What was once thought of as a race to see who would be in second place behind Rick Miller to represent Sugar Land and Richmond in the Texas House of Representatives is now an election up for grabs.
The race to fill his seat in District 26 looks to be wide open after Miller, who has served in the Texas House since 2013, ended his re-election campaign after facing backlash from racially insensitive comments he made to the Houston Chronicle in early December.
In all, there are seven candidates – three Republicans and four Democrats – vying to lead the district by competing in their party primary elections. Early voting ends Friday, with Election Day March 3.
The fellow Republicans seeking to replace the outgoing Miller are Leonard Chan, former Fort Bend Republican Party chairman Jacey Jetton and licensed insurance adjuster Matthew Morgan.
Chan, who was raised in Sugar Land and graduated from nearby Clements High School, is not new to public service at the state level, having previously interned in the U.S. Senate under Sen. John Cornyn and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. During his campaign, Chan has focused on issues such as public safety, transportation, public education and immigration, and he said he is dedicated to keeping his constituents’ trust at the top of his priorities.
“I know what it means to be in a position of public trust,” Chan said on his campaign website. “Individuals serving in positions of public trust have a responsibility to live up to a higher standard, and should not use their positions for personal gain or to cause irreparable harm to others.”
As the father of two young boys, one of Jetton’s primary focuses is on education. He has been endorsed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as well as U.S. Rep. Pete Olson and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst.
“The success of Texas is closely tied to how well we educate our future. For our state to prosper, we must have an educated workforce to strengthen our middle class, be our future builders and innovators, and keep our economy churning,” Jetton says on his campaign website. “We cannot continue to grow this bureaucratic, top heavy education system that suffocates the needed resources from our teachers and students in the classroom.”
As a small business owner, Morgan’s primary goal is to keep the Texas economy thriving in its current state by creating less red tape and more opportunities for small
“The Texas miracle is alive and well, and that is in large part due to the friendly business climate created by the Republican-led Texas Legislature,” Morgan said on his campaign website. “As a small business owner, I will be a strong advocate in Austin to maintain an economic climate in Texas that attracts the best talent and fosters economic opportunity. I will oppose needless regulations that only result in obstacles for entrepreneurs, business owners, and all Texans to thrive.”
The four Democrats vying for the District 26 seat are Lawrence Allen Jr., Sarah DeMerchant, Suleman Lalani and Rish Oberoi. DeMerchant, the wife of Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant, also ran in 2016 and 2018, losing to Miller in the general election both times.
Allen, a third-generation educator, has held the District 4 seat on the Texas State Board of Education since 2004, serving parts of Fort Bend and Harris counties. A former teacher, principal and assistant principal in Houston ISD, education and teacher pay raises are at the forefront of his campaign along with Medicaid and related services.
“Every person in this district deserves to be equally represented regardless of gender, race, religion or lifestyle of choice,” Allen said in a video posted to his campaign website.
Sarah DeMerchant is a product of Fort Bend ISD, graduating from Willowridge High School. Currently a service account manager for a software development company, her main campaign focuses have been maternal healthcare for African-American women, better prices for necessary medication and lowering student interest rates. She has also put an emphasis on reducing inequality in the justice system.
“Fort Bend County is the most diverse county in the country and one of the most diverse in the world,” her campaign website reads. “No one should be at risk of being stopped and asked personal questions simply because they are a person of color. This is discrimination and does not belong in our society.”
Suleman is a longtime private practice physician and has set down roots in Sugar Land for the last 15 years. Having seen firsthand struggles such as what he views as poor access to healthcare, that issue is front and center in his campaign along with improving education opportunities.
“As your State Representative Dr. Lalani will bring decades of experiences from his practice and the real-life ramifications that his patients have suffered,” his website reads. “The billion-dollar patch (of House Bill 3) on our school finance problem was only a short-term solution to an issue our children will face for decades. We must create sustainable long-term funding for our public schools and the state must have buy-in to assure every district is equally and fairly funded.”
Healthcare and education are also at the top of the list for Oberoi, a longtime Fort Bend resident who is running for office for the first time. However, he is no stranger to public service, having served as a policy aid for former Speaker Joe Straus and on campaign teams for Mike Collier and Sri Preston Kulkarni. Similar to Lulani, Oberoi is running a campaign centered on improving educational equality as well as flood mitigation and healthcare
“As your state representative, I will fight to expand Medicaid so more of Texas’ tax dollars stay in our state,” his campaign website reads. “… Here in the Greater Houston Area, some of the best public schools in the nation are five minutes away from the worst-performing schools. We need to do better by focusing on sustainable funding for our entire public school system. We have an opportunity to make Texas a shining example for our nation.”