2020 Primary Election Guide Q&A: Get to know the Democratic candidates for Texas Senate District 11

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

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Margarita Ruiz Johnson is running in the Democratic primaries for Texas Senate District 11. (Courtesy Margarita Ruiz Johnson)
Image description
Susan Criss is running in the Democratic primaries for Texas Senate District 11. (Courtesy Susan Criss)

Susan Criss and Margarita Ruiz Johnson are running in the Democratic primaries for Texas Senate District 11. The winner of the Democratic primaries will face Republican incumbent Larry Taylor in November. Taylor is running unopposed in the primaries.

Community Impact Newspaper spoke to both candidates about what they hope to bring to the position. Early voting runs from Feb. 18-28, and election day is March 3.

Candidate responses have been edited for length and clarity.



Susan Criss



Occupation: Attorney

Phone number for voters interested in learning more about you: 409-771-4069

Campaign website: https://susancrissforsenate.com



Why did you choose to run for the District 11 Senate position?

I want to make laws that promote the general welfare of all the constituents of Senate District 11 and that create justice.

What qualifications do you bring to the role?

I have been an attorney for over thirty years. I served as a district court judge for fifteen years. I was a prosecutor for almost a decade. I am board-certified in criminal law. I now have a law partnership with Col. (Ret.) Rick Rousseau. Our firm handles criminal law, personal injury law and veteran disability appeals.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing District 11?

District 11 faces the same challenges as the rest of Texas regarding providing a Constitutionally adequate public education system, access to healthcare, criminal justice reform, common sense gun safety and equality for all constituents. What District 11 faces that few other senatorial districts contend with are coastal protection issues. Flooding and aftermath recovery remain serious problems.


If you were elected, what changes would you enact?

I would work to fulfill our Constitutional mandate to truly provide for an adequate public education system, sponsor criminal justice measures, fight for Texans’ share of Medicaid dollars, enact common sense gun safety measures, fight for reproductive healthcare rights and equal justice for all. I would work to minimize flooding via infrastructure improvements. I would fight for storm insurance reform to get homeowners and business owners back to normal faster.


How would you prioritize coastal conservation?

I live on Galveston Island. I prioritize coastal conservation very highly.

What is the importance of regional transportation projects, such as completing the Grand Parkway?

Our state has not invested in maintain infrastructure, such as highways. The regional transportation projects along the Gulf Coast have the added importance of being evacuation routes. I think these projects are very important.

Do you believe there should be tighter chemical plant regulations?

Yes. I have grown up very near refineries. I also presided over the Texas City BP explosion cases—all 4016 claims. I am more familiar than most on worst-case scenarios due to this situation.

Anything else to add?

Our state and federal governments are set up to ensure checks and balances and oversight. This is to protect the rights of citizens to effectively participate in representative government. That balance needs to be restored.



Margarita Ruiz Johnson



Occupation: retired grandmother of six

Phone number for voters interested in learning more about you: 281-787-4506

Campaign website: www.margaritaruizjohnson.com

Why did you choose to run for the District 11 Senate position?

I served my country during the Vietnam War in finance, and I want to serve again helping my community with jobs, health care, education, veterans benefits, nursing homes and our Texas security. I am the most qualified for this job with the education, training and work experience needed to serve you.

What qualifications do you bring to the role?

I served in the Army in finance. I can prepare budgets. I attended UT Austin with a B.A. in Languages to deal with a diverse population. My master from UH-CLC prepared me to address issues of behavior dynamics. I have 20 years work related in human resources, 10 years in the health department and over 45 hours in educational leadership to help our teachers and our students. I am prepared to help my community and to move us forward together.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing District 11?

District 11 is a fast-growing district with people from all over the world! We need a strong and diverse leadership moving us forward towards a bright future working together with common a goal towards unity for the betterment of our citizens, and help them with jobs, health care, education, nursing homes, veterans benefits while making us secure against international threats from Iran, Russia and China.

If you were elected, what changes would you enact?

I will improve conditions in our nursing homes, help create jobs for a fair wage, help our veterans with their needs, help our teachers and students as the chair of education, work on getting health care for seven million Texans who have no insurance and provide leadership to protect Texas from the international threats we are facing.

How would you prioritize coastal conservation?

The damaged caused by British Petroleum a few years back caused a great deal of damage to our region, the gulf, our sea creatures [and] our fish and shrimp industry. We should start with using funds awarded by the courts and sent to the state of Texas, and proactively try to save as many of our creatures impacted by the oil spill, like the turtles, for example. Our beaches need to be maintain[ed] after each major storm hitting the coast to preserve them and minimize the coastal erosion. We should encourage hatcheries of those species in danger to replace them before they are extinct.

What is the importance of regional transportation projects, such as completing the Grand Parkway?

I am concerned about the amount of cement we are using in Houston Metro to keep up with the population explosion we are having of individuals moving to Houston from all over the world. The Grand Parkway is the fourth loop around Houston Metro, allowing for the smooth and fast movement of cars around the Houston Metro and its 2 1/2 million citizens. They should add more trees whenever possible to add to the beauty of our city and to keep our climate cooler, where possible. Our freeways are super congested as it is, so this project should be at the top of those projects that needs to be completed as soon as possible. As we go forward dealing with our traffic problems, we should consider elevated rail systems, like the one we have in Chicago.

Do you believe there should be tighter chemical plant regulations?

The laws that are in the books may be fine. I would like to study this subject in detail in the near future since I am not an expert in the chemical industry. From what I read in the papers, the major problem has to do with enforcement issues from the state of Texas' enforcement mechanisms and the small fines imposed on violators. I would like to review this subject before I draw conclusions on how to best proceed for a win-win situation for our environment and those who make a living from the chemical industry. I am sure a workable solution is possible with all parties at the table. After wall, we want jobs in our local economy, and we also want to have a clean environment for our children to play and enjoy for many generations to come.

Anything else to add?

Working together, we can resolve the challenges that we are facing as a community and as a nation. We need to begin a dialogue away from politics that brings us together to help one another. We have a lot in common that brings us together: the love of our families, the love of our community, the love of our nation. Together, let us move forward toward a more perfect union.

By Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. She was promoted to editor in February 2019. Haley primarily covers city government.


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