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Get to Know the Newest Lawmakers From Texas

The state House, state Senate and U.S. House delegations from Texas have more than four dozen new members between them. Get to know their backgrounds and faces.

By Maurice Chammah, The Marshall Project, and Nick Swartsell and Audrey White, The Texas Tribune
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Bell Jr.

State House:

Cecil Bell, Republican, HD-3

Cecil Bell Jr. is a sixth-generation Texan who works in construction, specializing in water and wastewater facilities. He also has several cattle ranches and is a deacon at the Magnolia Church of Christ. The Magnolia resident ran unopposed in the general election after winning the GOP primary. He was endorsed by the Texas Alliance for Life and multiple professional associations. He says he will “carry/support a constitutional amendment banning any foreign law in Texas.”


Matt Schaefer, Republican, HD-6

Schaefer, of Tyler, is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve who served in Afghanistan. Before that, he worked for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm in Tyler. He is self-employed in the real estate, oil and gas, and legal transaction industries. He says that he will work to “eliminate nonessential agencies and overlapping programs.” He also strongly opposes same-sex marriage and says he will work on securing the border.


Chris Paddie, Republican, HD-9

A native of Carthage, Paddie is the former mayor of Marshall, where he hosts a radio show called “The Talk of East Texas” and is involved with the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines and the Marshall Harrison County Literacy Council. Unopposed in the general election after defeating state Rep. Wayne Christian in the GOP primary, Paddie plans to push for property rights and local control of public education.


Travis Clardy, Republican, HD-11

Clardy is a small-business owner and lawyer from Nacogdoches, in East Texas, making his first foray into politics. He defeated state Rep. Chuck Hopson in the GOP runoff. Clardy opposes tax increases and abortion and supports limited government and gun rights.



Kyle Kacal, Republican, HD-12

Kacal, a Brazos County rancher, is a fiscal conservative who advocates personal freedom. He serves on several community boards. He hopes to serve as a voice in the Legislature for rural Texans. 


Steve Toth, Republican, HD-15

A former regional trainer and ordained pastor, The Woodlands businessman now runs two companies, Acclaim Pools, a pool design/building firm, and My Pool Xpert, a service and repair business. He’s a teacher and elder at his community church and says he’s been involved in the Tea Party movement since its inception. He defeated state Rep. Rob Eissler in the GOP primary.


Marsha Farney, Republican, HD-20

Farney, a former elementary school teacher, counselor and adjunct professor at Texas A&M University, Commerce, has been on the State Board of Education since 2010. She owns a theater in Taylor and has been involved in Republican organizations in Georgetown for years.


Greg Bonnen, Republican, HD-24


Bonnen is a physician and small-business owner in Galveston County. He’s a founder of Houston Physicians’ Hospital and serves on its board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors for Heritage Bank. His priorities include increasing local control of education, securing the border, keeping taxes low, and working on pro-life legislation.


Rick Miller, Republican, HD-26

Miller spent 30 years in the Navy, becoming a decorated officer. He served as the Fort Bend Republican County chairman from 2007 to 2011. His goals include maintaining a balanced budget, reducing illegal immigration, and improving education, veterans’ services and services for the elderly.


Ed Thompson, Republican, HD-29

Thompson is a State Farm insurance agent in Pearland, where he has lived for 30 years. He has served as the mayor pro tem, chairman of the chamber of commerce and president of the economic development committee. He also served on the Pearland ISD Board of Trustees. He’s also been a high school football referee for 39 years. His goals include creating jobs, stifling illegal immigration and balancing the budget.


Scott Turner, Republican, HD-33

A former NFL player, Turner is a Frisco entrepreneur and businessman. He runs a motivational speaking company and is also a director of business development for Systemware Inc., a software company. His priorities include preserving Texas’ business-friendly environment through low taxes and limited government regulation. He has also expressed support for policies that are anti-abortion, preserve traditional marriage and that oppose federal mandates such as those in federal health reform.


Oscar Longoria, Democrat, HD-35

 Longoria is a lawyer born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. He’s currently a board member of South Texas College and has been a board member of the Agua Special Utility District. Longoria says his goals in office include tuition relief for Texas public universities and increasing border security.


