Former Republican state Rep. Ted Kamel will make another bid for the seat he lost after four terms to challenger Leo Berman in 1998. He’ll seek to unseat incumbent state Rep. Matt Schaefer in the March 2018 Republican primary.
“I’ve never really been in retirement,” said Kamel on Monday, as he made his formal announcement. “Just because you’re not in office doesn’t mean you’re not active in the community. When I left the Texas House, I wanted to continue to contribute. So I became a public school teacher, and I’ve been active in other ways.”
He authored more than 30 bills that became law during his four terms in office, including the bill that allowed the University of Texas at Tyler to become a full four-year university.
Kamel said House District 6 needs better leadership in Austin.
“I have never second-guessed the legislators who came after me,” he said. “I promised Leo (Berman) on election night that I wouldn’t do that to him. But the last few years have been very disappointing. I’ve watched bills for Tyler that had to be carried by legislators from other areas.”
Kamel says that Schaefer’s very public disagreements with Speaker Joe Straus are nothing like Kamel’s vote - as a freshman representative in 1991 - against then-Speaker Gib Lewis. Kamel’s was the one vote against the powerful Lewis, and as a result, Kamel was ostracized and kept off any effective committees.
“I was up front with the speaker the night before,” Kamel said. “I made it clear it was just a vote. We moved on from there. I didn’t continue to beat the drum and use that vote against him… Did I have a learning curve as a freshman? Yes, But I learned.”
Kamel now points to his overall record.
“You’re not elected to go down there and pick fights with anyone,” he said on Monday. “You’re elected to go down there and make it happen. You don’t want to be like the Wizard of Oz, making a lot of noise but with nothing there behind the curtain.”
Kamel owns a food company and also works for MuniServices LLC, a firm that works with cities and counties on financial issues.
He said he’ll focus on five areas. The first will be to get a medical school approved for the Tyler area. UT Health Northeast is a teaching hospital, but not a full medical school, he said.
A second issue he will bring up is term limits for elected officials.
Ironically, it was largely that issue that brought Kamel’s tenure in the House to an end. Leo Berman ran on that issue - though Berman himself later recanted and said he was “wrong about term limits.”
Kamel says it’s still an important issue.
“It’s a conservative principle,” he said. “You can’t have limited government if politicians stay in office forever and ever.”
If Kamel is elected, it would be his fifth (nonconsecutive) term as a state legislator.
The third area Kamel will focus on is the trend of high school football players protesting the national anthem.
“We have a law that says every day, Texas school students will take time to honor the American flag and the Texas flag,” he said. “And that’s followed by a moment of silence. That works great. I would offer a bill to expand that to all athletic events.”
A fourth issue is mental health. Though he offered few specifics, Kamel said he wants to fully fund county efforts to make mental health care more accessible.
Finally, he said, “I want to bring back effective leadership. It’s standing up for what you believe. It’s getting things done.”