AUSTIN, Texas - Now that it is officially 2022, the race for the top spot in Texas is underway.
Thirteen candidates will be on the ballot in the March primary, with eight Republicans and five Democrats vying for their party's nomination. The primary will take place on March 1, with the general election on November 8. If needed, a runoff election has been scheduled for May 24.
Some major issues for the campaign trail include Texas's controversial and embattled abortion law SB 8, concerns about border security and Operation Lone Star, and the response to Winter Storm Uri and power grid failures last February.
Meet the candidates running for governor in the March primary:
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Greg Abbott has been serving as governor of Texas since 2015 and is currently running for his third term in office. He has also served as Texas Attorney General from 2002 to 2015 and was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court and served from 1995 to 2001.
According to Abbott's biography on his campaign website, Abbott "continues to build on his record as a strong conservative leader who fights to preserve Texas values and ensure the Lone Star State remains the best place to raise a family, build a business, and create greater opportunity for all."
In May 2021, Abbott signed the controversial abortion ban, SB 8 into law, which prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.
According to his campaign website, during his tenure as governor, Texas has banned selling aborted fetuses for profit, increased funding for adoption services and banned partial birth abortions.
Abbott says in addition to his previous efforts, he wants to prevent cities and counties from using tax dollars to fund abortions.
In September 2021, Abbott signed HB 9 into law which is designed to provide an additional $1.8 billion in state funding for border security over the next two years.
Abbott also stated on his campaign website that he signed legislation requiring state agencies to participate in E-Verify to ensure state money goes only to those eligible to work in the United States.
In 2017, Abbott signed SB 4 into law, which banned sanctuary cities in Texas and allowed police officers to ask about a person's immigration status and threatened sheriffs and police chiefs with jail time if they don't comply with federal authorities.
Abbott also recently established Operation Lone Star to combat human trafficking and drug smuggling by integrating DPS with the Texas National Guard and deploying air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to high threat areas, says a release from the governor's office in March 2021. The operation has faced criticism and a Travis County judge recently ruled that part of the operation "violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and represents an impermissible attempt to intrude on federal immigration policy," according to Travis County DA José Garza.
Texas Power Grid
Last February, Texas experienced a massive winter storm that caused power grid failures across the state and claimed more than 200 lives. In response, Abbott signed Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3 in June.
The bills, an effort to rebuild trust in the state’s power grid after the winter storm in February, were among his emergency items for state lawmakers to take up during the 87th regular session.
SB 2 restructured the makeup of ERCOT, which manages most of the state's electric grid. All board members now must be residents of Texas. The size was also scaled down.
SB 3 mandated companies that generate electricity to weatherize their power plants. The upgrades were drafted to prevent blackouts and freeze-ups. The legislation includes fines of up to $1 million for failing to comply.
Paul Belew is a criminal defense attorney with more than 25 years of experience from Decatur, Texas. Belew is licensed to practice law in seven states, including Texas and says he has negotiated with three foreign country governments and is qualified to practice Federal Criminal Defense.
In his candidate biography, Belew states: "In my career, I have dealt with every level of government. I have tried about 100-150 cases all over the United States. It is no secret our criminal justice system needs to be reformed. We have laws that need to be more firm and a few that might deserve re-thinking entirely."
Belew stated on his campaign website that the only situation in which he could support abortion is if the mother's life is in jeopardy, which he said "would be an issue for the medical team."
Belew stated that he would not support abortion in the case of rape because as a criminal defense attorney, "I have seen many instances where someone has consensual sex, becomes pregnant and then reports a rape." Instead, he proposes adoption as a possible alternative in that case.
Belew states that he believes illegal immigration cannot "be solved merely by putting up a wall" but instead by implementing stiffer penalties for offenders and tougher enforcement.
To fund this, Belew proposes legalizing casinos, gambling and THC and taxing them to increase state revenue.
Danny Harrison is a Dallas-area businessman who is part owner and operations manager of Harrison Landscape and Design in Plano, Texas. Harrison says he is not a career politician and has never held public office.
On his candidate website, Harrison says his campaign is focused on bringing new revenue to Texas: "While Texas politicians have talked about property tax relief for years, what’s needed is real-world reform. I am committed to making property tax reform an urgent and achievable priority. Like you, I am finished with all of the talk from political wonks and realize that it is time to get to work. Enough is enough. It is time to find new revenue, expand the tax base and create a real solution to this problem that delivers more than just a few a year in property tax relief. I believe there is a better way forward."
