Republicans who live in House District 128 have a serious choice to make in March.
Baytown Councilman Bob Hoskins is challenging incumbent State Rep. Briscoe Cain in the GOP primary.
No matter which candidate you support, competition is always good, and this race tells us a little something about the difference between state and local government.
Cain has made hay out of boilerplate issues like abortion, guns and immigration, but he spends very little of his time on more practical issues like education, transportation and economic growth.
Ideology, partisanship and posturing often rule the roost in Austin, where politicians like Cain never miss an opportunity to stir the pot and engage in cheap publicity stunts. Making noise is a good way to get your name into social media circles and local news outlets.
At the local level, politics is more practical. The mayor and city council actually have to do things. Picking up the trash, fixing the streets, preparing for hurricanes, zoning for economic growth, and staffing the police force are not going to generate many Twitter storms, but they are critical for quality of life in the city.
When news of Hoskins’ candidacy broke in last week’s paper, it was clear that he is concerned with the bread and butter issues of making government work. This area has been experiencing some pretty rapid population growth, which is a good thing, but that puts pressure on schools and transportation networks.
I urge voters to press both candidates on their ideas on how to manage this growth.
As a councilman, count on Hoskins to give you some thoughtful answers, but I doubt Cain will have much to say. He has won two elections in a row by using divisive rhetoric to distract voters from the real issues, so why change now?
You might also have noticed that many of Hoskins’ endorsements are coming from local elected officials like city mayors and Goose Creek CISD Superintendent Randal O’Brien. Local officials have not been happy with Austin lately.
Over the last few legislative sessions, there have been concerted efforts by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker to strip power and autonomy from local governments.
Before his unceremonious fall from grace last summer, Speaker Bonnen vowed to make life hell for local governments in the 2021 legislative session.
Local officials of both parties still have good reason to worry. The legislature took concrete steps to limit property tax growth last May, which is not a bad thing, but it is a problem when the state continues to shift the cost of education, health, and transportation to the local level.
Basically, Austin is inviting local governments out on a dinner date and then sticking them with the tab.
Voters should ask both candidates what they plan to do about this tension. If the state insists on capping property taxes, where are we going to get the money to pay for schools and roads?
This race also tells us something about the internal dynamics of the Texas GOP. Many traditional, pro-business conservatives are concerned that the radical right wing of the party is hurting the Republican brand.
Dr. Steve Showalter is a government professor at Lee College in Baytown.