November 2013 Election Coverage—Texas House District 50

Texas House District 50 (includes Pflugerville voters)

Special election called to fill seat vacated by former state Rep. Mark Strama

Celia Israel

Residency: Austin

Occupation: Realtor

Years lived in district: 18

Top priorities: Mass transit, the cost of higher education, women's health, affordable housing and land use

Q. What qualifies you for this position?

A. I have worked for the state of Texas at the executive as well as at the rule-making level. I have a clear understanding of the legislative process. Given my varied service to the community on boards of organizations ... I am keenly aware of a variety of issues we are challenged with.

Q. What challenges does District 50 face?

A. Because District 50 goes from far west to far east Travis County, the needs are diverse and challenging. Voters have told me that our underfunded schools are most important to them. Access to health care is another issue of importance; we must work to ensure that more Texans have comprehensive health care.

Q. How would you address those challenges?

A. I would advocate for fully restoring the funding cuts made to public education in 2011. We cut public education by $5.5 billion in 2011. Every school district in Texas is still hurting because of those cuts. In regards to health care, I would work to educate the district [residents] about their current options.

Q. What would you improve in the district, and how would you accomplish that?

A. Transportation/mobility and voter participation are both issues I would like to work on for the district. I will aim to serve on the House Transportation Committee and do the detailed work involved with that portion of the state budget.

Q. What would be the first bill you would file?

A. Former HD 50 Rep. Mark Strama authored a bill that would allow for online voter registration. I have previously stated that I would re-author this bill. Texas legislators should fight to ensure that every citizen is able to vote and every citizen has access to registration.

Rico Reyes

Residency: Pflugerville

Occupation: Attorney and officer in the Marine Corps Reserves

Years lived in district: 10

Top priorities: Public education, health care and middle-class jobs

Q. What qualifies you for this position?

A. I am a husband and father, born in Austin, with deep ties to this district. I graduated from Harvard, and [I] have an MBA and [Juris Doctor] from The University of Texas. I served on active duty in the Marines and continue to serve in the Reserves.

Q. What challenges does District 50 face?

A. We have technology and medical industries booming in the north and multigenerational families with hardships in the south. We are experiencing rapid growth and must balance the discrete needs of rural and eastern Travis County with growing suburban areas like Pflugerville and well-established neighborhoods in Northwest Austin.

Q. How would you address those challenges?

A. We need to make education ... a priority. We need to make sure children are insured and that quality health care is accessible to everyone. We need to make it easier for people to start small businesses and to recruit large employers and develop new industries. We need multimodal transportation solutions and water solutions.

Q. What would you improve in the district, and how would you accomplish that?

A. Strengthening the pillars of the American Dream will improve the district, but it will take a team effort with a strong leader. I will build on common ground whenever and wherever I can while drawing the line when necessary.

Q. What would be the first bill you would file?

A. I'll work harder than anyone to make the American Dream possible for everyone. A Texas Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would go a long way to ensure women get equal pay for equal work.

Jade Chang Sheppard

Residency: Austin

Occupation: Small-business owner

Years lived in district: Two

Top priorities: Public education, health care, pay equity, nurturing small businesses

Q. What qualifies you for this position?

A. I began my career in the Austin tech industry that now drives our regional economy. As someone who built a company from nothing into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, I have a keen understanding for how policies can help or hinder small businesses.

Q. What challenges does District 50 face?

A. There are teachers at schools like Parmer Elementary who ... are being asked to do far too much without being given the proper resources. Anyone who drives to work on our highways knows that we also have some serious transportation issues. Like the rest of Texas, there are too many residents uninsured in the district.

Q. How would you address those challenges?

A. Our schools would be much improved by decreasing our state's reliance on high-stakes testing and increasing funding. We could free up funding in the state budget for things like education and transportation infrastructure if we simply got rid of many of the corporate tax loopholes [Gov.]Rick Perry used to reward his campaign contributors.

Q. What would you improve in the district, and how would you accomplish that?

A. [Former] Rep. Mark Strama did so much for the communities of HD 50, and I would strive to continue his work. We need to keep nurturing the tech industry that drives so much of our regional economy. We need to continue fighting for funding for our children's schools and roads.

Q. What would be the first bill you would file?

A. The first bill I would file would fix the problem of women continuing to be paid less than comparably qualified men. There is a federal law in place that addresses this problem, but women in Texas can't fight this battle in state court, which my bill would fix.

Mike VanDeWalle

Residency: Austin

Occupation: Chiropractor

Years lived in district: 31

Top priorities: Stopping Obamacare and cutting unnecessary regulations, keeping taxes low, defending life and liberty

Q. What qualifies you for this position?

A. As a small-business owner and community doctor, I have experienced firsthand the job-killing nature of unnecessary government regulation. For the last 30 years, I've learned what it takes to create jobs at home.

Q. What challenges does District 50 face?

A. Our biggest priority is stopping the spread of harmful government regulation, especially Obamacare. Today, doctors and small-business owners in our district have mounds of regulations and paperwork that keep them from doing what they do best. We need to cut out the destructive middleman and get government out of the way.

Q. How would you address those challenges?

A. The first thing we've got to do is increase efficiency by removing the roadblocks to economic growth. When doctors spend more than a third of their work day filling out Obamacare paperwork, we know we've got a huge problem. We can take steps to cut these inefficiencies so doctors and small businesses can do their jobs better.

Q. What would you improve in the district, and how would you accomplish that?

A. I will measure success in our district by how many jobs we create, and the best way to do that is cutting harmful government regulation and keeping taxes low. As a state representative, my charge will be to work tirelessly for our economic growth and success.

Q. What would be the first bill you would file?

A. The number of regulations standing between my patients and me is an undue burden that all doctors and small businesses have experienced. My first legislative priority is to address removing these regulations so we can do our jobs efficiently.



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