Transportation Commisioner Robert Nichols to run for state Senate
By: Nancy Flake
Standing among a group of about two dozen supporters in the Montgomery County Republican Headquarters, Nichols, currently a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, said the county's "incredible" growth rate automatically drives up property values.
"I would file a bill to raise the homestead exemption by 50 percent, up from $15,000 to $22,000," he said. "You raise that homestead exemption and you lower property taxes."
Nichols, a resident of Jacksonville, faces three opponents for the SD 3 seat in the March 7, 2006 Republican primary, including two Montgomery County residents. Both David Kleimann, a Willis businessman, and Conroe businessman Frank Denton, are running for the seat Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, is vacating to run for state agriculture commissioner. The fourth SD 3 candidate is Bob Reeves, the owner of a refrigeration company in Center.
While Senate District 3 spans all or part of 17 counties, Nichols said he chose make his announcement here because "Montgomery County is one of the most important counties in Senate District 3" in terms of votes. In the 2002 Senate District 3 election, Montgomery County provided 20.92 percent of the vote for Staples, or 25,102 out of a total of 119,993 votes.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance, who introduced Nichols, credited him with helping the county get approved for the state's new pass-through toll program, which will provide the county with funding for new road work, he said.
Voters approved the county's $160 million road bond package in September, which will secure state and federal reimbursement of more than $174 million through the pass-through toll program. Montgomery County was the first area in Texas to be approved for the program, which was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2003.
A conservative Republican, Nichols has served as county chairman for former U.S. Senators John Tower and Phil Gramm, current Sen. John Cornyn, then-Gov. George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry.
He has also served seven years as mayor of Jacksonville, where the City Council, he said, cut property tax rates to their lowest level in 20 years during his term in office.
"Decisions by local, state and federal officials impact my family and my friends' families," he said. "I'm pro-life, pro-job growth, pro-local control and I support the right to bear arms. I support the shutting down of our borders and providing grants for groups like the Minutemen, if they're properly trained."
When Curtis West, of Willis, asked Nichols if he supports a 3 percent cap on property appraisal rates, Nichols said only if each county can make that decision for itself.
"I think it's important to have a cap," he said. "If we can structure it so each county can vote on it, that is where I would help. I don't like it when the state comes in and mandates."
West also asked Nichols if he would strictly follow the Republican platform. "Before we get to the election, the party will set the platform," Nichols replied. "It depends on what kind of changes they make.
"If someone from West Texas changes something, I'm not going to like that. I will support what's good for residents of Senate District 3."
Nancy Flake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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