Harrison says on his campaign website that he wants "real solutions" to the border, including laws that help protect border region property owners and that "protect the innocent and punish the criminal." Harrison says that Texas should give the "leaders and ‘Generals’ on the ground" the tools and resources to work.
Kandy Kaye Horn is a philanthropist with "an extensive record of charitable giving, volunteer work, and BOD service" from Terrell, Texas.
According to her campaign website, Horn's vision for Texas focuses on economic development, education and securing the border. Other parts of her platform include lowering property taxes and creating a more streamlined protest system, legalizing marijuana, increasing compensation for teachers, and working to restore Texas to pre-pandemic prosperity.
Horn says that she would secure the border by putting into action "measures that would close points of entry and protect the border with surveillance technology and law enforcement."
Her platform also calls for more law enforcement at the border and inspections of all tractor trailers entering the country.
Don Huffines is a Dallas-area real-estate developer who co-owns Huffines Communities, one of the largest real-estate development companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with his brother Phillip.
He also served as Texas State Senator for District 16 in from 2015 to 2019, claiming on his campaign website to be "the only Texas state senator in history to never accept a penny of government money during his tenure."
According to his campaign website biography, Huffines also "authored legislation supporting term limits, pro-life measures, constitutional carry, and school choice."
Huffines says to address abortion, he would:
- Pass legislation to abolish abortion and outlaw terminating the life of an unborn child
- Direct state resources to enforce this bill regardless of what the gutless federal courts claim to allow
- Instruct DPS to arrest all doctors who perform abortions in Texas after we pass our abolish abortion legislation
To address border security, Huffines says he would:
- Deploy the Texas National Guard to secure the border
- Finish Trump’s wall
- Put economic pressure on Mexico
- End taxpayer subsidies to undocumented immigrants and mandate E-Verify
Texas Power Grid
To address Texas's power grid issues, Huffines says he would:
- Eliminate state subsidies to unreliable renewable energy
- Require renewable generators, like other generators, to pay for the cost of acquiring ancillary electricity when they fail to supply their promised electricity to the grid
- Establish a grid security commission made of Texas entities such as the Texas Division of Emergency Management, State Office of Risk Management, Texas Military Department, Department of Information Resources, and ERCOT
- Make the Texas Renewable Energy Credit program voluntary
Rick Perry is a computer engineer from Springtown, a town northwest of Fort Worth, not the former governor. The Texas Tribune says that he is a staffing agency employee contracted to Lockheed Martin.
At last check, Perry did not have an official campaign website or an official social media presence.
Chad Prather is a conservative commentator on YouTube who has been featured on FOX News, CNN and BlazeTV according to his campaign website.
On his campaign site, Prather says that he believes that "Texas should be a leader in the US and number one across all categories" and that "Texas is no longer the Texas that most Texans think it is", which he believes can be changed with a Texas first platform.
Prather stated on his campaign website that as governor, he would "vow to protect the sanctity of life in all my decisions." He did not share any specific policy choices to address abortion or reproductive health.
Prather said that he would do the following to address the border situation:
- Support funding and construction for a completed Texas border wall
- Offer full support for border patrol and ICE agents and agencies
- Expand the state's previous E-verify law to include both public and private employers
- Support the passage of S.B. 357, 2568
- Ensure a legal workforce and higher wages for Texans
- Do not allow sanctuary cities in Texas
- Enforce the laws that are on the books
- Appoint a Texas Border Commander/Chief to oversee and coordinate state border protection efforts
- Enforce border security with all available law enforcement resources - DPS and the National Guard must be coordinated along with Border Patrol
- Coordinate communication and cooperation among all agencies between various sectors along the Texas border
- Finish Trump’s border wall and prioritize hot spot areas
- Empower Texans to protect their homes and lands
- Leverage economic pressure on Mexico
- Patrol Texas highways and shut down illegal traffic
- Remove all economic incentives for schooling, tuition, and healthcare for illegals
- Leverage Texas to take on the federal government, including naming cartels international terrorist organizations and letting border patrol agencies and ICE work
Texas Power Grid
Prather says that as governor, he would increase baseline and reserve power to address generation capacity and peak usage. He says he would also recommission closed power plants, such as coal plants, and find other power generation solution.
