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Texas Senate, District 23

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  • Jonathan F. Erhardt (L)

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    John Lawson (R) Minister

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    Royce West (D) Attorney

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Biographical Information

Length of residency in your district:

Occupation/main source of income:

Education (include all degrees):

Highlights of current civic involvement/accomplishment:

Highlights of past civic involvement/accomplishment:

Previous public offices sought or held:

How much funding have you raised for your campaign?

Who are your top three contributors?

Have you ever been arrested or involved in any criminal proceedings? If so, please explain:

Have you ever been involved in any civil lawsuits or declared personal or professional bankruptcy? If so, please explain:

What is an example of how you led a team or group toward achieving an important goal?

What political leader do you most admire and why?

Why are you running for this office?

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

What are the state's greatest challenges that government can address?

The current two-year budget restored billions of dollars from previous cuts. Are there places where you advocate more spending and, if so, how would you pay for it? Are there areas where you would spend less?

The state’s business climate is considered a jobs magnet. How would you improve on today’s business conditions, regulation or promotion?

Please assess the safety net for Texas' poor and working poor. What changes, if any, would you make?

The 2013 Legislature broke with the recent past and boosted spending on mental health care. What other reforms should lawmakers pursue to address mental health in Texas?

What would you advocate to prevent another disaster like what happened in West?

Texas' "Closing the Gaps in Higher Education" master plan is due for a 2015 update. Are there new directions or initiatives you advocate for the state's colleges and universities?

How will you judge whether the state’s new accountability system is working for public education?

The Legislature may have to contend with another court order to overhaul the system of financing public schools. What is your idea of a better way to support public education in Texas?

If voters approve an extra $1.2 billion a year in highway spending in November, that’s only a fraction of what TxDOT says is needed. How would you bridge that gap to meet the needs of the growing population: taxes, fees, tolls, borrowing, some combination, or none of the above? Please be specific.

An ABA-sponsored, bipartisan review of Texas’ death penalty recommended numerous reforms. What weaknesses or needed improvements would you cite in the administration of the death penalty?

Do you favor open carry for handgun owners in Texas?

Gov. Rick Perry has advocated "decriminalization" of marijuana possession. What changes would you support in prosecution of drug laws in Texas?

Would you vote to place a medical marijuana amendment before Texas voters?

What changes, if any, would you make in Texas’ open records and open meetings laws?

Should the Legislature pass laws that supersede local control over oil and gas drilling?

What, if anything, should the state do to reform laws that govern payday lending?

