also served as Chair of the Editorial Board for The Texas Prosecutor, the bimonthly newsletter for the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association.
I am a Patron Associate of the Texas Federation of Republican Women as well as an associate member of both the Spirit of Freedom Republican Women and the Texas Tea Party Republican Women. I am also a member of the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club and the Houston Bar Association. Additionally, my family and I are very active with the Literacy Council of Fort Bend County, and we support the Star of Hope Mission in Houston, Child Advocates of Fort Bend, Parks Youth Ranch, and Fort Bend Junior Service League.
As discussed above, I have lectured extensively upon the significant decisions from the Court of Criminal Appeals. I have been asked to do so not only for the State Bar and the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, but also for the Texas Association for Appellate Court Attorneys. Similarly, the University of Texas CLE has repeatedly asked me to speak at their Conference on Criminal Appeals put on with the assistance of the Court of Criminal Appeals itself. Moreover, I have written numerous articles analyzing and explaining the significant decisions of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Supreme Court for the Texas Prosecutor.