Much has been said about how rapidly Texas is changing, and perhaps no county reflects that better than Fort Bend. The county neighboring Harris has been among the fastest growing in the nation for years, and for more than a decade it has gradually become younger, more diverse and more Democratic.
While that dynamic has made Fort Bend one of the most desirable counties for younger families in Texas, it hasn’t always been reflected in its elected leadership in Congress or many local offices.
That may quickly be changing. Redistricting changed the face of districts throughout Fort Bend, and among its Commissioner’s Court, the newly redrawn Precinct 3, which includes Sugar Land, Richmond, and Stafford, is one of the most diverse county commissioner precincts in the state, with more than 40% of the district comprised of AAPI voters.
Those changing demographics could create an interesting opportunity, and this morning a unique candidate officially threw their hat in the ring.
Taral Patel, the 29-year-old former chief of staff to Fort Bend County Judge KP George, has announced that he’s returning from a stint as White House liaison to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to seek the Democratic nomination for Precinct 3 in 2024 in a video that his campaign launched this morning.
Despite his age, Patel brings an impressive resume and a wealth of experience in government service to the race. He served as County Judge KP George’s chief of staff during an unprecedented era that saw the county faced with numerous crises, from the Covid-19 pandemic to Winter Storm Uri to massive flooding incidents.
Throughout it all, Patel gained a unique perspective into which constituents truly had a seat at the table, an experience that informs his County Commissioner run.
“One of my personal goals is to make sure that everybody has some representation, including fast-growing communities that have never had the ability to have a seat at the table,” Patel told Signal in a recent interview.
“We have, for example, a budget process that allows county commissioners to make huge decisions once a year with very little community participation. Our idea is, how can we find meaningful ways to invite people from these communities to be part of these discussions of how their budgets are decided?”
Community engagement at that level is difficult work, but Patel has never shied away from rolling up his sleeves. While serving full-time as George’s chief of staff, he began working toward a law degree at the South Texas School of Law in Houston. When he received his appointment to work in Washington, he decided not to put his goal of earning a law degree on hold and finished his studies at George Mason University’s Scalia School of Law, an interesting place for a young progressive with bold ideas to find themselves.
With nearly a decade of experience in state, local and federal government, Patel jumped at the chance to bring his skills and experience home to benefit the community he came from.
“This is where I grew up, it’s where my parents and family still live, and I’ve always been focused on how can I use the skills I’ve learned through local, state, federal, and private employment to help chart Fort Bend’s route for the future as they’re about to, surpass a million people.”
While Patel only launched his campaign this morning, he already has eye on the types of bold change and big ideas that Fort Bend County needs to thrive, from helping a more diverse generation of community leaders claim their seat at the table of county government to bringing Fort Bend County a long-overdue hospital district.
“Montgomery County has a hospital district, Harris County has a hospital district. So many places have this,” Patel told Signal. “A lot of families in Fort Bend know how it feels, having to send family members to go live in Harris County or other places so they could have coverage from a local community when the state decided not to expand Medicaid or provide any meaningful healthcare access and Fort Bend should not be one of the counties without a hospital district when 124 conservative rural suburban, urban, you name it, have these kinds of opportunities.”
“Nobody should have to drive all the way to Harris just to get help or to, you know, Matagorda County and Brazoria County when we have state-of-the-art hospitals in Fort Bendon clinics that we should be able to provide the coverage for.”
As we wrapped up our interview, Patel summed up the biggest question on his mind for the future of Precinct 3.
“How can we bridge that gap as quickly and efficiently as possible in resource delivery to these communities that have been so underrepresented for the last, you know, 20, 30 years?”
Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.