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City/Town Dallas, Texas 75216
Age 71
Campaign Phone Number (469) 777-8683
Fax Number None.
32 Years
Children of God Ministry
Bachelors of Arts degree from Texas College in Tyler, Texas
I am on the board of the Deserving Students Scholarship Committee.
I am a former Boy Scout and former Precinct Chair.
Candidate for Texas Senate District 23
As shown on the January 15 and July 15, 2014 Campaign Finance Reports, slightly over eleven thousand dollars from mostly small donations.
As shown on the January 15 and July 15, 2014 Campaign Finance Report, slightly over eleven thousand dollars from mostly small donations. My top three contributors are Paul Zimmerman $2,250, James Middleton $1,000, and Silvia Acuff $1,000.
As a young post graduate, I had the most fortunate blessing to work as a team leader for and to be mentored by the great Black entrepreneurial genius, Mr. S. B. Fuller of the Fuller Products Company in Chicago, Illinois. I have an astute understanding of the working of America’s free enterprise system thanks to Mr. S. B. Fuller.
Black Republican Texas Senator Matthew Gaines. From the Texas State Historical Association, "GAINES, MATTHEW (1840–1900). Matthew Gaines, black senator and Baptist preacher, was born on August 4, 1840, to a slave mother on the plantation of Martin G. Despallier in Pineville, near Alexandria, Louisiana. During Reconstruction, he was elected as a senator to represent the Sixteenth District in the Texas legislature. Among the many issues he addressed were education, prison reform, the protection of blacks at the polls, the election of blacks to public office, and tenant-farming reform".
I bring strong Biblical convictions to the Texas State Senate. I am committed to promoting economic growth, prosperity and freedom that encourages people to have initiative to take part in the capitalistic economic system of government, whereby jobs are created and substantial and fulfilling work can be obtained by Texans. I am convicted to a high degree of ethical practice and representation of Texas citizens. I say: “The citizens of District 23 deserve better and when I am elected they shall receive better.”
My opponent has over 20 years in office but Senate District 23 lacks the job, educational, and moral leadership that it needs.
1. JOBS - District 23 needs to be the kind of district where investors and job creators will want to do business. We can employ thousands who are now unemployed if we had a more friendly attitude toward business. 2. EDUCATION - School Vouchers are educational funding directed toward the individual families rather than the the school district. This will provide families with the opportunity to move their child from a low performing school to a higher performing one. Results should be the thing that matters most in the education of our children. 3. LIFE - The Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that we must protect the life of our unborn children.
Spending increases should be limited to population increase plus inflation. The major financial areas of Transportation, Health, and Education should use zero-based budgeting instead of the constant requests for more and more money that far exceed the ability of the Texas taxpayers to pay.
I favor reducing the government bureaucratic burden on Texas small businesses. Small businesses are the power house of economic growth.
The safety net for Texas' poor and working poor is being spent on the large number of illegal aliens in Texas. I would favor a safety net for Texas' poor and working poor citizens over illegal aliens.
Government Healthcare in general has been fraught with fraud. I woud take steps to eliminate Government Healthcare fraud in Texas.
Most disasters can NOT be prevented by more and more government control. Local Texas citizens should have easy and transparent access to government information to know when dangerous factories are in their area.
The Texas master plan has four goals: to close the gaps in student participation, student success, excellence, and research. I would add a fifth goal: to improve affordability.
While STAAR is better than TAKS, it still very complex and penalizes large, diverse, and economically disadvantaged schools. Since it is being phased in, we are still two or three years away from determing whether it is effective.
I favor the free enterprise system. The money should be allocated to the Texas student. Students should be allowed to go to the best schools. Lousy ineffective schools should be closed.
The highway system should offer toll and free lanes on the same highway. The toll lanes should fund the free lanes. The toll should be eliminated when the road is payed off.
Preserving biological evidence in death penalty cases as was done in the Dallas County cases.
Texas Justice system is too heavily based on criminal and mandatory prison penalties. Many of the existing inmates could be handled with financial civil penalties. I also favor inmates working to pay off the debt.
Yes, Texas voters should be able to vote on the issue as long as a doctor's prescription is required to obtain medical marijuana,
I favor transparent government. Most Texas governmental documents and meetings should be able to be seen online.
Additional regulations only make the system more inefficient. I favor usury laws that limit usury - the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loans intended to unfairly enrich the lender. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates.
City/Town Dallas, TX 75232
Age 65
Campaign Phone Number (214) 946-9378
Fax Number 214-948-8578
Email Address
I have lived in Texas Senate District 23 for more than 25 years.
I am an attorney.
University of Texas at Arlington, B.A., M.A.; University of Houston, J.D.
I have three sons who are Eagle Scouts. I currently serve as Executive Vice President - Circle 10 Council, Boy Scouts of America. I am a member of the Dallas Bar Association Board of Directors. For 25 years I have sponsored and hosted an annual Christmas give-away to benefit children who are part of the programming at the West Dallas Community Center.
I served as chairman of the Executive Leadership Council - UNCF. I have served as chairman of the West Dallas Community Center. I am a past president of the J.L. Turner Legal Society and past chairman of the Dallas County Dental Health Board.
I was the Democratic nominee for Dallas County District Attorney in 1986.
$142,000 for 2014 to date.
Russell Budd, Barry Andrews and Tom Joyner.
I have never been arrested, but of course I have been involved in criminal proceedings as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney.
Yes, as an attorney.
Through a coalition of those vested in the future of our city, we were able to create the first four-year, state-supported institution of higher education in the City of Dallas, that is now the University of North Texas at Dallas. In continuing to grow the university as a center of academic excellence, we also rallied the support needed to bring a public law school to Dallas. The UNT Dallas College of Law accepted its inaugural freshman class in August 2014 in the heart of Downtown Dallas. I was also able to rally legislative support to create the College of Juvenile Justice & Psychology and the Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center at Prairie View A&M University. It established the first doctorate program in Juvenile Justice in the nation. On August 1, we launched the D23 Goes to Work website, a collaboration between Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas, the Dallas County Community College District and others, providing a one-stop web-based resource for persons seeking employment and job training.
