Candidate Q&A: Meet the candidates running for Texas House District 26

Republicans Leonard N. Chan, Jacey Jetton and Matt Morgan (top row from left to right) and Democrats Lawrence Allen Jr., L "Sarah" DeMerchant, Suleman Lalani and Rish Oberoi (bottom row from left to right) will be on their respective party's ballots in the March 2020 primary election for Texas House District 26.
Republicans Leonard N. Chan, Jacey Jetton and Matt Morgan (top row from left to right) and Democrats Lawrence Allen Jr., L "Sarah" DeMerchant, Suleman Lalani and Rish Oberoi (bottom row from left to right) will be on their respective party's ballots in the March 2020 primary election for Texas House District 26.

Republicans Leonard N. Chan, Jacey Jetton and Matt Morgan (top row from left to right) and Democrats Lawrence Allen Jr., L "Sarah" DeMerchant, Suleman Lalani and Rish Oberoi (bottom row from left to right) will be on their respective party's ballots in the March 2020 primary election for Texas House District 26.

On March 3, voters in Texas House District 26, which covers portions of Sugar Land and Richmond, will cast ballots in their respective party’s primary election.



Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, was first elected to the seat in 2012 and has represented the district for four consecutive legislative sessions. In December, Miller announced he would not seek re-election after backlash for saying his primary challengers were running because they are Asian.



While the district has historically elected a Republican representative, in 2018 Miller won in the general election with 52.5% of the vote while Democrat L. Sarah DeMerchant received 47.5% of the vote. Whereas in the 2014 general election Miller won with 69.68% of the vote, and his Democratic challenger, Amber C. Paaso, received 30.32% of the vote.



There are three Republicans and four Democrats vying to become their party’s nominee. The winner of each party's primary election will be on the ballot for the general election in November. If no candidate gets 50% of their party’s vote in March, a runoff election between the top two candidates will occur May 26.



Early voting runs from Feb. 18-28, and election day is March 3.



These Q&A's have been edited for clarity.



Leonard N. Chan (R)



Occupation: management analyst

How many years you’ve lived in the district: 22

Campaign website: www.leonardchantx26.com

3-5 top priorities: flood control/emergency management, public safety, education, transportation

Why are you running to be the next state representative in District 26?



Texas House District 26 deserves a representative that has the necessary passion and aptitude to effectively serve. I have a personal investment in seeing my hometown continue to prosper as my family has lived here since 1988. My education at Clements High School, Rice University, and The University of Houston granted me a strong foundation to develop effective public policy. The last eight years in the fire service has ensured that my professional career has been community-focused. Along with the technical knowledge, I have the coalition-building skills to address the critical community issues of flood control, public safety, education, and transportation.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

The biggest issue facing the district is the need to increase the resilience of our businesses, homes, and families to weather events including tornadoes, flash floods and hurricanes. As someone with deep roots in Sugar Land, my family has directly witnessed and experienced the disastrous consequences of flooding. I once believed Tropical Storm Allison represented the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey and then the May 2019 floods proved that wrong. Business owners and families should not face the possibility of flooding endangering their assets, investments, and quality of life.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

I will prioritize disaster preparedness. The Governor-issued “Eye of the Storm” report following Hurricane Harvey established a blueprint of what should be done. The previous Legislature provided initial funding to pursue many of these recommendations, but this effort must be sustained. A stronger investment is needed in first responder training and equipment especially for water rescue and hazardous materials events. I intend to advocate doubling the allotment from the “Rainy Day Fund” for the Governor’s Office disaster recovery grant program from $100 million to $200 million, increasing flexibility and responsiveness during declared disasters.





Jacey Jetton (R)



Occupation: business owner

How many years you’ve lived in the district: Fort Bend County resident since 2013

Campaign website: www.jaceyjetton.com



3-5 top priorities: Protect our neighborhoods by strengthening our borders and eliminating sanctuary cities, Fight to lower property taxes by controlling spending and unfunded mandates, Improve our roads, bridges, and water infrastructure to support the growth and development of Texas, Work to improve education so that we have the best and the brightest workforce to build our future economy, Protect innocent life

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

As a parent of two children in our public schools, as a homeowner with rising property taxes, and a business owner who deals with regulations and taxes, I understand the concerns and struggles that are discussed at the kitchen table by families across our district. Future generations deserve our efforts now to ensure we leave them a Texas where they can grow and prosper. I am honored to be endorsed in this effort by Governor Abbott, Fort Bend County’s own Glenn Hegar, and 25 grassroots precinct chairs who trust my ability to win in November and fight for our community.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

Property taxes, infrastructure, and education are important issues, but a limited and efficient government also has an important role in keeping our streets and neighborhoods safe. We must stop human trafficking, drugs cartels, and criminals that pass through our communities every day. That means we must do more to secure our border with Mexico and end sanctuary cities that undermine our nation’s laws. I am prepared to go to Austin and work with Governor Abbott and President Trump to protect our borders and national sovereignty, and keep our families and communities safe from crime.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

I am endorsed by Governor Abbott because he knows and trusts my ability to help him implement a conservative policy agenda that will keep our state safe and better prepare us for the future. We will work to strengthen our border, keep our communities safe, and cut taxes to put more money in the hands of property taxpayers and grow Texas jobs and the economy. I am endorsed by Comptroller Hegar because he knows that I can work with him to cut waste, reduce taxes, and keep Fort Bend County a great place to live, work, and raise a family.





