Democratic challengers continue to announce their run against area Republicans.
Carrollton’s Michelle Beckley declared she’ll run against Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, for the Texas House of Representatives 65th district, a seat Simmons has held since 2012. The 65th district includes parts of Carrollton and Lewisville.
Beckley, owner of Carrollton’s Kookaburra Bird Shop, was inspired by the Women’s March Jan. 21 in response to president Donald Trump taking office. Beckley said she realized that the only way she could affect change was by running herself.
“The march was inspirational, but we now need to do something,” she said.
Simmons, who founded Retirement Advisors of America in 1991, said he is a common sense conservative businessman applying his expertise in Austin.
“We must preserve Texas as a place where we have proven that a conservative governing philosophy results in jobs, opportunity, and an economy that is the envy of the nation,” he said. “With my track record of success I want to build on previous legislative accomplishments, find ways for our government to work more effectively and efficiently, and work to provide educational choice for children with special needs.”
During the march, Beckley decided to run for the opening Carrollton mayorship. While she came in third place with 23.2 percent of the vote, she views it as a qualified success. Both of the candidates who came in ahead of her, Steve Babick and eventual winner Kevin Falconer, had been involved in Carrollton politics for years, whereas Beckley spent 10 weeks on a campaign that was more or less a spur-of-the-moment decision.
Running as a Democrat in a strongly conservative area, Beckley said her success in driving up voter turnout and getting as many votes as she did proved that Democrats are out there and prepares her for a larger campaign.
“It was far-fetched,” she admitted. “Running as a Democrat, it’s getting them to the polls. I mean, they’re here. That’s with anybody. If they don’t vote, you’re not going to win.”
After losing the mayorship, Beckley decided to turn her attention to Simmons’ seat. Texas state legislators make $600 per month with a $190 per day allowance for every day they’re in session. Since that only adds up to a few thousand dollars a year, many legislators have to already be independently wealthy and able to live on that little income. Beckley said she’s in an ideal spot to be a less wealthy voice in the house, since she mostly does marketing now for Kookaburra and can continue to work while staying in Austin.
Simmons has been close to the headlines this session. In the regular session, he championed the ban on straight–ticket voting.
In the special session, he wrote the two house “bathroom bills” HB 46 and HB 50. The bills would have voided local laws that extend discrimination protections to transgender people.
Though proponents said the bill was intended to keep women and children safe from sexual predation in public restrooms, Texas law enforcement opposed it, saying it would not keep people safe. Simmons called it a common sense solution.
Beckley called the bathroom bill a waste of time and said she was more concerned with Simmons’ support of educational vouchers, which she said has little support in the district.
“I don’t feel like he represents the majority of this district,” she said. “Unless he knows other people that I haven’t ever come into contact with. I haven’t found anybody that wants vouchers, and he’s pushing the vouchers.”
Simmons filed HB 253 in the special session, which would have established a voucher-like system specifically for disabled students. He lent his support to HB21, the $1.8 billion school finance bill that passed in August.
Simmons said he is proud of his record, particularly of TxDOT funding transparency legislation and legislation to help diagnose autism spectrum disorders.
The Republican and Democratic primaries are March 6. The general election is Nov. 6, 2018.