In-person early voting begins today for the 2020 general election. In the race for president this year, we endorsed ideas and sought to offer a path forward for a nation struggling under division and rancor. We invite you to read our thoughts and those of others in our What’s At Stake series at dallasnews.com/opinion.
On these pages, you will find our recommendations in federal, state, local and judicial races in our area. We also invite you to compare 308 candidates in 131 races, read their answers to our questions and draw your own conclusions by accessing our Voter Guide at dallasnews.com/voterguide.
Republican John Cornyn is a veteran lawmaker who gets our recommendation for his leadership tone, for his approach on policy, and for his record. We’ll start with his tone. Cornyn is completing his third term in the Senate, yet he started this election in a bit of a deficit in terms of name ID. That’s because in the scrum of American politics, he’s not really someone who fires off a controversial fusillade into others in order to enhance his own profile. In our divided country, we could use more lawmakers with a low-key approach. In terms of policy, we appreciate Cornyn’s work on Hurricane Harvey relief. We also credit him for his work in passing the Fix NICS Act, which worked to close a loophole in the system to keep guns out of the hands of those who never should have weapons, and his work on criminal justice reform that is both cost-effective and enables more people to benefit from training and educational programs. Cornyn’s also been a leader in reforms to end sex trafficking in this country. He is the stronger choice in this race.
Opponents: Democrat MJ Hegar, Green Party candidate David B. Collin, and Libertarian Kerry McKennon
U.S. House 3rd District
Since winning office in 2018, Republican Van Taylor has been a model of reaching across the aisle to Democrats to achieve results that have a positive impact. A headline in this newspaper once labeled him “Mr. Bipartisan” for having the temerity to openly speak to Democrats inside the House. He worked with Democratic U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, for example, to bring a new veterans hospital to Garland. His focus on getting members of Congress to just get the basics done is what most Americans want regardless of party.
Opponent: Democrat Lulu Seikaly
U.S. House 4th District
Republican Pat Fallon stridently supports limited government, low taxes, gun rights, personal responsibility, free markets and property rights — areas that this editorial board generally supports. He voted to abolish red-light cameras and to end surprise billing on medical procedures. At a time when political divisions run deep, we urge Fallon to bring his best legislative instincts to Washington and not contribute to the toxic rhetoric and gridlock.
Opponents: Democrat Russell Foster and Libertarian Lou Antonelli
U.S. House 12th District
Kay Granger is the country’s longest serving Republican woman in Congress, and the power she has amassed over her years in Washington have made her a valuable asset for her district. That and her steady refusal to engage in the nastiness that has captured our politics lead us to recommend her.
Opponent: Democrat Lisa Welch
U.S. House 24th District
Beth Van Duyne
Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne has the résumé to be a strong, productive member of Congress. Unfortunately, she also possesses the attack instincts to worsen Washington’s toxic political landscape. If not for this complication, Republican Van Duyne, who served two terms as Irving mayor and was in the Trump administration as its regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would be a clearer choice for us. Van Duyne shares our views on the free market, personal responsibility and many economic issues.
Opponents: Democrat Candace Valenzuela and Libertarian Darren Hamilton
U.S. House 26th District
Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess hasn’t bloodied his knuckles in ideological cage matches that make debates in Congress bitter and partisan. Instead, Burgess has thrown his time and energy into low-profile issues that can make a difference in the lives of average folks. For this reason, Burgess, who has represented the 26th Congressional District since 2003, deserves another two-year term.
Opponent: Democrat Carol Iannuzzi
U.S. House 32nd District
Democrat Colin Allred has been an effective voice for moderation and comity in Congress, and we think voters should return him to office. We find ourselves agreeing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also recommended Allred, that he has a bipartisan approach to legislating that is serious and focused on solutions. Allred’s work on the bipartisan United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement was an important effort to lead us toward a better free trade future in this hemisphere. His dedication to seeing a high-speed rail project completed between Dallas and Houston is important for the state’s transportation future. And leadership in bringing a VA medical facility to Garland and his support of emergency aid to the border to increase a humanitarian as well as a security response were welcome as well.
