Editorial: We recommend Valoree Swanson for Texas House District 150

It still boggles the mind that Rep. Valoree Swanson won her seat in Texas House District 150 in 2016 by running to the right of its long-time occupant, fellow Republican Debbie Riddle, who had burnished her conservative credentials by warning about “terror babies” on national TV and argued free education was straight from the “pit of hell.”

Swanson, a longtime political activist and darling of the unscrupulous right-wing lobby group Empower Texas, didn’t pass a single bill her first session despite a long list filed, including efforts to outlaw abortion, which has been legal since 1973, shorten the early voting period, require fetal death certificates after abortions, make English the official language of Texas and our personal favorite: tax people who buy newspapers.

Her second session was better, though. She authored some bills seemingly outside Empower founder Michael Quinn Sullivan’s bucket list. They included legislation on disaster preparation, school safety and one that seems far-fetched but has become law in well over a dozen other states: declaring pornography a public health hazard, which even drew Democratic support. More than a dozen bills she sponsored and co-sponsored became law.

Swanson, 63, also worked across the aisle to help fend off right-wing opposition to a bill that helped the City of Houston expand affordable housing in multifamily units within city limits.

Swanson didn’t meet with the editorial board. We’re hopeful about signs that she may be maturing and branching out as a lawmaker. Still, her extreme views fueled by her activist focus hamper her effectiveness in the House as a whole. And in June she made headlines for pushing back on Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 contact tracing program, arguing in part “the threat was wildly exaggerated.”

So, we were eager to hear from her challenger.

Michael Robert Walsh is earnest, informed and his priorities would resonate with many Texans, such as abolishing Confederate Heroes Day, adequately funding schools, legalizing marijuana and boosting the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Unfortunately, Walsh has no experience in public office, he is 22, a student at Sam Houston State University and has raised $724, according to an Oct. 5 campaign finance report, while Swanson reported $8,960. The fact that Swanson bested a more experienced Democrat in 2018 with 58 percent of the vote tells us Swanson’s views are likely more in step with the Spring-area district than Walsh’s.

A Libertarian candidate Jesse Herrera didn’t meet with us. His website does not articulate a clear vision for the office.

We hope to hear more from Walsh in the future, but for now we recommend voters stick with Swanson.

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Editorial: We recommend Penny Morales Shaw for Texas House District 148

Texans often struggle to name their representatives, but House District 148 voters have an excuse. Counting primaries and runoffs, this is their fifth election in a year to replace longtime state Rep. Jessica Farrar.

Penny Morales Shaw finally emerged from a crowded field of Democrats after Farrar endorsed her over Anna Eastman, who was elected briefly in January in a special election runoff to finish out Farrar’s term.

Republican Luis LaRotta ran unopposed in the primary.

One thing voters can be clear about is whoever wins has worked long and hard to represent them.

We believe Morales Shaw’s work as a private practice attorney, life experience, deep ties to the area and history of advocacy make her the best fit for this diverse north and northwest Houston district that could sure use a champion in Austin.

The kind of multi-tasking involved in legislative service, from responding to constituent needs to shepherding legislation through the process, is something Shaw came by honestly, and tragically.

She went to law school intending to go into international human rights law and public policy. But her husband died the year she took the bar exam in 2000, leaving her a single mom raising four kids. She built a bread-and-butter practice that allowed her to balance career and family.

She says she still made time for advocacy, volunteering in the NAACP’s free legal clinics and working with the international not-for-profit organization CARE to improve maternal health, access to microloans and necessities such as clean water in countries across South America and Africa. She also advocated for the International Violence Against Women Act.

“People can say anything about what they will do and what they care about,” says Morales Shaw, “but I think it’s important to see what someone’s life story is, what they’ve endured, what their fortitude is and what their work has been.”

Refreshingly, both candidates seem less bound by partisan identities and willing to work across the aisle.

“We’re so far cornered in our tribe,” says LaRotta, a 40-year-old Navy veteran and real estate investor. “We’re afraid to evaluate our positions and challenge our biases.”

But LaRotta isn’t. He says he began opposing the death penalty after looking at evidence showing a likelihood that Texas has executed innocent people. He favors police accountability, decriminalizing cannabis but also repealing the franchise tax.

We admire his independence, but some stances, such as opposing Medicaid expansion, are at odds with the needs of the district. Voters should send Morales Shaw to Austin.

