State Representative Michelle Beckley recently announced her run against Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick and others in the bid for the second highest position in the Texas government. Right now, she enters into a crowded primary race with two other Democratic candidates, political analyst Matthew Dowd and Democratic auditor Mike Collier.
In addition to being a small business owner in Carrollton, Texas, Beckley started her career in politics in 2018 after she flipped a former Republican seat in House District 65.
After breaking quorum with other Texas Democrats in Washington D.C. over the Republican voter suppression bill, Beckley launched a campaign for Congress. But shortly after the third legislative session, she was drawn out of her district by Republican lawmakers’ controversial redistricting maps.
Now, she’s running for lieutenant governor. A position that hasn’t been run by a Democrat since 1999.
The Signal spoke with Beckley on her run for the seat, some of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s controversial statements, and what policies she would implement if elected.
“I think having been elected, I have the advantage of the non-traditional candidate following a traditional path,” Beckley said. “My staff can just move right over to the Senate and get to work on day one.”
According to Beckley, three key issues of focus for her are fixing the grid, expanding Medicaid, and fully funding public schools.
“I have always been focused on the individual, the people. I’m a small business owner that just wants better healthcare for myself and my staff,” she said. “I have bills ready. Other states are letting small businesses buy into Medicare and Medicaid and I have bills ready so Texas businesses can do that as well. It’s just another option that will be available on the market.”
Beckley said that expanding access to Medicare and Medicaid is just the first step, especially after enduring the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not just rural hospitals that are struggling, hospitals are struggling all throughout Texas,” she said.” They would get 65 cents on the dollar compared to zero from those who are uninsured,” she said.
Another issue that Beckley said she supports is legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana, as well as granting clemency to Texans who are serving time on low-level marijuana possession. For context, Texas has one of the highest rates of defendants charged with low-level drug offenses.
Texas marijuana laws are behind the times compared to other states, but with candidates like Beto O’ Rourke and grassroots organizations like Ground Game Texas pushing for reform, legalization of marijuana will be a critical issue for voters in the 2022 midterm elections.
Beckley said job creation in the cannabis industry would help Texans and the economy.
“You go to the root source of how people can get better paying jobs,” Beckley said. “All these companies coming in I would prefer that we have Texans ready to get into those jobs. And a lot of the reasons why so many people are moving in from other states is that we don’t have the educated workforce yet we have the resources.”
On another note, the electricity grid continues to be another issue for Texans as more and more reporting shows that Texas is still vulnerable to another power outage. Despite this, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott promised that the electric grid would not go out again.
“We didn’t fix it and we’ve seen it’s not going to be ready and we didn’t force these companies to do what they need to do,” she said. “We are the energy state in the nation and we can not keep our own lights on.”
So, if elected, Beckley said she wants to look into ways how Texas can use other resources so the state isn’t so dependent on the grid.
“Is it putting fluff in the insolation in the attic? Is it to get people subsidized washers and dryers that are energy efficient?,” she said. “Does it give everybody three solar panels? But we can very easily have an outside organization come in to look at all the aspects that we have.”
Accessibility to voting is also a key issue in Texas after Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, a bill that bans drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting, and limits how voters can travel to voting locations.
Beckley, who sat on the elections committee, said her time in Austin was rough because Republicans were more focused on former President Donald Trump’s idea of massive voter fraud. But said she was happy to get a small victory for Texans in Denton County.
“I sat on the elections committee and watched that craziness. We don’t have widespread voter fraud and our current laws catch whatever is going on,” she said. “Denton County doesn’t have election day vote centers so I made it my legislative priority and I did get that in that bill.”
Furthermore, the influx of migrants at the Texas-Mexico border has been criticized by Patrick as the “white replacement.” So Beckley said, addressing climate change, comprehensive federal immigration reform, and state and federal alliance could fix the system.
“What we need is the state government and federal government working together instead of against each other,” she said. “ Let’s stop pointing fingers and look at what we have going on right now. We also have a massive worker shortage so there is a solution to this and we can do some temporary visas.”
Election day for the lieutenant governor race is Nov. 8, 2022.