Democratic candidates whose names will appear on the March 5, 2024 joint primary election ballot gave preliminary stump speeches outlining their positions on important issues at the December meeting of Democratic Women of Comal County at Tye Preston Memorial Library on Thursday.
Several of the women drew rounds of applause for their promises to fight Texas’ restrictive abortion laws and support public education.
Kristin Hook for U.S. House District 21
In her first public speech, newly minted candidate Kristin Hook, who earned a doctorate in animal behavioral biology from Cornell University and also worked for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said she quit her job as a biological scientist at the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C. to oust far-right incumbent Republican Rep. Chip Roy, who currently represents Comal County in U.S. House District 21.
She supports evidence-based policies, leveling the playing field for Texas families and advocating for Texas women.
“I come from a long line of strong Texas women,” Hook said. “I was raised by a single mother in Corpus Christi. I learned you don’t mess with Texas women.”
She recalled receiving a text message from her OB-GYN announcing they were closing their practice. The medical doctor did not give a reason for the move and Hook said she chose not to ask questions.
Instead, she thanked her new OB-GYN for not quitting. The medical doctor, who knew about Hook’s science background, started crying, telling her “It’s hard, it’s really hard.”
The physician said she’s alarmed that pharmacists are questioning her patients about the reasons they are filling prescriptions for a drug that helps with pain caused by the insertion of intrauterine devices (IUDs) to prevent pregnancy.
She then thanked Hook for running as a woman and as a scientist.
“I want to make sure that people don’t flee Texas…we need each other,” Hook told the women who packed the conference room. “We need to have each other’s backs…When we empower women we’re uplifting women, we’re uplifting communities, we’re uplifting economies,” she said.
She began her career as a middle school teacher and describes herself as an accidental scientist who now wants to inspire little girls to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In addition to having access to abortion, Hook wants to make sure women can find childcare, earn equal wages and enjoy the same opportunities as men.
“I’m here speaking for the voices of people who can’t be here,” she said. “You belong here, you deserve a seat at the table, you have a voice and I want to make sure that’s heard in the halls of Congress.”
Federal policy is her “sandbox,” she said, inviting Roy to “bring it.”
David Williams for Comal County Sheriff
Also introduced at the DWCC meeting was David Williams, a New Braunfels police officer who faces incumbent opponent Sheriff Mark Reynolds, a Republican, in the March primary.
Williams, who is Black, described himself as an “unconventional candidate” who grew up in a part of town where law enforcement was not well-liked and people were afraid to talk to police.
“One of the main things I’m fighting for is that equal rights need to be protected for everybody,” he said. “The sheriff is the conservator of the peace. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the sheriff and asking for protection of your rights, we have an issue.”
Law enforcement should be perceived as a community resource, not as a threat that can “take someone’s freedom away.”
Williams said he favors asking deputies to step out of their patrol cars to talk to citizens.
He criticized Reynolds for prioritizing traffic stops at a time when sex trafficking, home and vehicle burglaries and violent crime are allegedly increasing.
The 30-year-old candidate said his age and 10 years of experience in law enforcement are not relevant to his campaign.
“Some will say that’s not a lot of experience,” he said. “Law enforcement is one of those career fields you can never know everything about. Law enforcement evolves on a daily basis…The community evolves the way crime evolves.”
Sally Duval for Texas House District 73
Self-described political novice Sally Duval, who has not officially filed to run, said she hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Carrie Isaacs and do everything she can to turn the Texas Legislature blue.
Dec. 11 is the filing deadline for candidates.
If elected, she would support an amendment to the Texas constitution legalizing abortion.
“We’re in desperate need of at least one change in this state and all the others are secondary to it and that’s the abortion law,” Duval said. “I’m very angry with the Republicans. It’s just horrible that they took it (the right to an abortion) away in the first place.
“The girls and the women in this state deserve the right to control their destinies,” she said.
Although her background is in finance, Duval said she paid attention in a marketing class and knows how to raise awareness about important issues like funding public education.
Defunding education leads an uneducated citizenry to its destruction, Duval said, noting Texas ranks in the “dregs” nationally instead of leading the nation.
Texas is ranked #28 in the nation.
Merrie Fox for Texas Senate District 25
Incumbent State Sen. Donna Campbell, a Republican, likes to wear yellow and styles herself as the ‘Yellow Rose of Texas,’ said Democratic candidate Merrie Fox.
The retired school principal who now serves as the new Executive Director of Circle Arts Theatre in New Braunfels, said her personal brand is a “fire-breathing dragon.”
“If I see another yellow dress I’m going to scream,” she said.