I have the utmost admiration for President Barack Obama. Think about it. In the space of less than 20 years, he has been able to form a coalition that extends beyond color and ethnicity, that's enabled him to rise from an Illinois state senator, to become the President of the United States; an office at times also called "the leader of the free world."
I am running for this office because the excitement and fulfillment that I receive from serving the people of Texas has not diminished in my 21 years as state senator for District 23. There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue to work to make a difference in the lives of all Texans. I feel the duty to be a voice for citizens, who despite their common interests, may not have the means for meaningful input into the legislative process.
My track record during my tenure is one of demonstrated leadership and the ability to work with anyone who is truly interested in the progress of this state. I have been able to compromise for the good of Texas without compromising my principles, in which I believe that every citizen of Texas should have a seat at the table of opportunity. I have worked tirelessly for public education and to provide access to higher education. I have endeavored to see to the healthcare needs of both children and senior Texans. I have worked to help grow minority-owned businesses. One example is the creation of the "Doing Business Texas Style - Spot Bid Contract Fair" that since, has been modeled by others across the state. And I have also worked on ways to better our system of criminal justice. In 2001, I was able to author legislation that placed cameras in the cars of patrol officers all across Texas. It is now a way of life for law enforcement.
We must find a way to ensure that our public school system has the resources needed to prepare the young minds that will someday be called on to be the leaders of industry and stewards of the Texas economy. Our future workforce needs depend on it. In what is arguably the richest country in the world, our elderly should not languish in nursing homes or make choices between food and medications. We must see to it that our transportation systems can bear the load of continued population growth. And recent years of drought has brought heightened attention to the necessity of an adequate and safe water supply. Although our employment numbers look good, every day I see people struggle to find work at a livable wage. Government can set the table for those who want to work to find work. They too, must become part of the franchise for Texas to operate at maximum productivity.
There are those who say we already spend too much money on public schools. I would argue that the money should be spent in ways that will ensure the academic success of the children that the law says we must educate. We spend millions testing at levels for which they have not been adequately prepared. We should expand Pre-K programs statewide. And we must find ways to ensure that the number of children who enter the ninth grade is equal or near the number that graduate four years later. More general revenue should be appropriated for education. A visit to our nursing homes would reveal some uncomfortable facts of life. Many state-run healthcare programs can access federal matching dollars. We as a state should better fund those programs. Our seniors, many who did not have the advantages we have today, deserve better. Texas, particularly in recent years, has approved what inarguably be called austere state budgets. I cannot readily identify areas where I think we should spend less.
Texas does a great job of promoting its business climate of low regulation and low taxes. However, low regulations should not equal lax regulations. We have one planet. We cannot continue to pollute waters and defy clean air standards. Corporations can make profits and still act responsibly. The role of state government could also help to return manufacturing to Texas. Typically, manufacturing jobs pay better wages and have better benefits than service industry employment. We could tout a business climate that's good for industry and workers. That would be a winning combination for all involved.
I have mentioned how Texas cares for its seniors, many of them poor and confined to nursing homes. We can do better. However in the debate and Texas' ultimate refusal of Medicaid expansion, what has gone unsaid by critics of the Affordable Care Act is that it is designed to assist the working poor in obtaining health insurance coverage. CHIP and Medicaid provide assistance for the young and those impoverished. Medicare provides for the elderly. Those left un-provided for are the millions of Texans and Americans who work on low-wage jobs that do not offer health insurance and/or pay wages so low that workers cannot afford coverage. Keep in mind that most health insurance coverage in America is offered through employer-sponsored plans. According to federal Health and Human Services statistics, about two-thirds of the nearly 5 million uninsured Texans, some 2.9 million citizens, are employed, but work on either part-time or low or minimum wage jobs. If it were up to me, they would be eligible for coverage under the Medicaid expansion.
A consensus appears to be building in the legislature to better coordinate all aspects of mental health services. Currently, there are multiple funding streams, and services are delivered through a variety of programs operating in virtual silos. Additionally, legislators would like to be better able to measure outcomes in the field of mental health, so that successful initiatives can be augmented, while others might be adjusted. Finally, the idea of integrating behavioral health (mental health; substance abuse) with primary health care, again, to ensure coordination of care, is gaining in popularity and is already being implemented in Texas despite challenges related to insurance and provider reimbursement in some areas.
By all accounts, what happened in 2013 in West, Texas was largely preventable. A recent report by the state fire marshal identified such factors as the lack of training and equipment for first responders, although in West, as with most Texas jurisdictions, firefighters are volunteers. Even federal regulators do not know the exact locations of all the facilities in Texas that store ammonium nitrate, the compound commonly used for fertilizer that caused the massive explosion last April. Texas law prohibits inspections of facilities that store large quantities of hazardous chemicals without the owner's permission. Its also been found that the majority of businesses across the state store this highly combustible compound in wooden buildings, not in fireproof containers or enclosures. These businesses, mostly located in rural areas are also without sprinkler systems. Texas does not have a statewide fire code and even prohibits jurisdictions of a certain population from enacting their own. There are plenty areas for improvement, but already, even initial draft legislation that would address the factors that caused the West catastrophe has been met with the familiar refrain of "over-regulation." Its seems that even loss of life and the near destruction of a small Texas town is not incentive enough to force some businesses and politicians to place safety over profits.
Since its inception in October 2000, the Closing the Gaps" plan has implemented policies, programs and procedures to close educational gaps in higher education in Texas in the areas of participation, success, excellence, and research. Significant strides have been made and many gaps have been closed.

