I always try to bring an unbiased product to Big Jolly readers; but, sometimes impartiality is impossible. One aspect of the House District 129 race is too difficult for me to ignore because I believe that it is vital for voters to know the influences behind a candidate. So, let me begin with that point.
For years, I have known Sheryl Berg as a Mary Jane Smith surrogate. Smith is a longtime political consultant in this area and Berg was always Smith’s go-to endorsement for her candidates. Presently, there are three primary slates in Harris County. Smith’s candidates have typically lost the Hotze endorsement to Allen Blakemore’s candidates. Last election cycle, Smith created her own slate (run out of her home that she shares with her husband, a federal judge) for her candidates. This slate is composed of five women, including Sheryl Berg. As you can see, the relationship between Berg and Smith cannot be ignored.
Most Clear Lake area republicans are familiar with both HD129 candidates, Dennis Paul and Sheryl Berg. Both candidates have served as SREC chairs in Senate District 11 for a number of years; so, they are equally active in the party. That being said, there are differences and I will address those below.
Sheryl Berg is a speech pathologist and graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. She is endorsed by Michael Berry and supported by KBR, a large construction engineering company. In her stump speech, Ms. Berg stated that she will vote to end the margins tax and will support proposition one in November. Previously, Ms. Berg supported proposition six. Propositions one and six are large infrastructure spending propositions.
Ms. Berg was quick to mention her endorsement by the Texas Conservative View, Mary Jane Smith’s slate. At the forum, I submitted an anonymous question to moderator, Tom Zakes: “Ms. Berg, did you vote to endorse yourself?” I knew the question took her by surprise because she used the typical stalling tactic: “Oh, that is a really good question.” This was also a teachable moment for candidates – the Downtown Pachyderm audience is a little more informed and sophisticated than most audiences. Berg gave a non-answer to the question. There was no good answer and I am sure she was kicking herself for beginning her speech with the endorsement mention.
For years, Dennis Paul has been a staunch ally in several conservative causes. While he differed little from Ms. Berg on the issues raised during the forum, Paul has been engaged in several conservative efforts. Most importantly, Paul led the way to remove the Clear Lake area from Prop1 (or RENEW Houston as it is now known). Prop1 is completely unnecessary in Clear Lake because the area has its own MUD district to deal with flooding issues and RENEW Houston simply hit the area with a double tax. In reality, the tax would triple because we were already taxed to handle flooding issues before RENEW Houston ever came along. Thankfully, the Clear Lake area is excluded from the wretched RENEW Houston and Mr. Paul deserves a hat tip for representing his area well during this fight.
Mr. Paul supports directing the automobile sales tax to infrastructure needs and I support this idea. Austin has gone way too far in taxing cars and directing the tax to some nefarious cause. All taxes deserve a direct nexus to the subject matter of the collection effort.
A number of good questions were asked during the forum, which I have attached. Two questions concentrated on the speaker of the house, Joe Straus. Berg said that she would not support Straus for speaker while Paul was non-committal on the issue. Paul’s point was that Straus may not even be in the running during the next session and that, for the moment, Paul is concentrating on the 129 race.
As you can see, the two candidates are somewhat similar in their positions. Unfortunately, Berg’s affiliation with Smith taints my feelings on her candidacy. I believe that Dennis Paul’s history of involvement in conservative issues paints him as the clear winner in this race.