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Editorial: We recommend Hubert Vo in Texas House District 149

Ever since a politically unknown Vietnamese American businessman snatched Texas House District 149 from a powerful Republican budget chief in 2004, the GOP has been trying to win it back.

The soft-spoken Hubert Vo, 64, has managed to hold on to his diverse district in southwest Houston that includes Alief and Katy by focusing on local issues affecting education and small business rather than headline-grabbing social battles.

“I’m not a guy at the front mic all the time,” he told the editorial board. “I want to do some research and carry bills that make sense for the constituents and for the district.”

Yet, this time, Vo’s stance on a particularly contentious social issue is one thing that drew his Republican opposition.

Lily Truong, an education consultant in her second term on the school board, said she’s disappointed with Vo’s support of Black Lives Matter, which she associates with Marxism.

“Every single life matters to me,” Truong told the editorial board, noting discrimination she has faced as an Asian American.

Truong and Vo have similar stories of fleeing Vietnam in 1975 and struggling through poverty in the U.S. Truong has a doctorate of philosophy in natural medicine. Vo’s business acumen made him a millionaire by age 40.

Yet Vo says his own experience with discrimination helps him identify with the BLM movement.

“I think it’s important for me to support other communities who face the same thing,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with Marxism … this is purely an anti-discrimination movement.”

Truong’s issues beyond education seem limited to ending abortion and warding off socialism — the latter not exactly a pressing threat in Texas. Her drive is commendable, including her get-up-and-go mentality after she was bitten by a dog while block walking.

Vo could use some of that energy. He is vice chair of Pensions, Investments & Financial Services but he lacks a standout accomplishment.

Still, the Democrat is a loyal vote for strong public schools and Medicaid expansion. He touts local wins, such as the creation of the International Management District, which Vo says beautified the area and reduced crime.

Vo has toiled behind the scenes to ensure quality health insurance plans, warn potential buyers about flooded vehicles and advance a bill last session, which stands a good chance in the coming session, to allow legal permanent residents to serve as police officers.

We recommend voters stick with Vo for another term.

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Editorial: We recommend Shawn Thierry in Texas House District 146

Two years ago, we recommended voters give state Rep. Shawn Thierry a second term representing House District 146 based on a strong freshman performance. They did so, overwhelmingly, and she delivered.

This year, having won her Democratic primary with 67 percent of the vote and again with no Republican opponent in the race, it’s an easy call to recommend voters retain her for a third term.

Thierry, 51, has been an engaged and effective voice for her constituents, roughly three-fourths of whom are Black or Hispanic.

A good example came in April, when she became alarmed at the way Black Texans and other people of color were dying at rates hugely disproportionate to their population numbers. She announced in a press conference she was writing a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to appoint a task force charged with explaining the disparate impacts of the deadly virus. By the time she sent the letter, 49 lawmakers had signed on.

A lawyer for more than 20 years before winning her first term in 2016, Thierry also was the primary author of HB 1771 during the last session, which would have prohibited the prosecution of minors for the crime of prostitution, treating them as the victims they are rather than suspected criminals. The bill passed both chambers only to be vetoed by Abbott. It was good legislation and we commend Thierry for the bill and for the leadership she showed in shepherding it through both Republican-controlled chambers.

No lawmaker should be handed another term in the Legislature unopposed, and for that reason we lament that the Republicans fielded no candidate in this race. We’re grateful that Libertarian J. J. Campbell is on the ballot. We strongly recommended voters, however, choose Thierry for another term.

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Editorial: We recommend Lizzie Fletcher for U.S. House District 7

Two years after her first-ever run for public office resulted in the defeat of a nine-term Republican incumbent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher faces re-election with a solid record of accomplishment and a reputation for working across the aisle and serving constituents.

She has kept her promises.

We recommend that voters in Texas’ 7th Congressional District let her continue the job she has started.

Fletcher is challenged by Republican Wesley Hunt, a West Point graduate who served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq and as a diplomatic liaison officer in Saudi Arabia. He now works in real estate.

Libertarian candidate Shawn Kelly, a drafter-designer in the oil and gas industry, is also on the ballot.

Although a political novice, Fletcher, 45, hit the ground running in her first term, authoring a bill to cut federal red tape and speed disaster recovery funding that was much needed in the Houston area.

The measure passed the House with just seven votes against as Fletcher teamed with Fort Bend Republican Rep. Pete Olson and even pulled in conservative North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows as a co-sponsor. Meadows is now President Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

Fletcher also smartly sought spots on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she is chair of the energy subcommittee. Other panels might be more glamorous or attention-grabbing but they are not as crucial to the interests of the region NASA calls home and where the oil and gas industry and the Houston Ship Channel mean jobs, commerce and development.