Terry Canales, Democrat, HD-40

Canales, a lawyer in Edinburg, says job creation, women’s health and education are his key concerns as a lawmaker. He also says his background as a rancher informs his goal of advocating for the agricultural and livestock industries in his district.



Robert "Bobby" Guerra, Democrat, HD-41

Guerra grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and hopes to focus on education, health care and infrastructure. He took office in September after running unopposed in a special election to replace departing Rep. Veronica Gonzales. He’s a former Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman and is a managing partner at a law firm in Brownsville and McAllen.


Trent Ashby, Republican, HD-57

Ashby grew up on a dairy farm and is the president of the Lufkin school board. He runs a title company and has been involved in various economic development projects. Ashby unseated Rep. Marva Beck in the GOP primary. He says he’ll work on tort reform and protecting property, water and gun rights.


J.D. Sheffield, Republican, HD-59

Sheffield, a physician from Loraine, has served as a family doctor and in various leadership positions in the medical profession for nearly two decades. He unseated Rep. Sid Miller in the GOP runoff. Sheffield has identified border security, lowering taxes, small government and opposition to federal health care reforms as his top priorities.


Ron Simmons, Republican, HD-65

A North Texas entrepreneur with a background in finance, Simmons is chairman of Retirement Advisors of America, a company he founded. He has served in a number of civic and nonprofit organizations, including the Autism Society of America, where he is vice chairman of the group’s national board of directors. His top priorities include stopping illegal immigration; working toward a smaller, more efficient government; and boosting job creation.


Jeff Leach, Republican, HD-67

A lawyer from Plano, Leach identifies lawsuit reform as one of his key goals in office. He says he’s also committed to limiting the size and scope of government, protecting the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, and preserving gun rights. While attending Baylor University, Leach served in the White House Office of Political Affairs under President George W. Bush and with the Republican National Committee.


Drew Springer, Republican, HD-68

A University of North Texas graduate, Springer worked at a railcar company before going to work for his father’s financial services company, where he specializes in agricultural managed futures. The Muenster resident has been a volunteer fireman and attended religious retreats at the Gainesville State School juvenile facility. In 2008, he worked for John McCain’s campaign in Colorado.


James Frank, Republican, HD-69

Frank is a banker and businessman in Wichita Falls. He has been active in a number of community organizations there, including the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where he served as vice chairman. He says fighting unnecessary government regulations on business, keeping taxes low and improving public education are among his goals.



Scott Sanford, Republican, HD-70

Sanford is a CPA and pastor in Allen. He’s worked for Ernst & Young and has owned two franchises for the company. His goals include minimizing the size of government, fighting tax hikes, passing voter ID laws and securing the border. He’s also expressed a commitment to limiting regulations on small businesses.


Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez, Democrat, HD-74

Nevárez, a lawyer in Eagle Pass, has been heavily involved in education. He served four years on the Eagle Pass ISD Board of Trustees and says public education is his top priority. Nevárez served on the Maverick County Tax Appraisal District, a role he says has prepared him to be an advocate for taxpayers. He's also indicated a commitment to agricultural, ranching and water issues.




Mary Gonzalez, Democrat, HD-75

Gonzalez, a native of El Paso, has worked for state Reps. Paul Moreno and Richard Raymond and served as program coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin’s Multicultural Engagement Center. Her main goals as a legislator include securing better funding for education; improving water utility systems, communication and transportation infrastructure; and promoting economic growth in the agricultural industry.



Joe Moody, Democrat, HD-78

Moody, who has lived in El Paso his entire life, previously served in the 81st legislative session. He has focused on veterans’ issues, domestic violence services and education.


Phil Stephenson, Republican, HD-85

An accountant by profession, Stephenson was the Republican County chairman and founder of the Tea Party chapter in Wharton County. He played baseball at Texas Tech University before working for various accounting firms in Dallas. He says his experience with is accounting business has primed him to help tighten up the state budget.


Ken King, Republican, HD-88

King, who was born and raised in the Panhandle, runs his family’s energy services company. He spent three years working as a mechanic in the Siberian oil fields. King, who defeated Rep. Jim Landtroop in the GOP runoff, plans to push for tax cuts and job creation.


Stephanie Klick, Republican, HD-91

A former hospital nursing supervisor, Klick has spent the last 10 years working for the Tarrant County Republican Party, where she was elected chairwoman. She also works as a nursing consultant and has been a compliance consultant for long-term care facilities for the developmentally disabled.


