2018 Primary Election Guide: Meet the candidates who will be on the ballot in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto

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Statewide primary elections will take place March 6. Listed below are candidates from selected positions relevant to Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto. Note that some candidates have had their answers or experience cut due to space, and the text may not reflect the candidates’ full opinion.

*INCUMBENT

First day of early voting: Feb. 20
Last day to apply for ballot by mail: Feb. 23
Last day of early voting: March 2
Election day: March 6

Texas State Rep. 46

Casey McKinney

Experience: over 20 years working with the Democratic party
www.caseyfor46.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

McKinney: The stakes have been high in previous elections. But in 2018 and 2020 the stakes will be measured in human lives; in the number of immigrants who would be torn from their homes; in the number of Americans who would lose access to health care and see their rights ripped away. Everyone deserves the chance to live up to his/her God-given potential.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

McKinney: Gentrification is a common, and divisive, topic of discussion in Dist. 46 with significant disagreement about its effects. The rising property tax rates have forced many longtime residents from their homes. Ninety percent of city foreclosures have occurred on the east side. I am adamant that the area be developed to benefit, not hurt, existing residents.

Jose “Chito” Vela

Experience: former general counsel to a Democratic state representative and worked as a Texas assistant attorney general
www.chitovela.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Vela:  Housing affordability and access to health care are critical issues in the district. The state’s refusal to properly fund education has caused school districts to rely too heavily on property taxes, creating high property tax bills for many homeowners. And Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid has left 900,000 working-class Texans without comprehensive health coverage that they should be receiving.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Vela:  Growth in the district has been astonishing, and our public services are struggling to keep up. Traffic congestion in the district has been seriously affected. Growth can create opportunities, but it must properly managed. Texas must invest in our public infrastructure as our economy and population grow. And that growth must create benefits that are widely shared in the community.

Dawnna Dukes*

Note: Dukes holds the Texas House of Representatives District 46 seat. Dukes did not respond to multiple inquiries from Community Impact Newspaper for this article.
www.dawnnadukes.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Dukes:  Did not respond.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Dukes:  Did not respond.

Sheryl Cole

Experience: served on Austin City Council for 10 years and as Austin mayor pro tem; served as PTA president; served on boards of Planned Parenthood, Austin Urban League, Communities in Schools and more; founding member of the ADL Hate Crime Task Force
www.sherylcole.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Cole: The Legislature hasn’t paid its fair share of education costs and didn’t accept the Medicaid expansion. This has shifted the burden onto those that can least afford it as their property taxes rise and their health care options dwindle. For HD 46 and Austin, the lack of leadership has created an affordability crisis. Texas needs to return to investing in the welfare of our communities.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Cole: Certain areas of HD 46, like Pflugerville and Manor, are benefiting from Austin’s growth as more residents move in and businesses open up, contributing to a growing tax base for those localities. Other areas, like in East Austin, are seeing rising costs force people out of the homes that their families have owned for generations.

Warren Baker

Experience: small-business owner for 15 years; seven-year career in public speaking
www.warrenbaker.org

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Baker:  Over the last two legislative sessions Texas has reduced funding for education. We rank 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. Therefore I stand by the declaration that more students deserve above minimum-standard higher education. In order to do so we must start at the early stages and invest in programs like Head Start or Head Start-like programs.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Baker:  Manor, being the larger city of the district, is experiencing major growth. However, current representation isn’t doing enough to help nor engagement with the elected local officials as well as the residents.

Ana Cortez

Experience: small business owner; currently serving on Manor ISD board of trustees; serves on Texas Association of School Boards; serves as board member on Mexican American School Board Association
www.voteana.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Cortez: At the top of my priority list is the need to address public school funding and ensure that we follow through with the Legislature’s promise to study the issues and act accordingly. Our future depends on active and knowledgeable policymakers to move the issue in the right direction. My second priority is a topic that impacts all households and the space in which I operate in every day—health care.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Cortez:  Growth and development is generally a good thing as it provides more opportunity for small businesses to thrive, entrepreneurs to innovate and families to have access to more resources, but only when it is done responsibly in a community-driven fashion with an attention to the impact it has on current residents.

Texas State Rep. 52

Christopher L. Ward

Experience: career in medical research; work in patient protection
www.vote4clward.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Ward: This pervasive myth that just because your property increases in value, so does your burden on the infrastructure and services is gaining traction. This belief inhibits a citizen’s ability to own property and its contribution to accumulating wealth. It continues to be the biggest culprit for increasing the gap between lower and upper classes.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Ward:  My vision for the district continues to watch it grow. It’s an exciting time for the area as we have welcomed the opening of Baylor Scott & White Cancer Center. I envision this district as a research hub for Central Texas, utilizing the partnerships that already have an established reputation in the area with a focus on those private and public-sector partners working to make this district a place for innovative solutions to healing.

Cynthia Flores

Experience: 30 years in the private and nonprofit industry assisting families with special needs and individuals with disabilities; served on Round Rock Chamber board; serves on the Brazos River Authority BOD
www.cynthiaflores52.com

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Flores: We are concerned about rapidly rising property taxes, school finance, the problems caused by a porous border, a lack of infrastructure and the need to provide skill trade programs. Eminent domain reform, water and property rights are top issues especially affecting our agricultural industry in HD 52.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Flores: We have a fast-growing area, home to many new businesses. We must ensure we have a good climate for job creation, address the infrastructure needs, provide skilled trade programs and mentorship opportunities for entrepreneurs. As new development comes to the eastern most part of our district, we need to ensure landowners are fairly compensated and we continue to support agriculture value for our farmers.