Opponent: Republican Genevieve Collins
U.S. House 33rd District
Nowadays it seems as if “All politics is Twitter,” and many in politics are more interested in the social media scrum and playing to an extremist virtual base than in taking care of the people who elected them. Which brings us to why we like U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democrat who represents a sprawling barbell of a district that includes parts of Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie and Irving. Veasey is the sort of representative who still puts constituent interests first.
Opponents: Republican Fabian Cordova Vasquez and Libertarian Jason Reeves
Texas Railroad Commissioner
The Texas oil and gas industry experienced another major change this year, as COVID-19 wiped out much of the world’s demand for oil just as Texas ascended to the spot of leader in oil production in the U.S. The Texas Railroad Commission grappled with the question of whether and how to intervene in markets to support the industry, prompting the question of whether the agency has the proper structure and tools to regulate today’s oil and gas industry. We recommend voters choose Democrat Chrysta Castañeda as the candidate with practical solutions to put the commission in a leadership role on major energy issues. Castañeda calls on the commission to focus on the first tenet in its mission statement, stewardship of natural resources and the environment. Doing so would guide the commission to resolve some of its knotty problems while dealing fairly with energy companies and supporting the public trust that is necessary for the industry to thrive.
Opponents: Republican Jim Wright, Green Party candidate Katija “Kat” Gruene and Libertarian Matthew Sterett
Texas House District 65
Republican Kronda Thimesch has been a longtime civic volunteer and public official in the district, working especially closely with Lewisville ISD, where she began serving on the board of trustees in 2015. She has also served multiple area chambers of commerce, along with a long list of other volunteer positions. Thimesch’s long history of civic involvement, as well as her more conservative approach to legislation, make her the stronger choice for the district.
Opponent: Democrat Michelle Beckley
Texas House District 67
Incumbent Republican Jeff Leach has grown greatly as a legislator in his four terms, advancing from a tea party-style Republican into a lawmaker who understands the limited but necessary role of state government and how to use it for the betterment of his constituents. Leach notes, correctly, that he is the successful co-author of dozens of bipartisan bills that focus on nuts-and-bolts governing, like water infrastructure, fighting human trafficking, ending surprise medical billing and helping to bring greater funding to public schools.
Opponent: Democrat Lorenzo Sanchez
Texas House District 89
We’re supporting Republican Candy Noble after she’s served two years in the Legislature, where she’s proved to be a capable lawmaker with a sound mix of policies. She calls herself a “free-market girl” and told us in an interview that “I’ve never known the government to do a better job than the free market system.” And in Austin last session, she signed on to support House Bill 3, which made long-needed reforms to public school funding.
Opponent: Democrat Sugar Ray Ash
Texas House District 102
There are few people in government who can match Republican Linda Koop’s depth of knowledge about budgets, transportation and the arcane areas of governance often understood only by the longest lasting bureaucrats. It is in these areas that Koop thrives, and her constituents tend to benefit because she is willing to wrangle with the details to bring back results. She did so by ensuring Dallas got a fairer share of transportation dollars from Austin, by helping to lay the framework for what became school finance reform and by ensuring that Dallas’ public higher education institutions, along with UT Southwestern, continued to be fully funded.
Opponent: Democrat Ana-Maria Ramos
Texas House District 106
Republican incumbent Jared Patterson is among that set of Texas conservatives who so often gets the tone wrong that he leaves behind even those who might support him. Patterson has made some strides in this area, and we hope he continues to improve. We narrowly support him, because of his experience governing this district with an eye toward responsible limited governance. We appreciate Patterson’s support for school finance reform, his focus on training first responders to spot human trafficking and his efforts to continue to bring transparency to the way toll roads operate in Texas.
Challenger: Democrat Jennifer Skidonenko
Texas House District 107
Like many of the best legislators in Austin, Democrat Victoria Neave is not reflexively partisan and doesn’t simply align herself with the most progressive impulses of her party. Her work leading the passage of legislation that provided $50 million to erase the state’s backlog on rape test kits will be an enduring strike for justice for victims of sexual assault. Neave, an attorney, supports key education reforms that have helped boost Dallas public schools and that we hope to see spread throughout the state.
Opponent: Republican Samuel Smith
Texas House District 108
Republican Morgan Meyer has developed into a capable and pragmatic legislator guided by common sense and a moderate conservatism appropriately focused on the state’s fiscal concerns. Meyer supports Dallas ISD’s major education reforms, especially the Teacher Excellence Initiative, a pay-for-performance model so effective that open-minded opponents like DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa have become supporters. TEI is being held up as a state model, and we can only hope it is broadly adopted.
Opponents: Democrat Joanna Cattanach and Libertarian Ed Rankin
Texas House District 109
Carl Sherman Sr.
Democrat Carl Sherman Sr. is an accomplished legislator, a former DeSoto mayor and a former city manager with a great deal of experience helping communities south of Dallas get a fairer share of economic growth, business development and state infrastructure dollars. While there are areas of governing with which we disagree with Sherman, his district needs a steady hand in Austin during this difficult time. Sherman’s opponent acknowledges he isn’t intending to stand as a serious challenge.
Opponent: Republican Eugene Allen
Texas House District 113
Rhetta Andrews Bowers
Democrat Rhetta Andrews Bowers has been solid, though not spectacular in her first term in Austin. But she seems to have the district’s pulse. She has lived in the district for nearly 20 years, served eight years on the Rowlett Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and several years on the executive board of the Garland ISD PTA. She also was a substitute teacher, a legislative staffer in the Texas House and an advocate for healthy food options in her community. The first Black woman to represent District 113, Bowers last session served on the House Committees for Corrections, Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, has spoken out for the need to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline and supports advancing women in STEM fields.
Opponent: Republican Will Douglas
Texas House District 114
Luisa del Rosal
Republican Luisa del Rosal has the sort of inspiring story the Republican Party would wisely embrace. Now the executive director of the John G. Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs, del Rosal is a Mexican immigrant who speaks of the great opportunity America represents. She understands that this country is still one of the most open and welcoming places in the world for those who would seek it. She takes great pride in coming here, getting an education and making her way in the world.
Opponent: Democrat John Turner
Texas House District 115
Since taking office, Democrat Julie Johnson has proved to be an effective legislator who’s willing to work across the aisle. She has co-authored numerous bills with Republicans, most notably HB3, the sweeping and crucial $11.6 billion school-finance reform bill signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Opponent: Republican Karyn Brownlee
Dallas County Sheriff
Democrat Marian Brown rose to the moment during the pandemic when she pursued a policy to urge the early release of nonviolent inmates to thin out the jail population and slow the spread of the coronavirus in the jail. The process identified vulnerable inmates and gave those names to judges to determine whether they could be safely released on a lower bond. We also like that Brown is focused on law enforcement reforms, too, such as rebuilding trust between the community and law enforcement and backing efforts to help inmates avoid the jail revolving door. She is the best choice in this race.
Opponent: Republican Chad Prda
Dallas County Commission, District 1
Democrat Theresa Daniel has long avoided the bickering and sometimes outright nastiness that has infected Commissioners Court proceedings from time to time. Meanwhile, she has developed important areas where she contributes through experience on the court, including improving mental health services, funding road and bridge repair, and offering a balanced view on criminal justice reform.
Opponent: Republican Patrick Harden
Dallas ISD Trustee, District 2
Incumbent Dustin Marshall recognizes, supports and advances two of the pillars of increased success for the district — teacher evaluation and expanded choice within the district.
