The next Texas Legislature will take on some weighty issues.
Balancing the budget in the face of a funding shortfall, finding a better way to fund public schools, improving the embattled child welfare system and bettering the state’s approach to mental health are just a few of the topics at hand.
But the question now is who will be at the Texas Capitol to work on these problems?
Legislators in Tarrant County and across the state face challengers in the Nov. 8 election, as newcomers believe they can do a better job than many of those already in office.
“Legislative seats are coveted by a lot of people, and it’s never a surprise that most have nominees in both parties,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “Of course, from a democratic perspective, giving voters choice in elections is a wonderful thing — secure politicians are not always as receptive to the public interest as those who know they could lose.”
Some candidates are in the race because they are dissatisfied with the representation they have gotten.
“The nation as a whole is not satisfied with government in general,” Riddlesperger said. “While most of that anger seems directed at the national level, there are also indications of frustration with the state Legislature.”
Some challengers may be on the ballot for a different reason: GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I believe that Donald Trump really opened the political flood gates, so now many persons have been inspired to run for office,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “This, plus so many issues, so much controversy and contention within and between the various political parties.
“Most incumbents will likely prevail, but it is good for democracy that they have to defend themselves so as not to become too complacent.”
At stake in each legislative race this November is a two-year term for House members and a four-year term for senators. Both jobs pay $7,200 a year. Early voting runs Oct. 24-Nov. 4.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. The 33-year-old oil and gas consultant — an opinionated Tea Party conservative described by some as a political bomb-thrower — is seeking a third term in office, vowing to “be the most conservative member of the House.” Stickland has drawn headlines for everything from past drug use to being the focus of a legislative investigation into whether witness cards were falsified. His top priority, if re-elected, is “as always, keeping the scope of government so small I can barely see it,” he said. “I will personally be focused on restoring the Second Amendment rights of Texans through constitutional carry.”
Democrat Kim Leach. She did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
Green Party Travis Christal. The 29-year-old senior fiscal analyst from Fort Worth said he’s in the race to make a difference. “As a certified public accountant who spent more than three years auditing entities including HEB-ISD, Tarrant Appraisal District and FWISD, I have the financial expertise, integrity and objectivity required to make informed decisions in the best interests of our constituents,” he said. Christal noted that “the corrupting influence of big money in politics” must be addressed.
Libertarian Leah Sees. The 58-year-old medical revenue cycle management company owner from Euless said she’s in this race “to bring awareness of the Libertarian Party and its small-government principles to my community, my state and my country.” She said she’s devoted to the cause of reducing the size of government and believes the top issues in this race are “taxes, controlled substances, police accountability [and] roads funding.”
State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth. The 36-year-old business transition and benefit consultant said he’s seeking a third term in office “to keep Texas the greatest state in the greatest country on Earth.” Top challenges next year include a budget shortfall, education funding and choice and appraisal reform. “I think I have proven myself to the voters of District 93 the past two sessions and look forward to continuing that work,” he said.
Democrat Nancy Bean: The 61-year-old counselor and educator from Arlington said she’s in this race to make a difference. “Texas is my home; I have to be part of the movement to rebuild our Texas home with dignity and opportunity,” she said, adding that she’s the best candidate because she has a lifetime experience of serving — as an educator, minister, community organizer and mother. She believes the biggest challenges next year include permanent funding of public education and ensuring there’s enough money for infrastructure.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington. The 46-year-old director of training and recruiting is seeking a second term in office to work on issues including an unsecured power grid, public education, roads and “issues that protect life, liberty and property.” His priorities include “protecting the rights of legal citizens as explained in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions and the Bill of Rights. Freedom and these rights are inalienable. Government does not grant them, government’s job is to protect them.”
Libertarian Jessica Pallett. She did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth. The 44-year-old attorney is seeking a third term to focus on issues such as improving the Child Protective Services system. “Too many children are suffering within the system and are not receiving the proper care they need,” she said. “There are children being removed from their homes only to be placed in an unstable system meant to protect them, but in reality often subjects them to further trauma, abuse and neglect.”
