In North Texas, a nurse practitioner and dress shop owner is squaring off against a former educator in a contest to prove who is most conservative as they campaign for the GOP nomination to represent House District 94.
State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, has represented the district, which includes most of urban Arlington, since 2006. This year, Trina Lanza is challenging Patrick, claiming the incumbent isn’t a true conservative and that state legislators haven’t effectively fought the Affordable Care Act or prepared for its eventual rollout if the law isn't repealed.
“The people of District 94 deserve conservative representation, because the people here are true conservatives,” Lanza said.
Lanza cited Patrick’s low scores from conservative groups like Empower Texans and Young Conservatives of Texas as reasons why she shouldn’t be re-elected. But Patrick defended her conservative reputation and pointed to high scores from groups like the Texas Conservative Coalition and the Texas Association of Business.
Patrick, who taught elementary school and at the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Christian University, was a member of the Arlington ISD Board of Trustees for 11 years, and board president for four of them. She said the difference between the two candidates boils down to experience.
“This is basically a race between someone with experience in common sense, conservative leadership versus someone with no experience,” Patrick said.
In an Arlington Republican Club debate last month, Patrick and Lanza clashed over health care reform. Lanza said that legislators haven’t done enough to fight the Affordable Care Act and that they haven't prepared for what will happen if it isn’t repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Patrick said legislators set aside billions of dollars in the state's Rainy Day Fund to cover the cost of the increase in Medicaid patients as more people qualify for the program under the new law.
“We planned for that last session," Patrick said in the debate.
Lanza said using the Rainy Day Fund to cover those costs is a quick fix to a long-term problem.
"One-third of the act has already been implemented in Texas," she said. "I was very surprised that this session legislators had not implemented things that would stop what would roll out in the next three years."
Patrick has lived in Arlington since 1973. Many of the bills the former educator has proposed have involved education, and she is on the House Higher Education Committee. She also signed on to Texas’ controversial bill requiring women to receive a sonogram before an abortion, and the contentious measure that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
Lanza has lived in the Arlington area since 2001. She has worked as a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years, owns a dress store and is in the process of releasing a line of skin care products.
The Republican primary winner will face David Eyerly, a Libertarian who lives in Arlington and builds wind farms in the Midwest, in the general election.