He also states he supports removing government barriers and direct subsidies to the production, reformulation, refining, and distribution of energy and is opposed to "environmentalism that obstructs legitimate business interests and private property use."
Allen B. West is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who previously served as a one-term US Congressman for Florida’s 22nd District and chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
According to his campaign biography, while in Congress, West "introduced seven major pieces of legislation, and was the original sponsor of HR 1246 which reduces costs at the Department of Defense, was passed unanimously (393-0), and signed into law by President Obama as part of the National Defense Authorization Act."
West's biography also says in Congress, West "voted for over 30 different bills designed to empower small businesses, reduce government barriers to job creation, boost American competitiveness, encourage entrepreneurship and growth, and maximize American energy production."
West states that as governor he would do the following to address abortion:
- Sign pro-life legislation without any exceptions
- Not allow organizations like Planned Parenthood to operate in Texas
West says to address the situation at the border, he would:
- Prepare, mobilize, and deploy the "full strength" of the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions to stop the flow of persons and drugs along known infiltration routes
- Designate Mexican cartels as transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, enabling assets in Texas to be frozen and the arrest of anyone working with these cartels. We will
- Crack down on real estate agencies that enable "stash houses"
- Revoke the licenses of "Non-Governmental Organizations" that continue to aid and abet both undocumented immigrants and cartels
- Work with the Texas Legislature to pass legislation enabling Texas to tax the remittances of undocumented immigrants sent back to foreign nations
- Establish a Texas Border Patrol agency with the powers to arrest, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants, using funds seized from cartels and undocumented immigrant remittances to fund this organization. West says that "If the federal government does not abide by the rule of law, Texas will."
- End the policy of in-state tuition fees and Texas taxpayer-funded benefits for undocumented immigrants
Texas Power Grid
West says to address energy production and the power grid in Texas, he would:
- Support the oil and gas industry
- Work to resume environmentally safe, and energy-efficient coal-fired energy production plants in Texas
- Expand nuclear power plants in Texas
- End Section 313 subsidies for renewable energy systems
- Reduce the energy distribution percentage upon which Texas relies on renewables, namely wind, 23 percent
- Implement a system of third-party, preventative maintenance checks and services for existing energy power plants
- Conduct regular inspections to ensure they are being followed, and, if not, impose consequences
- Enforce laws on the books that protect our infrastructure
- Create a grid security commission to ensure protection from attacks to the state’s energy system.
- Find new markets for our oil and gas resources
Inocencio (Inno) Barrientez
At last check, Barrientez did not have an official campaign website or an official social media presence.
Michael Cooper is an automobile executive and a pastor from Beaumont, who has also served as the president of the Beaumont chapter of the NAACP.
According to Cooper's campaign website, he says proper education for Texas youth is what drives him, adding that "Education and youth programs are the key to lowering crime rates, drug addiction, and homelessness. Without properly educating our children we are feeding into everything that is wrong in our society."
Cooper says that to address the situation at the Texas border, he will:
- Meet with people such as U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz to help develop a feasible plan that will better secure Texas borders and "ensure that everyone is handled with humanity"
- Initiate firmer policies to ease and secure border traffic
- Utilize modern technology to seek out all forms of trafficking
- Form a task force to reduce the influx of migrants to Texas
Texas Power Grid
Cooper says the recent rules concerning weatherization of power companies is "not enough."
"We must take immediate steps toward ensuring that not only ERCOT follows proper procedures to ensure our heating and cooling systems are powered, but to put in place an incentive that gears towards going green," Cooper said on his campaign website, adding that he is a firm believer in making a greener carbon footprint sooner than later.
Joy Diaz is a former reporter and public school teacher who describes herself as a "progressive, Christian activist."
According to her campaign website, Diaz says she "is committed to serving all Texans in a better, healthier, safer, and more profitable state" and that it is "time to prioritize the health and safety of Texans above political ambitions."
Diaz says that her goal is for every woman in Texas to "have access to an array of options" from free and easy access to contraception to abortions if necessary. Diaz shared that she herself had to have an abortion when she experienced pregnancy complications and knows that access to safe and legal abortions can be life-saving.
Diaz states that decisions about reproductive health should be made by the woman and her doctor, not politicians. "Under my administration women and men will be respected and their health care options and outcomes will be a top priority," says her campaign site.
Diaz says her goal in addressing the situation at the Texas-Mexico border is to partner with governments at the border to get them the resources they need. She says she has spoken with those in local governments at the border and that they have said there are "real needs" not being met by the current administration.
She also says that as the first bicultural Governor, she would emphasize building a respectful relationship with both the governments of Mexico and the U.S.
Texas Power Grid
Diaz says that Texas needs to look at the short-term and long-term when addressing energy production, infrastructure and outcomes. "We cannot abandon the oil and gas industry, but we can transition to greener sources of energy that are both financially and environmentally smart," she said.
She also states the need to "build a more sustainable way of producing energy that takes into account the extreme weather that Texas experiences" and to invest in the promotion of electric vehicles and green energy.
Beto O'Rourke is the founder of Texas-based Powered by People, an organization that has helped to register over 250,000 unregistered Texan voters since Dec. 2019.
O'Rourke also previously served as a city council member in his hometown of El Paso and as a U.S. Rep for District 16 from 2013 to 2019. He also previously ran for US Senate against Ted Cruz in 2018 and for President in 2020.
O'Rourke says that as governor to address abortion and reproductive health, he would:
- Repeal SB 8
- Expand Medicaid
- Increase Medicaid coverage for pregnant women to one year post-partum
- Launch an aggressive program to combat Texas's maternal mortality crisis
O'Rourke says to address to the situation at the Texas border he would:
- Work with Texans to develop reforms to have a legal, orderly immigration system and uphold asylum laws
- Work with state Congressional delegation and national partners to pursue long-lasting solutions that benefit the Texas economy, encourage more job creation, and guarantee security at the border
Texas Power Grid
O'Rourke says that to address concerns about the Texas power grid that failed in February 2021, he will:
- Fix the power grid to prioritize Texas families, not massive energy corporations
- Investigate and hold accountable the energy companies that price gouged Texans as families froze and make sure they are never allowed to do it again
- Provide rate relief and direct assistance to Texans being forced to pay higher utility bills after the storm
- Fully weatherize the power grid and natural gas supply so that our energy infrastructure doesn’t fail in extreme weather
- Connect Texas to the national grid, so the state can draw down extra power during emergencies, and bring in billions of dollars in new state revenue by selling excess power during normal times
- Invest in energy efficiency programs that not only increase the reliability of the grid, but also send money back to Texans to lower their utility bills
Rich Wakeland is a professional engineer and licensed attorney. He also served as a nuclear submarine officer in the US Navy and was a policy advisor to Ken Anderson, former commissioner of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Wakeland describes himself as a "conservative Democrat" and according to his website has eight main goals for Texas, including protecting the Texas oil and gas industry, focusing on the needs of the middle class, reducing and stopping undocumented immigration, ensuring electric grid reliability, legalizing and taxing marijuana, and drought protection for Texas farmers and ranchers.
On his campaign website, Wakeland proposes a "membership fee" to Texas for undocumented immigrants to include:
- An energy tax, with immediate tax refund for US citizens or documented immigrants who have been in the US over 10 years
- 6% increase in sales tax, refunded to credit cards attached to US citizens and documented immigrants
- School admission tax, refunded to US citizens or documented immigrants
Wakeland says the idea is to "reduce the economic incentive for undocumented immigrants to reside in Texas". He says as Governor, he would allocate the funds collected this way to poorer school districts to reduce "Robin Hood" payments from other school districts.
Texas Power Grid
In a document on his website, Wakeland outlined his experience as policy advisor for former commissioner Ken Anderson, saying his top priority was "to examine the failures of February 2011 and determine if the energy only market construct created by the legislature in 1999 would produce a reliable electric grid for the public."
Wakeland says that he had determined at the time that the cause of the ERCOT blackouts in 2011 were due to "poor operational reliability (poor winterization, poor operational practices, etc.) of our thermal generation power plants, not because of a shortage of the amount of thermal generation in ERCOT."
Wakeland said his findings were presented to Abbott in 2015, just after he took office for his first term, and were "rejected, ignored, dismissed" and that Ken Anderson was told to fire him.
Wakeland stated that in order to maintain grid reliability in 2021, Texas needed to start building more thermal generation than wind and solar generation while improving operational reliability, something he said was not done in favor of adding wind and solar and "completely neglecting operational reliability."
Wakeland did not outline any specific policies he would put in place to improve Texas's power grid.
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