Jonathan Stickland, Republican, HD-92

Stickland works as a consultant for local oil and gas companies in Fort Worth. He has said he’ll work toward limited government, lower taxes and increased job creation as a lawmaker.


Matt Krause, Republican, HD-93

Krause is a lawyer in Fort Worth specializing in constitutional law. He has served as a precinct chairman for the Tarrant County GOP as well as president of the Northwest Tarrant Republican Club. Krause, who beat Rep. Barbara Nash in the GOP primary, says his top goals include reducing taxes and regulations on sectors like the energy industry, and securing the border.


Nicole Collier, Democrat, HD-95

Collier is a lawyer and small-business owner in Fort Worth. She graduated from the University of Houston in 1996. Collier has served as a Democratic precinct chairwoman and election judge, and she has been a legal advocate for individuals and families for the last 10 years. She plans to focus on health care, public education funding and jobs.



Craig Goldman, Republican, HD-97

Goldman, a real estate investor based in Fort Worth, has been active in a number of community organizations there, including the Tarrant County College Foundation and the Women’s Center of Tarrant County. He spent a decade as vice president of his family’s small business and also worked for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm. Goldman’s priorities include education reform, cutting government spending and enforcement of immigration laws.


Giovanni Capriglione, Republican, HD-98

Capriglione of Southlake owns a venture capital firm that focuses on investment in small businesses. He’s been involved in grassroots conservative political groups as well as the GOP for years, most recently as a Texas Republican Assembly delegate. He unseated state Rep. Vicki Truitt in the GOP primary. Capriglione’s priorities as a lawmaker include job creation, low taxes, promoting anti-abortion policies and increasing local control of schools.


Pat Fallon, Republican, HD-106

Fallon graduated from the University of Notre Dame and served in the Air Force before going into business. He is now the CEO of Virtus Apparel. He’s been on the Frisco City Council since 2009 and says he’ll fight illegal immigration and keep Texas a “pro-business environment.”


Toni Rose, Democrat, HD-110

The daughter of union workers, Rose went to Paul Quinn College and now works as a hospital mental health worker. The Dallas woman ran unopposed in the general election after defeating Larry Taylor and Cedric David in the Democratic primary, and says she plans to increase funding for public and higher education.


Jason Villalba, Republican, HD-114

A lawyer and former financial analyst, Villalba calls himself a “proven conservative” and points to his tenure as vice chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party as an indication of his goals as a legislator. He grew up in Dallas and says he’s for cutting taxes, creating “high-wage jobs,” supporting charter schools and other school choice measures.


Bennett Ratliff, Republican, HD-115

Ratliff, a Coppell civil engineer and small-business owner, is the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff. He has said that balanced budgets, job creation and less government regulation will be his top priorities as a legislator. He also served eight years on the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees and has education issues on his agenda.


Philip Cortez, Democrat, HD-117

Cortez grew up in San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2002. He’s currently a Ph.D student at UT-Austin. He was elected to the San Antonio City Council in 2007 and was picked by the mayor to chair the audit, infrastructure and growth committees. He also served in the Air Force. He defeated Rep. John V. Garza in the general election.



Justin Rodriguez, Democrat, HD-125

Attorney Justin Rodriguez, born and raised in San Antonio, got his undergraduate degree at the University of the Incarnate Word before becoming a juvenile prosecutor at the Bexar County district attorney’s office. In 2004, he was elected to serve on the San Antonio Independent School District board. He has also been a member of the Council of Urban Boards of Education.


Tony Dale, Republican, HD-136

A propane industry professional, Dale points to his time on the Cedar Park City Council, where he voted against raising taxes and expanded E-verify, as a clear indication of his fiscal and social conservatism. He was a captain in the U.S. Army before moving to Williamson County in 2001, and he strongly opposes the federal health care reform law.


Gene Wu, Democrat, HD-137

Wu moved to Houston from Odessa in the late 1980s and after obtaining a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in public policy, he became chief clerk for the Legislature’s House Higher Education Committee. He then went to the South Texas College of Law and  became a prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney’s office. He was endorsed by various Democratic legislators involved in criminal justice policy, including Sens. Rodney Ellis and John Whitmire.


