State House District 49 Democratic primary 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


512-563-5185
www.dunawayfortexas.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I will file a bill to raise the property tax homestead exemption to $50,000 and double the exemptions for disabled veterans and seniors. So many people from neighborhoods around Austin have come to me and stated they are losing their homes due to skyrocketing property taxes. That has to stop, and I will change that.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


Decreasing property taxes, fixing our traffic nightmare by seeking increased federal funding, freezing tuition and decriminalizing marijuana are some of my proposals. The rest of my 10-point plan can be found on my website.




Huey Rey Fischer Huey Rey Fischer[/caption]

Huey Rey Fischer


512-537-6833
www.hueyfischer.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I’d file three bills immediately. No. 1, a sales price disclosure—homeowners and renters shouldn’t be subsidizing commercial properties due to inaccurate appraisals. No. 2, raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. If Arkansas can raise the wage, so can Texas. No. 3, expand Medicaid—let’s find a Texas solution to bring home our federal tax dollars.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


Democrats need to stop playing defense against the Republicans. It is time to push back with a positive and progressive agenda that benefits all Texas families. I have a concrete plan to build up our schools, preserve our environment, secure retiree pensions and reform our property taxes.




Gina Hinojosa Gina Hinojosa[/caption]

Gina Hinojosa


512-415-7031
www.ginaforaustin.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I will use the experience I’ve gained as your school board member to be a champion for public education starting on day one. My first choice will be [to join the House] Public Education Committee. I will open the doors of my office to teachers, parents and students so that they know they have a supporter at the Capitol.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


The state must adequately invest in public education and end outdated funding formulas that cost Austin families hundreds of millions every year. We must give public universities the same rights as private universities to opt out of campus carry. We must restore full funding to Planned Parenthood and stop the Republican assault on women's reproductive rights.




Kenton Johnson Kenton Johnson[/caption]

Kenton Johnson


512-524-8600
www.votekenton.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I will fight to keep more of our tax dollars here in Austin. We’re sending millions in property taxes to other communities. The state needs to step in to properly educate all children in Texas. The state also needs to provide Austin with its fair share of transportation dollars to address some of the most congested roadways in the nation.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


We need to improve transportation, focus on education and strengthen the middle class. We need an integrated transportation network with more capacity and better options. We need comprehensive school finance reform to fully fund our pre-K programs, primary and secondary schools. And we need to make Austin affordable again for everyone.




Blake Rocap Blake Rocap[/caption]

Blake Rocap


512-761-7862
www.blakerocap.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I will begin the hard work of getting Texas to accept Federal Medicaid Expansion money by talking to Republicans and our local hospitals, who so desperately need the funds. Texas can no longer afford to stifle our provision of health care and our economy by not accepting these funds.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


My long-term goal for District 49 is to be the most effective legislator I can be so that Austin continues to be the best place to live in Texas. This means putting people first with a focus on our schools, roads, health care systems and a more equitable tax structure.




Matthew Shrum Matthew Shrum[/caption]

Matthew Shrum


512-354-7200
www.mattshrumfortexas.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


I would start working on getting on the Appropriations Committee. Every other issue that is dealt with in the Legislature is tied directly to the budget-writing process. If you’re not a member of the Appropriations Committee, you have far less leverage to get other things accomplished.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


I would advocate for the University of Texas in the budget process so that we remain one of the premier public universities in the world. We are already one of, if not the most, economically prosperous districts in Texas. We need to keep moving in that direction with high-paying job creation, environmentally conscious transportation development and affordable housing.




Heather Way Heather Way[/caption]

Heather Way


512-236-1521
www.voteheatherway.com


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.



If elected, what is the first thing you intend to do?


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.

What are your long-term goals for District 49?


My vision is for District 49—and all of Austin—to be an inclusive and healthy community, where people of different ages and incomes can afford to live with access to strong public schools, a beautiful unpolluted environment and an array of transportation options to easily get around the city.