Monday, February 20, 2006

Stall: "There is not a single study showing that the Corridor is needed."


Three Republicans, 1 Democrat jockeying for Armbrister's Senate seat

GOP members say conservative district should be represented by their party.

Monday, February 20, 2006

By Mark Lisheron
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Even before Democrat Ken Armbrister of Victoria said he would not run again for his state Senate seat in District 18, Republicans were lining up to claim what they say is a conservative district that ought to be represented by a Republican.

Since Armbrister's announcement before Christmas, the spring primary jockeying has followed this conservative theme.

State Rep. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, joined two first-time candidates for state office, Shoreacres City Administrator David Stall and businessman Gary Gates of Rosenberg, for the March 7 Republican primary.

Next, several Democratic hopefuls announced and then withdrew from consideration, most recently Brenham doctor Henry Boehm Jr. on Feb. 4, leaving business consultant Bret Baldwin of Yoakum unopposed in the Democratic primary. Baldwin describes himself as a conservative Democrat of the kind that he thinks the voters of District 18 demand.

Although the Republican candidates agree on the backdrop of fiscal and social conservatism in the district, their approaches differ in their emphasis on issues of particular importance to voters.

Stall has taken the role of the Austin outsider, someone who chose to run for the Senate before Armbrister's announcement in vigorous opposition to the state's claim on private property through eminent domain. If elected, Stall said, he would propose a constitutional amendment to ban the state from using the law to confiscate property for a use it considers more important than the private owner's.

Stall takes exception to the quiet way in which the Legislature moved eminent domain legislation along to passage.

The Legislature also has moved stealthily while considering the Trans-Texas Corridor, a toll road system that Gov. Rick Perry proposed in 2002, he said.

Its north-south route would run through District 18, which reaches from Bastrop and Caldwell counties to the Gulf counties of Aransas, Calhoun and Matagorda.

Stall is adamantly opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"There is not a single study showing that the corridor is needed," Stall said. "This is the Texas Department of Transportation imposing its will on local jurisdictions."

As the Texas Tax Reform Commission gathers public input on changing the state's tax system, Stall says he favors providing property tax relief by using an increased sales tax and not a tax on companies' gross revenues. Stall favors a cap on the property tax and says he would work to ease state requirements that, in effect, dictate how individual school districts spend their money.

Hegar shares with Stall a desire to legislate protection for the various water sources in the district. They differ on their approach to people crossing the border illegally into Texas.

Stall would resist state spending on border enforcement, which he says is a federal responsibility. Hegar says he cast a vote in the last legislative session to increase pay for Department of Public Safety officers, a first step to attracting and keeping qualified officers who are needed at the border.

"Illegal immigration, drugs and criminal activity is of extreme concern here," Hegar said.

Hegar says he has listened to educators in his district who have impressed upon him the need for districts to better manage the tax money they receive and to be less burdened in their spending choices by state and federal mandates. Hegar supported property tax cuts in the House and says he will support changes in the state tax structure only if it means property tax relief.

Hegar says he has consistently supported smarter school district spending rather than more tax money for schools.

"This is going to be about who is going to effectively represent the district," Hegar said.

Repeated attempts to contact Gates were unsuccessful.

On his Web site, Gates calls for a cap on property appraisals, better spending rather than more funding for schools, firmer local control of water rights and the jettisoning of the Trans-Texas Corridor through the district.; 445-3663

Bret Baldwin (D)

Age: 42

Occupation: Owner of Straet Global Consulting Inc.

Education: Bachelor's in business administration, Texas State University; law degree, National University of Singapore; master's of business administration, Thunderbird-The Garvin School of International Management, Glendale, Ariz.

Experience: Past board of directors, Yoakum Chamber of Commerce; member of the American Chamber of Commerce, Taipei, Taiwan; Shanghai, China; Seoul, South Korea; and Singapore

Worth noting: Baldwin was an adjunct professor for Yanbian University in China and a high school football coach in Singapore.

Web site:

Gary Gates (R)

Age: 46

Occupation: Owner of Gatesco Inc., a building supply company in Rosenberg; real estate agent; cattle rancher

Education: Associate's degree, Claremore Junior College, Oklahoma; attended Ohio State University and the University of Central Florida

Experience: Delegate to the Republican state conventions, 2002 and 2004; member of the board of directors for the Pregnancy Resource Center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Bend County

Worth noting: Gates is a member of several area chambers of commerce, the Texas Cattle Ranchers Association and the American Quarter Horse Association.

Web site:

Glenn Hegar (R)

Age: 35

Occupation: Rice and corn farmer

Education: Bachelor's degree in political science and history, Texas A&M University; master's in international economic relations, law degree, St. Mary's University; master's in agricultural law, the University of Arkansas School of Law

Experience: State representative from Katy, 2003-present; chairman of budget and oversight for the House Law Enforcement Committee; member of the House Appropriations Committee; member of the Agricultural Policy Board; member of the Sunset Advisory Commission

Worth noting: Hegar is a sixth-generation Texan, farming land that has been in his family since the mid-1800s.

Web site:

David Stall (R)

Age: 47

Occupation: City administrator, Shoreacres

Education: Attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas; attended San Jacinto College three years

Experience: El Lago City Council, 1978-79; chairman, El Lago Parks Board, 1977-78; member, Board of Trustees for the Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department

Worth noting: Stall was a licensed police officer from 1977 to 1998, an arson investigator and, from 1985 to 1998, was the fire marshal for Nassau Bay.

Web site:

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: