Texas House Representative District 6 challenger Skip Ogle said the community needs a voice in Austin that will build rather than burn bridges, and his resume proves he creates coalitions and seeks solutions.
Ogle, 47, a former lobbyist and small-business owner, is challenging Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. He stopped by the Tyler Morning Telegraph recently to discuss his campaign platform, and why he wants to represent District 6.
Ogle said he has lived and worked as a small-business owner and as a representative of major employers, including Southwestern Bell and Suddenlink, and local entities, including The University of Texas at Tyler and UT Health Northeast, for 15 years and understands local concerns and challenges. He said every constituent should have the ear of their representative and a place in discussions that will affect them.
Ogle was critical of Schaefer. He said Schaefer used rhetoric and took stances that might have been popular with ultra-conservatives in the district but ensured he would be ineffective in his freshman term. He said Schaefer went out of his way to buck House leadership and proved inept at building meaningful coalitions in Austin.
“There is no doubt in my mind that because of how we are alienated, how we are isolated, how we are disrespected in the House of Representatives, that it has handicapped many opportunities for growth in this community,” he said. “It’s handicapped our participation in the House on major issues like water and transportation. If we’re not at the table of negotiation, if we’re not in the room with other legislators who have the same demands or greater, then we’re handicapped, and we’re not (at the table) right now.”
Ogle said he has the experience fostering strategic relationships for his employer and community organizations and will use that experience for District 6 and East Texas. He said representatives should vote based on principles but must be accessible and accountable to their district.
Ogle said the upcoming session would present the “perfect storm financially” for the state. He said there would be immense pressure on legislators to move the ball forward on long-term funding solutions for public education, water and transportation, amid other budget battles including Medicaid expansion.
Ogle said the state’s future depends on effectively educating the next generation.
He said funding public education would be a “huge battle” during the coming session. He said “adequately funding public education” will always be the issue with regard to education, especially as student populations continue to swell. He said legislators need to look beyond temporary fixes.
Ogle said public education has become a political piata, but leaders must instill “pride” in local school systems.
“There are problems in our schools, but there are problems in every entity,” he said. “But let’s stand with (the schools) and try to turn the public spirit from criticism to realizing being proud of them, because if we turn our back on our schools we turn our back on generations to come.”
Ogle said the state has inadequately funded road construction and maintenance for too long. He said the state spends less than 1 percent of the value of its road inventory every biennium to add capacity and on maintenance and that legislators must address that deficiency.
He said people consider it “moderate to liberal” for a legislator to say “all options need to be on the table” but that funding roads is a core function of government and essential to long-term economic growth. He said legislators should consider all funding options including differing levels of vehicle registration fees and allowing local leaders to use funding mechanisms, such as the Transportation Reinvestment Zone under consideration by Smith County commissioners, to pay for and expedite projects.
Protecting East Texas water rights will be important during future sessions, he said. As demand for water grows, metropolitan areas would influence how projects proceed and how reservoirs rights are divvied, he said.
Water is a bargaining chip for the region to leverage for needed resources, he said.
It’s important legislators defend regional water rights and ensure East Texans have a place at the table and are compensated, from landowners within flood plains to fair access to state road funding for the region.
Legislators need to consider the economic impact of illegal immigration, he said. Ogle said it is the federal government’s responsibility to protect the U.S. border, but that the state can and should seal its porous border and enforce immigration laws.
Texas should lead the nation on the issue of immigration, he said.
Ogle wants to increase funding to the Department of Public Safety and ramp up efforts along the border.
Immigrants who want to become citizens and contributing members of their communities are wanted, he said, but the state must address lawbreakers and cities that harbor them.
SPEAKER OF HOUSE
Ogle said he has talked to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, about representatives’ roles. He said the speaker expects disagreement but wants each member to work toward statewide solutions.
“I expect to go down there and work with whoever is in leadership, whoever is the chairman of a committee,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to sell my soul or give up our principles. It just means we have a problem and need to work toward a solution. I’ve done that for years in this community and want to take that to Austin.”