Jeremy Story

Experience: executive for a national nonprofit for 20 years; serves on board for National Day of Prayer; served as state chaplain for the Republican Party
www.jeremystory.org

What are the top issues your district is facing?

Story: We must reduce property taxes and overhaul the school finance system. This will take strong coalition-building and courageous action. Both of these issues should be simultaneously tackled in the next session. The Legislature itself needs strong ethics reforms to produce better legislation for our district.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within your district?

Story: The constant growth of toll roads must be halted. Government should provide for infrastructure without additional taxes like tolls. We need to make sure the Legislature and our municipalities limit spending and maximize their efficiency. Presently Texas is sixth-largest in the nation for property taxes. Raising our tax burden hurts growth. I want move forward even more to make our district and Texas as a whole the best business climate in the whole nation.  

Williamson County Treasurer

Scott Heselmeyer*

Experience: Williamson County treasurer since March 2017; practiced law in Williamson County for 14 years; has served on the board of local community banks
www.scott4wilco.com

What are the top issues Williamson County is facing?

Heselmeyer:  It’s no secret that Williamson County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. This places significant strain on our infrastructure and tremendous pressure to improve infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner. Skilled management of the county’s financial assets in the treasurer’s office can help ease some of this fiscal burden by ensuring that county funds are kept safe and earn appropriate returns while in the treasurer’s hands.

Lee Ann Seitsinger

Experience: part-owner of a real estate company; chief financial officer for a local business
www.facebook.com/laseitsinger

What are the top issues Williamson County is facing?

Seitsinger:  I believe some of the top issues are mobility and public safety.

Williamson County judge

Frank Leffingwell

Experience: served on YMCA of Williamson County board; board of Baylor Scott & White Central Texas; chair of Round Rock Planning and Zoning Commission; currently serving as Round Rock City Council Place 3 council member
www.frankleffingwell.com

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Leffingwell:  The central issue facing Williamson County is how can Williamson County confront all of the challenges brought about by our growth successfully—that is how can Williamson County keep taxes low and maintain the family- and business-friendly quality while we continue to grow?

Bill Gravell

Experience: currently serving as Justice of the Peace for Williamson County Precinct 3; voted “Judge of the Year in Central Texas” in 2015 and “2017 Judge of the Year in Texas”
www.billforjudge.com

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Gravell: We must lower our taxes to offset skyrocketing property appraisals and get a handle on our spiraling $1.3 billion debt. Williamson County has a reputation for keeping our families safe, and we must make our public safety professionals a priority. And finally, we must improve our infrastructure and mobility to keep Williamson County moving.

Williamson County Commissioner Precinct 4

Heather Peal

Experience: works in private sector
www.peal4commissioner.com

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Peal: Watching the budgets of our public safety professionals slashed while approving the funding of many pet projects and other wasteful spending is unacceptable. Williamson County has a long-standing reputation of being one of the safest counties in the nation for families to live and raise children.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within Williamson County?

Peal: Mobility is another key issue. I do not support stacking on hundreds of millions in additional taxpayer money to the current $1.3 billion debt for new roads while not properly maintaining the roads we have now. We must address growth and develop a comprehensive strategy for future mobility.

David Marek

Experience: works for Williamson County Road & Bridge Division

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Marek: Adopting a budget and working within that agreed-upon budget to make sure our tax dollars are spent as wisely as possible is one of the top issues facing the Commissioners Court. I want to work in cooperation with all commissioners to ensure that our tax rate stays as low as possible while providing services throughout the county.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within Williamson County?

Marek: As the county continues to grow, I believe it is the responsibility of the commissioners to work diligently for our residents within the court as well as with other entities such as the Texas Department of Transportation and various city officials to ensure that the continued growth and development of the county is a positive force.

Bobby Seiferman

Experience: served on the Round Rock ISD board of trustees; two years as RRISD Policy Committee Chairman; represented RRISD on the Capital Area Council of Governments
www.votebobbys.com

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Seiferman:  The county is still a fast growth county and will need to wisely and efficiently address transportation needs, public safety needs and the delivery of county services,  while striving to provide much needed tax relief to Pct. 4 residents.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within Williamson County?

Seiferman:  I pledge to responsibly respond to Pct. 4’s growth with the available resources of Williamson County taxpayers and to partner when able with other entities to maximize those resources in the most efficient way possible. However, we cannot expect to pave over half of eastern Williamson County.

Russ Boles

Experience: currently serving as director of Brazos River Authority; works as commercial real estate broker
www.voterussboles.com

What are the top issues the county is facing?

Boles: Growth, taxes and roads. And without conservative, experienced leadership, these issues will only get worse.

What are your thoughts on the growth and development within Williamson County?

Boles:  Growth needs to make sense, not growth for the sake of growth. The county needs to focus on core services and giving our local law enforcement the tools to be successful.

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Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. He additionally worked with an investigative news organization where he reported on environmental topics and was a featured writer for Epicast Network, a Pittsburgh podcast company. Iain has now transitioned full-time into covering Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto.
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