Yet, there is still room for improvement. The plan has the goal of enrolling 630,000 more students in fall 2015, and to do so, strategies need to be reworked to reverse the student enrollment decline that has occurred in recent years. There was a 14,000 student enrollment decline in fall 2013. To reach the target goal set, around 27,000 students would need to be admitted to Texas' higher education institutions in fall 2014 and fall 2015, respectively.

This can be accomplished by eliminating the barriers that exist for students attending and graduating from college, which are mostly financial and preparation related. Texas needs to provide more affordable and accessible degrees while providing more financial aid and scholarships to students based on financial need and to reward academic success.

Our current focus on career and college readiness, will provide students with opportunities to hone-in on their interests through the endorsements assigned to their diplomas, and access to dual credit, early college and magnet programs. To enhance this, we will need more counseling professionals in junior and senior high schools who can properly advise and counsel students to take the appropriate courses and acquire the skills necessary for college success.

There needs to be "people" available for students to make sense of the high school endorsements and how they feed into the college degrees and careers of interest to the students.

Wherever a student is academically, our educational system must meet them there and provide a seamless path from Pre-K to high school through graduation from college.

Students must be successful in their higher education pursuits and therefore, we must do more than just graduate college students. We must award degrees that increase general teacher certifications and especially those in math and science and stress certificates in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math).