Matt Morgan (R)



Occupation: small-business owner

How many years you’ve lived in the district: Almost my whole life

Campaign website: www.morgan4texas.com

3-5 top priorities: Property tax relief, end taxpayer funded lobbyist, school safety

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

I want to make Texas better, safer, and stronger for our kids, family and future.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

High property taxes, human/sex trafficking, and education

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

Property tax relief, end taxpayer funded lobbyist, school safety





Lawrence Allen Jr. (D)



Occupation: HISD director of special projects

How many years you’ve lived in the district: 4

Campaign website: www.lallenjr26.com

3-5 top priorities: education reform, flood mitigation, criminal justice reform, healthcare

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

My time as an educator and administrator for the Houston Independent School District, as well as my time on the Texas State Board of Education, has given me a unique perspective. I see how policy made at the state level translates to local districts, and I see the issues and sometimes unintended consequences can be a burden at the local level. I want to address the issues I see, and have a first-hand opportunity to shape policy.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

It is difficult to choose just one. High quality educational opportunities and flood mitigation are the two biggest issues. We need high-quality pre-k, and better education funding. We also need to ramp up flood mitigation efforts and projects. The state legislature charges the Texas Water Development Board with the task of creating a state flood plan. I want to be the voice of my community in making sure the plan addresses our needs.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

I will prioritize expanding funding for quality pre-k programs, as well as teacher pay raises. I will also address flood mitigation by advocating for more state funding, which will help to draw down federal matching funds.





L. “Sarah” DeMerchant (D)



Occupation: IT executive-service account manager

How many years you’ve lived in the district: 36

Campaign website: www.DemocratDeMerchant.com

3-5 top priorities: County property taxes, education funding, healthcare, birth mortality rates, criminal justice reform

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

District 26 is as diverse as the county and I am running to represent everyone in the district and to ensure everyone’s issues. In addition, we need to work on a solution for more affordable health medication.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

The biggest issue is the public school system and the reduction in funding over the past decade. State funding of education needs to be restored so all of our children can get a quality education and not just those who can afford private school.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?



My top priority for the next session is addressing the alarming birth mortality rate among women, especially among African American women.





Suleman Lalani (D)



Occupation: geriatrics and general physician

How many years you’ve lived in the district: 20

Campaign website: www.drlalanifortexas.com

3-5 top priorities: expand Medicaid and CHIP, make prescription drugs affordable, sustainable public school funding, make the state pay its share of school funding

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

In Sugar Land, the political climate never seemed favorable to my values so we operated as we could and did much work in charitable circles. But in 2018 Fort Bend as a whole proved what our communities were capable of and proved our values were favored. It inspired me to more directly affect my community and health care by running for state representative.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

For many years I felt a sense of frustration seeing how our healthcare system was failing people throughout their lives. In my practice, geriatric medicine, I saw people riddled with ailments that would have been prevented with continuous regular health care. As a physician, I know firsthand the impact a lack of healthcare has on communities across the board.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

My main priority is making healthcare accessible. I want everyone to have an option for affordable healthcare. It hurts to know many people ration their groceries, money, medication, etc. in order to maintain their health. There is nearly universal agreement that health care should be our #1 legislative priority. It is the issue Democrats are winning Republicans over within general elections, and it is the driving issue in Democratic primaries. Speaking on our most pressing issue is where I am most comfortable.





Rish Oberoi (D)



Occupation: development and finance manager

How many years you’ve lived in the district: 8

Campaign website: www.rishfortexas.com

3-5 top priorities: expand Medicaid, fully fund public education, pass commonsense gun safety reform, end gerrymandering in Texas, protect women and LGBTQIA+ rights

Why are you running to be the next state representative in HD 26?

As a former educator, I saw firsthand the terrible state of our public education and the treatment of teachers in Texas. I am also part of a generation that for the first time in history will be worse off than their parents. I worked on numerous Democratic campaigns and have learned how to run efficient, people-powered campaigns and that’s what it is going to take to flip this seat. All these factors and many more made me run so we can bring a 21st century perspective to a legislature that has stagnated and focused mostly on limiting people rather than working on issues that will make Texas a state for people to prosper.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?

If you took a survey right now on the biggest issue for citizens of District 26, no doubt healthcare would be number one. However, a huge problem overall is that District 26 has gone decades without responsible leadership or a voice that will fight for the many people that struggle in their day-to-day lives. People want to feel that they have representation they can trust and count on to be a champion for their concerns. They want someone that will listen and enact change. Whether it’s healthcare, reproductive rights, education, gun reform, or property taxes, our people want to know they have someone in their corner and not just another person in the pocket of corporate interests.

If elected, what will you prioritize for the 87th legislative session?

There are many issues to address, but the top three would likely be healthcare, education, and gun safety reform. Republicans failed to pass Medicaid expansion and continued the political posturing at the cost of the health of thousands of Texans. We also need a drastic overhaul to our education system. In the last session, we made some good strides and brought back some of the money they cut in 2013, but we need more, sustainable approaches to public school funding. Finally, when it comes to guns, it should not be easier to buy weapons and ammo than it is to buy cold medicine. We can uphold the Second Amendment while admitting that we immediately need measurable and actionable gun safety legislation to curb the gun violence epidemic in Texas.

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By Claire Shoop

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.


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