Opponents: Alexander Enriquez and Nancy Rodriguez
Dallas ISD Trustee, District 8
Joe Carreon recognizes that the district’s Teacher Excellence Initiative has been key to raising standards and helping lower the number of “improvement required” schools. His presence on the board should help ensure DISD continues to advance reform rather than retreat.
Opponent: Alicia McClung
Gerard Hudspeth, Denton’s mayor pro tem, is the son of longtime Denton civil rights activist Willie Hudspeth, who waged a two-decades long battle to remove a Confederate statue from Denton’s town square. He brings a different perspective to the mayor’s office. Several years ago, Gerard Hudspeth was part of a meeting between civil rights leaders and law enforcement that sought better communication between Denton youth and the police, and he has served on numerous city committees.
Opponents: Keely Briggs and Michael Mitchell
The Texas Judiciary
Supreme Court, Chief Justice
Republican incumbent Nathan Hecht is a model of the state Supreme Court’s long-standing style of jurisprudence — a textual reader of the law who hews, as closely as possible, to the plain language of statutes. The question of textual judicial reading is not as simple as applying a grammarian’s rules to the language of the law. It is about recognizing that our courts are not substitutes for legislation, and that political remedies that are not found at the voting booth should not regularly be achieved before a judge or a panel of justices.
Opponent: Democrat Amy Clark Meachum, Green Party candidate Charles E. Waterbury, and Libertarian Mark Ash
Texas Supreme Court, Place 6
Gov. Greg Abbott last year appointed Republican Jane Bland to serve the remainder of the term for the seat vacated when Jeff Brown was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. This year, Bland is running for a full six-year term. Bland brings more than 20 years of experience behind the bench in trial and appellate courts.
Opponent: Democrat Kathy Cheng
Texas Supreme Court, Place 7
Republican Jeff Boyd is the stronger candidate because of his commitment to ensuring legislatures make the laws and courts rule on the laws before them within the narrowest reasonable framing of the language of the law. Boyd frequently disagrees with his colleagues on the all-Republican court, and he is not shy about writing dissenting opinions to help lawyers understand the full thinking of the court. “I just firmly believe in two things: No. 1, when a law says something, that’s what our ruling should be,” Boyd said. “Second, I believe in the jury system.”
Opponent: Democrat Staci Williams and Libertarian William Bryan Strange
Texas Supreme Court, Place 8
Republican Brett Busby drafts judgments that hew pretty closely to the original language of the law. “The words used and the sense in which they were understood at the time they were adopted are particularly important,” he wrote in our Voter Guide. Busby chaired the Texas Access to Justice Commission’s Rules and Legislation Committee, which helps ensure access to legal services for Texans of limited means. Beyond those qualifications, it’s worth noting that Busby’s appointment was confirmed unanimously by the Texas Senate, showing the respect he holds on both sides of the political aisle.
Opponents: Democrat Gisela Triana and Libertarian Tom Oxford
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3
Republican Bert Richardson of San Antonio is a leader on the court in writing actual innocence opinions, aligning with the justices who prefer to follow the current standard and precedent rather than those who prefer to make it even tougher to overturn those decisions. Further, Richardson has broad experience as a lawyer and judge, spending many years as a visiting judge, traveling across Texas to assist with a variety of cases.
Opponent: Democrat Elizabeth Frizell
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4
Republican Kevin Yeary is an originalist who says, “Courts are supposed to be that level playing field where everyone is treated equally without regard to persons.” He recoiled at the idea of an interpretive reading of the law that shifts in response to “what feels right in the circumstances of the world today instead of what the lawmakers wrote on the page.”
Opponent: Democrat Tina Clinton
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9
Republican incumbent David Newell approaches the job with a conservative philosophy of applying the law as written. He has been a firm opponent of the use of junk science, such as hypnotism, in convictions, and a supporter of reconsidering convictions when scientific thinking changes, thus undermining original evidence.