The world is changing and the workforce that is being trained on our college campuses must change with it. Education must go beyond the college halls to the industries that glean their employees from them through internships, externships, shadow experiences, and mentoring which MUST be a component of our students' higher educational matriculation.
By and large our schools perform remarkably well given the many challenges they face. While I was supportive of HB 5, I plan an organized evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of this new law that sets in place a pathway to graduation and college and career readiness. I think we should seek the input of stakeholders, like superintendents, parents, teachers, and students, to ascertain what is working and what isn't. But I see and must also speak to what I have seen over the last decade as the demonization of traditional public schools. Its a trend that is not isolated to Texas. We have constructed a system of testing that does not match the profile of many students who we are called upon to educate. It's like asking a runner to place well in a 100 meter dash when he takes his starting mark at 110 meters. He never quite catches up because he started the race behind, but with the same expectations. We look at the test results of a school where many of the students did not begin their academic careers within our system of public education and determine that school to be a failing campus. We add to the stigma of failing urban schools by blaming the jobs done by our teachers, who are now also asked to address issues that initiate outside the walls their classrooms. While I believe that no student should be made to remain at a failing campus, I believe just as strongly that a struggling campus should be provided the tools and resources needed for student success. Public schools do not have the option of choosing who shows up on their doorsteps. They are tasked with meeting the educational needs of all children, no matter their background or circumstances. The amount of money Texas spends per student is well below that of other states. There are vast differences in the level of resources available when you compare urban, suburban and rural schools and districts. If the rising level of fervor I see each session for school choice were re-directed to improving public schools, Texas' schools would be among the nation's best.
Unfortunately, there are only two ways to get things accomplished in Texas. You either legislate or litigate. Over the past several decades, legislation passed regarding financing public schools in Texas has prompted litigation.

We don't have a state income tax and the mechanism we currently use to fund public education has in the past, been deemed unconstitutional. We currently await a court decision on the current Public School Finance case.