Fox said she’s “all in” for a debate with Campbell and is especially focused on treating people with dignity, making decisions about what’s best for students, prioritizing student learning over adult comfort and staying within the law and policy.
“I am incredibly passionate about public education, oh good lord, it’s the basis of everything,” said Fox, who also worked as a coach, teacher and assistant principal during her 31 years in education.
“It was never about control or power, I got to make decisions that made life better for students, teachers, family and the community,” the former educator said.
She opposes school vouchers advocated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Sending public money to private schools hurts public schools and the communities they serve.
“Kids in private schools are not those who need help,” she said, warning that school vouchers are like the “herpes” virus and will reappear during upcoming legislative sessions.
Fox, who is married to a woman, also is vice president of Riverside Pride, a New Braunfels nonprofit that supports and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community by providing safe spaces.
She LGBTQ+ youth continually hear they are not good enough or worthy — and “they matter, too.
“Legislators talk out of both sides of their mouth,” she said.
These elected officials believe parents have the right to make decisions about their children’s education but aren’t smart enough to make gender choices.
Fox criticized the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which she said relies on third-grade testing results to determine the size of future jails.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools.
Fox said she wants to keep the money in public schools and treat all students the same.
Someone once described educators as freedom fighters, she said.
“Education provides choices and choices provide freedom.”
Tanya Marroquin for Comal County Commissioner Pct. 3
High School science teacher Tanya Marroquin said she is the first person in her family to graduate from college. In May 2024 she will earn a doctorate in science education.
Her decision to run for office surprised even herself.
“I never thought I would do something like this,” she said.
Marroquin entered the race to protect the environment and wildlife but also is concerned about the development in the Creekside development at I-35 and FM 306. Her son, who is transgender, was hit by a car while heading to school.
There are no safety walks in that area, she said.
She faces incumbent Commissioner Kevin Webb, a Republican.
Bently Paiz for Comal County Commissioner Pct. 3
Fifth-generation New Braunfels resident Bently Paiz, who ran for New Braunfels City Council District 5 in 2022 while graduating from high school is now focused on capturing political power in the part of town where he grew up.
While still in school he started working as a photographer (his work was featured in MyCanyonLake.com) and attended Democratic party events. Over time he became a local activist, planning events to support or protest issues at Main Plaza.
People are tired of what’s “going on,” he said.
Comal County is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States but Paiz said he’s tired of hearing local officials claim there’s nothing they can do to protect the future — or shut down the controversial Vulcan Quarry project and another proposed wastewater facility near Bulverde.
County officials ignore environmental studies and dismiss concerns about the environment as “fear-mongering,” he said.
Area development supports mostly older people and the county’s cost of living is so high that New Braunfels high school students are leaving the area after graduation, Paiz said.
Generational residents are being pushed out because they can no longer afford to live in the county either.
The number-one issue facing voters is “immense growth,” he said.
His campaign will focus on the environment, education and business and economic growth.
Paiz faces incumbent Republican Kevin Webb.
Julie Sanders for Comal County Commissioner Pct. 1
Although incumbent Republican Donna Eccleston has yet to officially announce her retirement, Sanders will vie for her position with Republicans Joyce Yannuzzi, who works for Texas Sen. Donna Campbell, and Doug Leecock, who represents the Canyon Lake Boat Ramps Community Alliance.
A recovering alcoholic, Sanders had a “miracle baby” while in her 40s. Her son had a speech delay, and when he finally spoke at age three his first words were “Look Mommy, no guns.”
After her car was almost hit by someone driving in the New Braunfels Trump train, she took more interest in politics.
“I’m about as political as they come now,” Sanders said. “If we don’t stand together we might as well roll over … This is bullshit. If we don’t stand up democracy is dead and I’m starting at the lowest level. Commissioners Court meetings are a little too red and a little too racist for my take.”
She did not name any names but claims one of the current commissioners used the word “illegals” in open court to describe people she considers “simply human beings.”
Maggie Ellis for 3rd Court of Appeals Place 2
The Austin attorney said she’s lived through what many people who come before the courts have experienced.
Ellis grew up transient and homeless. Her mother pulled her out of school when she was 10. When she begged to go back to school her mother abandoned her at a gas station.
She eventually received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Texas. Later, as the mother of four teenagers, she drove back and forth to Waco every day to earn her law degree from Baylor University.
Ellis is a former administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings, presiding over cases involving federal education law. As Travis County Assistant District Attorney she prosecuted civil and quasi-criminal cases. In private practice, she represented clients in courts in Travis, Williamson, Hays and Burnet counties and has handled over 2,000 hearings in the courtrooms.
If elected she said she would advocate for victims and survivors and those who risk losing their homes.