Mary Ann Perez, Democrat, HD-144

Perez, a Pasadena resident who got the endorsement of every major Democratic elected official in the Southeast Texas district’s area, is a trustee of the Houston Community College governing board and owns a Farmers Insurance agency branch. She says she’ll focus on “good schools, safe neighborhoods and a strong economy.”


State Senate:


Charles Schwertner, Republican, SD-5

An orthopedic surgeon and small-business owner in Georgetown, Schwertner formerly served a term as state representative for House District 20. He supports reducing government spending, cracking down on illegal immigration, and protecting land and water.



Ken Paxton, Republican, SD-8

Paxton is a lawyer in McKinney specializing in real estate and business. Before his election to the Senate, he served as state representative for House District 70. He has identified job creation, fiscal responsibility and a pro-life agenda among his top priorities.


Kelly Hancock, Republican, SD-9

Hancock, A Fort Worth resident who runs a small wholesale chemical distributor, has represented House District 91 since 2006 and has served on committees for environmental regulation and insurance and as policy chairman of the House Republican Caucus. Before that, he served on the Birdville school board for more than a decade. During the campaign, he got strong support from the Tea Party.


Larry Taylor, Republican, SD-11

Born in Friendswood, Taylor has represented House District 24 since 2003. He owns the Truman Taylor Insurance Agency, and recently has become known as the co-chairman of the legislative oversight committee for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. He has been a member of the House Committee on Insurance and Committee on Ways and Means. He has also been the chairman of the House Republican Caucus.


Donna Campbell, Republican, SD-25

A proud Tea Party advocate, Campbell is a physician, specializing in cardiovascular clinical nursing and nursing administration. The New Braunfels resident has served as the medical director for several hospitals and performed surgeries in Africa with the organization Christian Eye Ministry. In 2010, she lost in a race against Democrat Lloyd Doggett for the 25th Congressional District. She defeated Sen. Jeff Wentworth in a GOP runoff.



Randy Weber, Republican, CD-14

A Tea Party favorite, Weber has run an air conditioning company since 1981 and in 1990 was elected to the Pearland City Council. In 2008, he became a state representative and joined the committees of Environmental Regulation, Public Education and Border and Intergovernmental Affairs.


Beto O'Rourke, Democrat, CD-16

O’Rourke was a signed rock musician in high school before attending college and working for several years in New York City. He returned to El Paso in 1998 and started an IT consulting and web design company. In 2005, he was elected to the El Paso City Council, and he served through June 2011. He’s gotten a fair bit of press for his favorable position on the legalization of marijuana, though he has said he won’t bring the issue to Congress. He defeated longtime U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary.


Pete Gallego, Democrat, CD-23

Gallego, of Alpine, is already well-known in Texas for his long career in the state House, where he was first elected in 1990. An attorney, he was the first freshman member to chair the House Democratic Caucus. Most recently, he was the chairman of the Committee of Criminal Jurisprudence. He defeated U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco in the general election.


Roger Williams, Republican, CD-25

Before he was appointed secretary of state by Gov. Rick Perry in 2004, Williams was a star baseball player and went on to run his family’s automobile dealership in Weatherford. He is a trustee of TCU and the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and he has served on the Texas Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Board.


Marc Veasey, Democrat, CD-33

Veasey, of Fort Worth, has represented Tarrant County's HD-95 since 2005. He’s on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Committee on Technology, and in 2009 he was elected chair pro tem of the House Democratic Caucus. He works in real estate and began his political work as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas. He has said he favors increased funding for education, including access to Pell grants, as well as the DREAM Act.


Filemon Vela, Democrat, CD-34

Raised in Harlingen and Brownsville, Vela got a law degree at UT-Austin in 1987 and represented school districts suing for funding in Edinburg School District v. Landmark and San Benito School District v. Honeywell. He has also represented individuals in litigation against corporations, including wrongful deaths and discrimination claims.



Steve Stockman, Republican, CD-36

Stockman returns to the congressional delegation after a 16-year hiatus. He represented the 9th District from 1995 until 1997, successfully passing a bill to hold a Washington for Jesus prayer rally on the Capitol grounds. A Friendswood resident, he was a faculty member for the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. He was endorsed in this election by Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Louie Gohmert.


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