At 26-years-old James Burnett has had a few jobs in the political sphere behind the scenes of big name politicians in Texas. For example, in 2018, Burnett served as the big African-American Outreach Coordinator for former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke in his run for Senate. And most recently as Community Engagement Coordinator for Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. But now, Burnett is taking the next step in his political career in running for newly drawn House District 76 state representative.
In an interview with the Signal, Burnett said this run for state representative in Fort Bend is personal for him because it’s home.
“I’ve lived in my neighborhood since I was four,” Burnett said. “My parents moved there back in 99. And in that entire time we’ve had four state representatives. None of them ever knocked on our doors, went to a community meeting, a football game or did anything to be an active member of the community that they were elected to represent.”
So Burnett said he wants to change that culture. And specifically be an elected official in the community where people feel seen.
Burnett said HD-76 is a majority suburban area in Fort Bend County and spans 21 neighborhoods across five different cities, specifically Mission Bend, Mission West, Mission Glen, Grand Mission, Estates at Mission Bend and more.
“It seems big, but living here, it’s a very drivable and walkable district,” Burnett said. “I’ve been up and down these streets my whole life. I’m up for the challenge.”
According to Burnett, his love of politics started as young as five-years-old after he started reading his parents encyclopedia and could recite all the U.S. presidents.
“While kids in elementary school were talking about Power Rangers and Pokemon, I was talking about what’s going on in politics at the national level,” he said. “I was one of those kids and just a nerd.”
After his initial peek into politics as a child Burnett’s interest stayed consistent. In high school, he attended his first Harris County Young Democrats meetings as a senior. And then as an undergraduate started the College Democrats association at Houston Baptist University.
“A lot of the administration was conservative, but the students themselves were pretty progressive,” he said. “We had more members than the college Republicans.”
Continuing on his political interest Burnett said his most recent role as a Special Project Coordinator for Region 7 helped him to learn how to connect community needs to change in the Houston community.
Likewise to other Democratic candidates, Burnett is outspoken about weatherizing the electric grid, immigration reform, and fully expanding Medicaid.
“No one should be denied their basic human right to health care because they don’t make enough for private insurance,” Burnett said. “They make just enough money to be broke, but not broke enough for the government to help them. We have no excuse for leaving millions of dollars of federal funds to give people health care on the table because republicans don’t want to do it.”
Despite his age, Burnett said he wants voters to know that he has experience to do the job.
“I want them to know that I care about them and I’m willing to serve,” he said. “I’ve been in politics for a long time and I’ve worked with a lot of elected officials.”