My idea for a better way to support education would be to appropriate sufficient general revenue in order to provide an equitable and adequate public education for our public school students. You know, as well as I, that politics is always in the amount of money necessary and the formula utilized to fund our schools.
Using tax dollars derived from Texas' bustling oil and gas industry was a great idea that merits the public's support at the polls, but it alone will not solve all of the state's road funding shortfalls. In 2003, we created the Texas Mobility Fund and subsequently passed Prop. 12 and Prop. 14 bonds. Those financing options have been exhausted and now cost the state more in debt financing than we receive in state gas tax revenue. We also created comprehensive development agreements (CDA) where the state partners with private entities to acquire financing for new construction years ahead of what we could do with appropriations and traditional revenue streams. But the part of that scenario that is objectionable to some Texas motorists is that we repay those private companies by tolling the newly built roadways. We are at the point to where if no new revenue sources are created, or existing ones are not adjusted, new construction will come to a halt in the near future. Experts and advocates have pointed out that a simple increase in the state's portion of the gas tax would be less expensive in the long run than the amount Texans will pay in debt financing and tolls. But to mention any tax levy in Texas is tantamount to heresy. Constant fee creation and increases are just as objectionable to drivers, but are enacted in ways that attract less attention to their origin. Soon, we as policymakers will have to make tough and unpopular votes on transportation financing if we are to have the infrastructure needed to meet the demands of industry and a rate of population growth that tops the nation; be it through roads, transit or rail.
I am on record for having supported the application of the death penalty in the State of Texas, but I have been even more adamant that the Texas judicial system in its entirety, must take every precaution necessary to ensure that the person who is convicted and sentenced to death, is the person who is guilty of a capital offense. I do not believe that race should be a consideration when predicting a defendant's future behavior and was able to place that into law. So I can also agree that the state should take an earnest look at the consideration of "future dangerousness" as a factor in sentencing. I agree with the ABA's recommendation to Texas that interrogations in serious felony cases should be recorded. In 2011, I authored and passed SB1616 that orders the preservation of biological evidence for a minimum of 40 years in felony cases or until the defendant dies, or has discharged his conviction, or the statute of limitations for the offense has expired. Texas also passed legislation that calls for law enforcement agencies to develop "detailed written policy" regarding eyewitness identification procedures. It also ordered the Law Enforcement Management Institute (LEMIT) to develop model policy, but did not require agencies to closely adhere to the model statute. Texas has not gone far enough on eyewitness ID when it has been shown overwhelmingly, that the most common factor in wrongful convictions is faulty eyewitness identification. The ABA recommended that jurors should be given complete and accurate information regarding sentencing options in capital cases. If doubt exist in a juror's mind about what sentence could be applied, the death penalty should not be rendered. The ABA also noted that death row inmates in Texas are not given the benefit of recent reforms to laws governing capital punishment. I agree that decisions made to go forward with an execution should not be decided inextricably by the review procedures that were in place at the time of conviction. There were other recommendations made, and I hope that the interim or the upcoming 84th Legislature will provide the venue to take a hard and sober look at how we impose capital punishment in Texas.
While open carry advocates scream to the rafters in favor of expanding gun rights, what are the rights of the majority of the population who choose not to be in proximity to deadly firearms? There are good reasons that we no longer live in the manner depicted in the TV westerns. Our society has advanced. Let's continue to move forward. Let's arm ourselves with brain power rather than guns.
Texas made a first step in 2007 when it passed a law that would have allowed subjects found to be in possession of certain amounts of marijuana, to receive a citation rather than go to jail. This was conditional on the subject appearing in court within 72 hours or having a warrant issued for the arrest. Presently, several jurisdictions are studying ways to implement a "cite and release" system for small amounts of pot. The problem that must be solved is how do you positively identify a person at the scene and confirm residency and other vital information to ensure enforcement capabilities before releasing that individual from detention. The conservative nature of the Legislature has not allowed full consideration of anything that resembles legalization of marijuana, although advocates return each session for that singular cause. The case for decriminalization says that already stretched-thin, patrol officers should not lose a half day or more on off the streets for "simple possession" marijuana cases involving small amounts. I would be open to discussion to consider decriminalization for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Yes. Its been studied and is allowed by law in other states. Certainly the side effects or downside of medicinal marijuana use cannot be any worse that those of prescription meds we see advertised daily. But seriously, research supports the use of medicinal marijuana by cancer patients and in applications associated with glaucoma.
I believe that Texas' laws governing open records and open meetings are on par with any to be found in the country. This issue has not been expressed as a concern by constituents or other callers to my office.
Given that oil and gas drilling is prevalent throughout certain parts of the state and present within local jurisdictions, I believe that those local jurisdictions should be allowed the ability to craft ordinances that best address the concerns of their residents and local policymakers.
While the powerful payday lobby will argue all day long and well into the night (and they do) that they are performing a needed service that is otherwise not available to the un-banked and under-served, I and many others who represent certain communities, have seen the damaging debt spiral that payday and auto title lenders have caused for vulnerable borrowers. There are ways to provide financial services to those in need without making their conditions worse. These methods are already in place and working in other states. And despite payday lenders claims, its hard to believe that they would open shop in states and markets where a reasonable profit could not be made.

This summer, payday lenders lawsuit opposing the City of Dallas' ordinance was rejected by the courts. To date, nearly 30 Texas towns and cities have enacted some form of local law to rescue their citizens from the clutches of payday lenders. In response, we've seen lenders set up shop all around the perimeter of cities who have passed ordinances and direct borrowers to those locations.

I support statewide legislation that would apply to storefront and online loans. I support statewide regulations that would limit the number of times a loan could be "rolled-over' or refinanced. I support statewide legislation that would restrict the number of loans that a borrower could have outstanding at any one time. I support statewide regulations that would limit amounts borrowed based on the borrower's ability to repay, or their income. I would hope that the bond between state leadership and the industry would become less airtight. I plan on filing legislation, even before we arrive in Austin on January 13, 2015.