State House, District 49 • Democratic candidates Q&A

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, announced he is not running for re-election so seven Democrats are vying to represent District 49 in the Texas House of Representatives. All seven candidates are Austin residents. No Republicans filed for the election, so the March 1 primary election could determine the District 49 representative. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates who receive the most votes will head into a runoff election.

Aspen Dunaway Aspen Dunaway[/caption]

Aspen Dunaway


Top priorities
• Raise the homestead exemption to $50,000; double exemptions for disabled veterans, seniors
• Fully fund Medicaid in Texas
• Freeze tuition at state universities through 2018

Why do you want to hold this office?

I was born in this district, and I have spent my life fighting for the core values we all hold dear: justice, tolerance and opportunity for all. I believe I have the best ideas as contained in my Formula for 49, a comprehensive list of the first 10 bills I will file after I am elected.

Huey Rey Fischer Huey Rey Fischer[/caption]

Huey Rey Fischer


Top priorities
• Reduce student loan debt
• Combat the Republicans’ agenda against minority and immigrant families
• Restore funding to Planned Parenthood to give the uninsured access to contraceptives, health screenings and abortion care

Why do you want to hold this office?

[Gov.] Greg Abbott’s attacks on families are personal to me. I’m the LGBTQ son of a once-undocumented mom from Mexico and a Jewish dad from Brooklyn. Everyday Austinites deserve a representative who shares in their struggles. I am the liberal in this race.

Gina Hinojosa


Top priorities
• Change how public education is funded
• Allow public universities to opt out of open carry and allocate more funding for mental health
• Restore funding to Planned Parenthood

Why do you want to hold this office?

I will bring a progressive voice to the Capitol on issues that are critical to my district and to Austin. Republicans want to turn back the clock on education, women’s health, voting rights and the environment. I will speak out on these issues and work hard to fill the shoes left by Rep. Naishtat.

Kenton Johnson Kenton Johnson[/caption]

Kenton Johnson


Top priorities
• Reduce the student-to-teacher ratio in classrooms
• Keep pension and retirement promises to retirees, firefighters, police and public employees
• Make affordable housing in Austin a reality

Why do you want to hold this office?

For over 30 years, I’ve lived and worked in Central Austin. My wife and I recently celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and our son’s first birthday. District 49 is our home. We are proud of it and want to protect it for our son’s generation and generations to come.

Blake Rocap Blake Rocap[/caption]

Blake Rocap


Top priorities
• Reform our property tax and education funding system
• Improve access to health care
• Protect public pension plans

Why do you want to hold this office?

I’m running because the long-term success of our state depends on correcting the shortsighted vision of the current Republican leadership. The decisions the Legislature makes impact every facet of our lives. I am the candidate with the experience to start rolling back the damage Republican budgeting has created.

Matthew Shrum Matthew Shrum[/caption]

Matthew Shrum


Top priorities
• Raise standards in public education and advocate for students, faculty and staff of higher-education institutions
• Ensure streets and highways are safe and promote alternative transportation solutions

Why do you want to hold this office?

I’ve spoken with and know a lot of people in this district. Those conversations and my own observations lead me to believe that it’s time for a new direction for this seat. I believe that my breadth of experience makes me the most qualified person to fill that role and to be an advocate for District 49.

Heather Way Heather Way[/caption]

Heather Way


Top priorities
• Address economic inequality
• Enact fundamental political reform
• Keep guns out of classrooms by enacting gun-control laws

Why do you want to hold this office?

We need strong Democratic leaders to fight for reform and stand up to corporate interests, climate deniers and reactionaries. I’m an Elizabeth Warren Democrat, UT law professor, Parent-Teacher Association mom and a community advocate who has worked extensively at the Legislature to pass new laws protecting families and vulnerable homeowners.