Opponent: Democrat Brandon Birmingham
Fifth Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3
Republican incumbent David Evans has authored more than 700 opinions, participated in more than 1,000 appellate decisions, and argued cases in the Texas Supreme Court. He has handled criminal, civil and juvenile cases. And he has worked on both defense and plaintiff sides. Evans said such varied experience is important for someone who wants to be a judge.
Opponent: Democrat Bonnie Lee Goldstein
Fifth Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6
Democrat Craig Smith takes pride in ensuring that the public cannot know his position on abortion rights, or gun rights, or any other hot political issue that might ever enter his courtroom. He is the better choice based on his tenure as a judge and his discipline in taking care to ensure public trust in the judicial system. “We run as red and we run as blue, but when we get on the bench, we wear black,” Smith said in an interview, adding: “The public is very suspicious of how we select judges, no matter how we do it, whether it be on a partisan vote or a political appointment.”
Opponent: Republican John Browning
Fifth Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 8
Republican Bill Whitehill is an experienced, evenhanded and capable appellate judge with high approval ratings and the background that the 5th District Court of Appeals needs. Whitehill’s time on the court and his many rulings over the past six years are the record he is rightly running on — one that demonstrates a command of the legal questions before the court.
Opponent: Democrat Dennise Garcia
96th District Court
Republican Pat Gallagher, a former assistant district attorney in Dallas County, a member of the State Bar of Texas and the Federalist Society, and a former member of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization Advisory Commission, exhibits an admirable mix of compassion, conservatism, humility and respect for the law.
Opponent: Democrat Tim Brandenburg
162nd Civil District Court
Democrat Maricela Moore, who is seeking a second term, has the widespread respect of plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers for her calm courtroom demeanor, impartiality and preparedness based on Dallas Bar Association polling. She is presiding judge over jury services and was instrumental in shaping a plan, now being implemented, to make it easier to compile a more diverse jury pool. She is also working on using video and web conferencing technology to enable the court to safely resume jury trials that have been on hold in the county during the pandemic.
Opponent: Republican Jordan Lewis
254th District Court
Democrat Kim Brown’s depth of experience in family law can’t be overlooked. Besides extensive experience as a private attorney and as a visiting judge, Brown has also served as a staff attorney for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and she has worked with nonprofits on domestic violence cases.
Opponent: Republican Ashley Wysocki
401st District Court
Democrat Tonya Holt has worked in general civil litigation, employment and labor law, consumer law, wills and estates and sees her candidacy as an effort to bring diversity of thought, life experiences and balance to the district court.
Opponent: Republican George Flint
431st District Court
Republican Jim Johnson has a depth of experience in many areas of the law, including handling felony cases, something this court oversees. His partisan background is of some concern, but his experience in many types of law, and teaching years at Texas A&M School of Law give us confidence he would effectively transition to judge.
Opponent: Democrat Diana Weitzel
Dallas ISD Bond
Dallas ISD has long faced difficult challenges. It’s a large, diverse district with the majority of its students economically disadvantaged. It has also seen many of its would-be students head to schools in more affluent suburbs or other competing schools. Add to these challenges the reality that the district’s school buildings have an average age of 52 years, significantly older than the national average. Many are in such a state of disrepair that it’s become a running joke among students when it should be a shame for the entire city. Given all of this, we are compelled to urge voters to support DISD’s $3.7 billion bond program for capital improvements.
Yes to Proposition A: $3.27 billion for facilities, including the major renovation and new construction of schools around the district.
Yes to Proposition B: $270 million for technology.
Yes to Propositions C, D, and E: $53.3 million for athletic facilities, $66.1 million for a performing arts center, and $33.5 million for natatoriums.
Our support is tempered with this caution: Dallas ISD hasn’t inspired our full confidence that it’s ready to steward $3.7 billion well. We’ll be watching closely to make sure it does.