While some members of the progressive wing of her party have grabbed headlines, Fletcher has made her mark through hard work and coalition building.

“I don’t know how many other people,” Fletcher told the editorial board, “have been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with a 100 percent rating from the AFL-CIO.”

That is an approach and an attitude the voters should reward on Nov. 3.

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Editorial: We recommend Sri Preston Kulkarni for U.S. House District 22

Changing demographics and a narrow escape in the 2018 elections helped persuade longtime Republican Congressman Pete Olson not to run for reelection in U.S. House District 22 this year.

The six-term incumbent’s departure sets up a showdown that mirrors the presidential race with Sri Preston Kulkarni representing the moderate approach of Democrat Joe Biden and Fort Bend County sheriff Troy Nehls aligned with the positions of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

The ballot also includes Libertarian Joseph LeBlanc who is running on the party’s platform of protecting individual rights and limiting government overreach.

Kulkarni, 41, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, made his mark two years ago by running within 5 points of Olson and establishing himself as a candidate with the intelligence and cooperative attitude necessary to build coalitions and bring people together for common goals.

That makes Kulkarni our choice in this racially diverse district, which includes most of Fort Bend County, a section of Harris County and the cities of Friendswood, Missouri City, Needville, Rosenberg, and Sugar Land.

According to census data, 64 percent of the district’s residents are white, 17 percent are Asian and 12 percent are Black. About 25 percent of people in the district identify as Hispanic or Latino. Texas 22 includes a large immigrant population from all around the world.

Kulkarni, who notes he speaks six languages, told the editorial board that he would use his 14 years of experience of diplomacy to serve the diverse community as well as reach across the aisle to Republicans.

“The key is to turn everything into a common challenge instead of a partisan issue,” he said while laying out a broad platform that includes pushing for rapid testing to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, helping small businesses to recover economically and constructing long-range plans for reducing the cost of health care.

That approach contrasts with Nehls’ focus on clamping down on illegal immigration and a law-and-order record that includes overseeing a narcotics task force accused of egregious racial profiling. Despite repeated invitations, Nehls did not meet with the editorial board.

Kulkarni is the clear choice for voters in Texas 22.

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Editorial: We recommend Jarvis Johnson for Texas House District 139

District 139, which encompasses a largely Black and Hispanic area in northwest Houston, has a good representative in Jarvis Johnson. Voters should continue showing their support.

If Democrats manage to take control of the Texas House this election, Johnson said he is ready to lead by example and continue working with his fellow legislators, regardless of the letter next to their name.

Running for his fourth term, Johnson has been willing to listen to those with different points of view. He may not agree, he said, but it’s his obligation to pay attention.

“We have to make sure that we govern for all Texans. This idea of no compromise and no negotiation, that’s what’s hurting our state,” he told the editorial board. “It’s what’s hurting our nation.”

If re-elected, Johnson, 48, said his priority is to expand Medicaid, as too many needy Texans are without health insurance. Finding revenue to cover the shortfall left by the economic impact of the pandemic will also be at the top of his list. While raising the sales tax is off the table, he said the state should see legalizing and taxing marijuana as an opportunity.

On specific challenges to his district, he will continue to focus on air quality concerns, including trying to regulate or keep out concrete batch plants from areas such as Acres Homes.

He will also work to pass the George Floyd Act, introduced by the Texas Legislative Black Caucus last month, which would ban chokeholds by police and require officers to intervene if another officer is using excessive force.

Running against Johnson is R. Grizzle Trojacek, who was also his opponent in 2018. According to his unfinished website, the libertarian wants to lower taxes and give more control to parents over their children’s education. He did not meet with the board.

Johnson has proven he can do a good job for his

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Editorial: We recommend Akilah Bacy for Texas House District 138

Investing in education, making affordable health care available to more Texans and ensuring big businesses pay their fair share are some of the top priorities for Democrat Akilah Bacy, our choice in the race for Texas House District 138.

The district, which includes Spring Branch and Cypress-Fairbanks, has been represented by Republican Dwayne Bohac since 2003, but changing demographics have turned it into a battleground. Bohac, who kept his seat in 2018 by just 47 votes, is not running again.

Bacy, 35, is a graduate of Texas Tech law school and was an assistant district attorney for Harris County before opening her own firm. She grew up in northwest Houston and understands her community’s strengths and its challenges. Although she is a “solid blue Democrat,” Bacy stressed, if elected, she would legislate for all Texans.