Republican Albert G. McDaniel of Fort Worth. The 62-year-old professional engineer, who unsuccessfully ran for this post two years ago, is again seeking this job because he’s “tired of southeast Fort Worth being written off as a lost cause.” He said his top priority, if elected, would be to bring better jobs to southeast Fort Worth and improve public education statewide. When asked about the biggest issues or challenges for the Legislature next year, he replied: “Surviving the mistakes of bo — Get ready for the Muslim invasion of Texas.”
State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington. The 73-year-old Arlington consultant and investor who was first elected in 2003 is seeking another term to “fight for conservative principles.” “My record shows that I did not just talk the talk, but that I have walked the walk as well,” he said. Top issues in this race, he said, include “illegal immigration, job creation, education and property tax relief.”
Democrat Sandra D. Lee of Kennedale. The 54-year-old truancy officer said she’s running for office because she believes Texans are ready for change. “I believe that our elected officials are not doing what is best for the citizens of Texas,” she said. “We need people in Austin that can think outside the box and bring new ideas to solve old problems.” Top issues include Medicaid expansion, education reform and a livable wage.
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth. The 48-year-old real estate investor is seeking a third term in office, saying the top problems that need to be addressed next year include balancing the budget, adequately funding public schools and decreasing the tax burden on Texans and Texas businesses. “As a 5th generation Texan and 4th generation native of the city of Fort Worth, I know this area well and I know my district well,” he said.
Democrat Elizabeth Tarrant. She did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
Libertarian Patrick Wentworth. He did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. The 43-year-old private-equity manager is seeking a third term in office. He said the state budget next year will be a key concern at a time when a number of issues must be addressed, including reform of CPS, “foster care redesign, improving our mental health programs, addressing a broken public education finance system, reducing over testing in public schools, retired teacher healthcare costs, lowering the tax burden, analyzing and evaluating government contracts, protecting data from cyber security attacks, and maintaining the integrity of our elections.”
Democrat Maricela Sanchez Chibli of Colleyville, who owns a masonry company with her husband, said the reason she is seeking political office is simple. “I’m running for office because of the quagmire the state of Texas is in. The Republicans’ ideological and philosophical extremists agenda are my greatest concern in that civil and human rights violations are occurring in the name of their platform.” Her top priorities if elected: “public education, women’s rights, economic opportunity for all and social justice which includes the undocumented, the Hispanic, Muslim and LGBT communities.”
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth. The 66-year-old restaurant owner and rancher, who has served in office since 2001, said he’s seeking another term because there’s more he wants to accomplish. Top issues include balancing the budget, funding public education, improving CPS and looking at what can be done to lower the property tax burden on Texans. “I enjoy my job and I think I’m pretty good at it,” he said. “I know how to work within the system to get things done.”
Libertarian Dan Hawkins of Blue Mound. The 50-year-old software support technician said he’s running for office “to give voters a choice other than the 16-year incumbent.” He said the top issues in this race are federal overreach, excessive taxes and excessive spending. “I live and work in the real world and I believe in individual liberty and letting people live their lives,” he said.
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. The 43-year-old communications consultant serving his third term representing this district said he’s seeking another term to help the district and the state. “I take very seriously the privilege of serving as an effective voice for my constituents on legislative issues in Austin, as well as on an individual basis, by providing constituent services and serving as a resource for our local community.” Top issues next year, he said, including funding public education, improving the foster care system and CPS, and improving access to mental health care and overall health care.
Republican Carlos “Charlie” Garza. He did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound: The 64-year-old former teacher and businesswoman who has served in the Senate since 2003 is seeking another term. “I am a conservative Republican who gets the job done for my constituents,” said Nelson, who last year became the first woman to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “As a former teacher, businesswoman and grandmother who cares deeply about our children’s future, I will fight to uphold the conservative principles that keep Texas strong and successful.”
Libertarian Rod Wingo. He did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. Birdwell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who survived the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, has represented this district since 2010. He did not respond to Star-Telegram requests for information.
Democrat Michael Collins. The 79-year-old former forensic documentalist and bank executive is making his first bid for public office. He believes several problems face the state, including “the lack of education for everyone.” But his top priority, if elected: “There is a group of billionaires (none from Granbury) who are building a secret institution that can be dangerous for our Granbury. I have already started getting help from Austin to plug that loop-hole. Once I have accomplished that I will move on to providing more education.”