In the race for State House District 57, incumbent Republican Trent Ashby will defend his seat against challenger Jason Rogers.
District 57 encompasses Leon, Madison, Houston, Trinity, Angelina and San Augustine counties.
District 57 candidate and Democrat Jason Rogers of Lufkin believes that competition is good, especially in politics.
“We need to get back to a two-party system,” he said. “It’s not good politics to run unopposed. There’s no motivation.”
Rogers is an English instructor at Angelina College in Lufkin, and his passion for his work was a motivating factor to entering the race.
“I’ve been a teacher for 13 years, and I’m tired of all these House bills that intrude into our classroom and tell us how to do our job,” he said. “I felt we needed to get some teachers on the ballot.”
As an example, House Bill 2223, introduced in the last session, would remove developmental education stand-alone classes at the community college level in favor of a different approach, one that Rogers said was not workable.
“At a conference, they talked about contacting our representatives and making our voices heard, and I decided it would be more effective if I ran for office,” he said.
There are three main goals Rogers hopes to address should he win the election: legalizing medicinal cannabis, gun reform and education reform
Legalizing marijuana would have about two benefits, Rogers said. It would provide another avenue of relief for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and pain, and it could be an economic boon for the agriculture industry, particularly in the Lufkin area.
“I’ve been working with a group called Texas Veterans for Medical Marijuana — I’m a veteran myself — and they want to legalize cannabis for treatment of PTSD and pain relief,” he said. “This area would be a great place to grow it, and it would allow the little guy to get into agriculture.”
As a Gun Sense Candidate for Moms Demand Action, Rogers, a gun owner with a license to carry himself, said he’s looking for common sense in gun ownership.
“We’re not taking guns; we want universal background checks,” he said. “We want to make sure that someone carrying a weapon is OK to carry that weapon.”
MDA also wants red flag laws for people who may be mentally unfit to carry a weapon, Rogers said, but it needs to be handled delicately.
“The laws need to be written carefully and meticulously to make sure they’re not abused,” he said. “There should be mental health checks included in background checks.”
Given his profession, Rogers said he’s looking to give the power to teach back to the teachers.
“I’m fed up with politicians in Austin and administrators who tell us how to do our jobs when they are not in the classroom,” he said. “The teachers should tell them what needs to be done. I don’t like cookie-cutter attitude from administrators. Texas is a big state, and each district has its own identity.”
Rogers said the experience he has a veteran and a teacher gives him the qualifications to legislate in those arenas.
“I work very well with people, and can help build bridges to come to a solution,” he said. “I’d like to see more normal people in the State House making laws, with a perspective that more accurately reflects our state. You have a bunch of 1 percenters making the laws.”
Rogers also said that even though he is a Democrat, his property taxes rising every year is a problem.
The incumbent Republican representative, Trent Ashby, has spent almost six years representing the district in the Texas Legislature.
He was born and raised on a dairy farm in East Texas, went to A&M and majored in ag economics, and currently works in a community bank.
“I bring a set of strong, conservative and rural values to the Legislature,” he said. “With my education background and current occupation, I’ve been asked to be deeply involved in the financial aspects of the Texas Legislature, which has involved a seat on the Appropriations Committee.”
Ashby said that since the budget impacts every Texan, to have a seat on the budget writing committee is important for our district and also is very rewarding.
The focus for this coming session for Ashby will be multi-faceted, but centered around school finances, taxes, border protection and paying the bills.
“I want to reform our current school finance laws,” he said. “It’s something that we have been working on — unsuccessfully — over the last couple of sessions, but I’m optimistic that this coming session that we can revamp our school funding formulas so we can help schools like Madisonville and North Zulch improve their economic standing.”
There needs to be a more equitable school financing system in Texas, one that will allow the state to work on property tax relief.
“The biggest chunk of property taxes is what’s allocated for the local school district,” he said. “To make any headway with relief, there needs to be reform. I’m hopeful we have the wherewithal to tackle both of those issues simultaneously.”
Ashby said the state also is working to strengthen the border — providing troopers and aerial assets that can be used to detect illegal crossings as well as help with human smuggling and drug interdiction efforts.
However, Ashby said the biggest issue, especially for the agricultural community, is the topic of eminent domain.
“Last session, I was one of the authors of a bill that would have helped level the playing field for landowners in this arena, and during the interim (between legislative sessions), there has been a coalition of 20-plus agricultural and rural organizations working to refine that legislation so we can present this in the next session. It will help protect landowners from eminent domain abuse. I will continue to fight for this reform.”
A big challenge the state is facing in the coming session is how to pay the bills that are coming due in connection with Hurricane Harvey recovery.
“We will be reviewing legislation that will be recommended by Gov. Greg Abbott on rebuilding Texas after Harvey so we can make better preparations and adjustments before the next natural disaster,” he said
Another area of focus for the representative is the state Medicaid system.
“We need to ferret out abuses occurring in our Medicaid system,” he said. “I’m convinced we can do a better job making sure the people applying for that program truly need the assistance. Medicaid is the fastest growing segment of our state budget, and we need to ensure that we’re spending those dollars in a prudent manner.”
To accomplish these goals, Ashby said he would hope the residents of District 57 will give him the opportunity to serve again.
“I’m proud of the work we have done for the residents of Madison County in the areas of education, to protect private property rights, to protect the water rights that are currently law, and I’ve been very pleased to help residents from across Madison County on an individual basis,” he said. “It has been a privilege and an honor to represent the people.”