“I am running to make sure that I am a representative who speaks for our district, not just the Democrats, not just the independents, not just the Republicans,” she told the editorial board.

Her opponent, Republican Lacey Hull, testified in Austin for parents who opt out their children from mandatory vaccines and a “parental rights” group she co-founded wants to dismantle Child Protective Services. Despite repeated invitations, she did not meet with the editorial board.

Bacy said she believes the concerns of elected officials should mirror those of the voters, who are crying out for “effective, decent leadership that is listening to the people.” Her focus, she said, will be on core issues such as education, health care, flooding, criminal justice reform and the environment.

We believe Bacy has what it takes to address those needs. That’s why she’s our choice for voters in House District 138.

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Editorial: We recommend Gene Wu for Texas House District 137

State Rep. Gene Wu’s understanding that “budget is policy” will come in handy next year as the pandemic’s strain on the economy will demand creative thinking from lawmakers in finding new sources of revenue and to ensure vital services are protected.

“Education cuts are off limits — period,” Wu told the editorial board. “It took us twenty-something years to even get to this point where we can say education is at least somewhat well-funded. We don’t want to go backward.”

The Democrat’s experience last session as a member of the powerful House appropriations committee is just one more reason why voters in Texas House District 137 should send Wu back to Austin for another term.

“I believe in Texas, I believe in this country and I believe the people deserve to be represented by someone who is both knowledgeable and passionate about making people’s lives better,” Wu says.

So far, he is holding up his end of the bargain for the district, which includes Gulfton and Sharpstown.

Elected in 2012, the 42-year-old former prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office hit the ground running. He has introduced and fought for a variety of bills, many of them focused on battling human trafficking, juvenile and adult criminal justice reform, and protecting children from abuse, including an overhaul of Child Protective Services that received widespread bipartisan support.

His opponent, Libertarian Lee Sharp, ran against Wu in 2018. He is an energetic advocate for bringing reform to low-income housing and we urge him to continue to be involved in his community.

Wu has been an effective representative for his district and has been a vocal supporter for police reform in Houston. He continues to be the best choice for Texas House District 137.

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America’s Test Kitchen Names Kevin Pang Editorial Director of Digital Content | News

BOSTON, Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, America’s Test Kitchen named Kevin Pang as its Editorial Director of Digital Content. Pang, a James Beard Award winner, worked at both the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times and is widely recognized for creating The Takeout, a successful food site he launched for The Onion Inc. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times Magazine.

Pang has directed a documentary film on Netflix chronicling the startup of a Chicago restaurant, hosted a television show about cheeseburgers in Chicago, and produced a podcast that explores the craft of writing. In his newly created role at America’s Test Kitchen, Pang will be responsible for developing and executing a content strategy to grow the audience for the company’s websites and social and video platforms. His new position takes effect on November 2.

“Kevin has been telling the stories of how food shapes the way people live for the last fifteen years. He has a knack for creating engaging content and has the digital business acumen that we need to continue enhancing our online presence,” said Fran Middleton, Chief Digital Officer of America’s Test Kitchen.

“Kevin has a demonstrated track record of growing online audiences,” said David Nussbaum, Chairman and CEO of America’s Test Kitchen. “Our digital businesses now represent more than 40% of our revenue. Kevin is the person to help continue to build a culture of innovation that will accelerate the growth of these businesses.”

Pang started his career as a journalist at the Los Angeles Times, and then spent eleven years at the Chicago Tribune as a reporter and restaurant critic. He is a five-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in journalism, including a 2010 win for “The Cheeseburger Show.” In 2015, his documentary “For Grace” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival to critical acclaim and just completed a four-year run on Netflix. 

Pang joined The Onion in 2016, where he founded the food site The Takeout and served as its editor in chief. Under his direction, the site attracted over 6.5 million unique monthly visitors and was ranked in the top 25 global food sites according to Comscore. Pang was most recently Creative Director at M. Harris & Co, a Chicago-based marketing firm. Pang was born in Hong Kong, raised in Toronto and Seattle, and earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California. He is currently pursuing his MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

“America’s Test Kitchen has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has helped me wow friends at dinner parties, make my picky eater son try food he never would’ve given a chance, and made me a better cook with every dish I try,” said Pang, 39. “My goal is to help people fall in love with the ATK brand, as I have. It’s about reimagining the content we

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