The status quo of a couple of the political locals is changing as is to be expected in the game of life, where you get to create what you do. It was just the other day that the work agendas of the politicos appeared to be copacetic – in other words, ducky fine.
In mid-July, there was a political insights program at Safari Texas with four elected state legislative officials representing this area that was jointly hosted by the two area local chambers of commerce – the Fort Bend Chamber and the Central Fort Bend Chamber. And it was quite timely. The end of the latest 140-day Texas Legislative session had wrapped up its business on May 27. Our local state officials called this a historic legislative session with property tax reform and transparency, school finance, teacher pay and border security as its key issues.
Updates by Texas Reps. Rick Miller (District 26), Ron Reynolds (District 27), Phil Stevenson (District 85) and Dr. John Zerwas (District 28) represented a summary of their opinions and analysis of their work on behalf of taxpayers, making for conversations that need to matter to all of us. But because the speakers were politicians, it came as no surprise that there was no time for a Q&A talk period. There was one question in particular that was making the hush-hush rounds in the room. More on that later.
Zerwas to resign
Fast forward…but not that fast. The announcement just last week about Zerwas’ plan to resign from office felt a little like a bombshell. The Richmond Republican, first elected to the state legislature in 2006, has accepted a position with the University of Texas System and will take with him 12 years of public service to his new role as executive vice chancellor overseeing a network of six health institutions with medical, dental and nursing schools. Referred to as an authoritative and influential state representative, Zerwas is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the group that handles budget writing for money from the state treasury. He will leave office at the end of September.
There’s no void when it comes to prospects for his vacated state seat. This Monday, former Fulshear City Councilwoman Tricia Krenek announced her candidacy for District 28. Krenek, who has served as a precinct chair for the Fort Bend Republican Party, won the party’s primary for County Court at Law Court No. 3 last year, but lost the race to the Democrat now in office, Juli Mathew. In that race, Krenek’s announcement reports that she carried the vote in District 28, however.
There’s also Democrat Elizabeth (Eliz) Markowitz, a Fort Bend local, who has already launched a District 28 bid for 2020. Last year, she ran for the Texas State Board of Education District 7 seat in the general election and was defeated by Republican Matt Robinson, a physician from Galveston.
Miller in the running
Another announcement last week was followed by interpretative rumblings about how Miller of Sugar Land may leave office…or not. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released Miller’s name and another one in relation to filling the vacancy of commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
“I am honored to be under consideration by the governor for this very important position,” Miller told the Star.
Miller applied for the position last month when it opened.
“My wife and I have been working on child protective services, foster children and protective services for over three years,” he said.
Miller’s membership on the human services committee for the last two legislative sessions has no doubt given him more insight “from a policy and funding perspective,” he said, as did his work on the appropriations committee for the last three sessions.
Even with a new position in play, Miller dispelled rumors that he’s resigning from office and giving up his state district seat, which would mean he’s not running for re-election.
“I have an opponent in the primary and I shouldn’t,” he said.
But here’s the solution to his dilemma: If Miller is selected for the commissioner’s position, “I’ll take it,” he said, and if not, “I’ll get reelected.” He has already called the governor’s office for a re-election endorsement, albeit the governor’s decision to fill the state agency vacancy is still in abeyance.
Take note that last year, Miller won his district seat by about 5 percentage points against Sugar Land Democrat L. Sarah DeMerchant, who grew up here in the Fort Bend community and graduated from Willowridge High School. DeMerchant is again making a bid for his state legislative seat along with another Sugar Land Democratic Party hopeful, Rish Oberoi, reportedly intending on becoming the first Indian American to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. There may be more interest in that race. The filing deadline is not until Dec. 9.
Stephenson standing pat
Stephenson, the Republican incumbent from Wharton, is possibly still the only working CPA on the legislature, and he was uncontested in the last primary. He represents Southwest Fort Bend, Wharton and Jackson counties and in last November’s general election, he defeated Democrat Jennifer Cantu of Rosenberg.
He also won a contested race in 2012 against popular Democratic opponent Dora Olivo, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives for District 27 who served between 1997 and 2011. Before that, Olivo was defeated in the 2010 Democratic Party primary by Reynolds, the District 27 incumbent.
Reynolds roils some with post
He’s had many successes. So, what is Reynolds up to these days? A heads-up Facebook post about expected U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids is what the rumblings were about right before the political insights program started at Safari Texas. The question begged about the July 13 post but was not asked. Is it OK, even ethical for him to be doing this?
Subsequent attempts before press time to ask Reynolds about the post were unsuccessful. It advised of anticipated ICE raids on what were called “immigrant” families. Know your rights, he advised on the post, along with a phone number to call.
One could surmise that the immigrant family reference was intended for undocumented individuals and families, but maybe not just them. These days, term usage is an issue. Illegal immigrants is considered dehumanizing in some circles. Illegal aliens, pejorative and distasteful; and undocumented immigrants, perhaps that is a more useful term set for those overstaying their stay.
In this case, it just may be that Reynolds’ warning and advice to immigrant families is his choice of expression for migrants and assorted others in a dysfunctional immigration system.
Based on the content of his post, his warning was about deportation roundups, which could lead to family separations. Pending removal orders could mean that not only would undocumented immigrants be affected, but also “mixed-status” families with some green card members, and even U.S. citizens, by virtue of their U.S. native-born status – children, in all likelihood.
As for terminology, that’s another topic altogether.