Potential 2022 Texas lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier is making the rounds, talking to constituents and media outlets, as part of his exploratory committee to seek the office of Texas Lieutenant Governor, currently held by incumbent Dan Patrick.
Collier, a Democrat, ran against Patrick in 2018 when he lost to the incumbent by 5 percentage points. The Herald spoke with Collier recently. Here’s what he said:
1. You lost the 2018 race against incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick by less than 5% points. What lessons did you learn from that race and why do you think you’ll be successful this time around?
The way I look at it is we finished the second half down by a field goal. Now we’re coming back for the second half and planning to win. I have traveled all over the state launching this campaign in rural Texas, and I’ve been talking to Texans now for the better part of a decade, and what Texans are looking for in a lieutenant governor is just somebody who will solve problems and work honestly to do that. And Dan Patrick doesn’t and he’s a sensationalist and spin and it’s really quite zany sometimes and it makes you quite angry, but it doesn’t focus on the issues. Lately, we’ve really seen what happens — the grid, COVID — when you have leaders who don’t focus on leading and that’s why I think I’ll have a really good chance to win this time.
2. Can you explain the role of the Texas lieutenant Governor? How the office affects Texans? And what specific skills you feel you possess to take on the job?
That’s a great question. The Texas lieutenant governor some would say is the most powerful political position in the state because he or she presides over the senate and so has an outsized influence on legislation as its being drafted. It’s very important. It goes back to the 1870's, for those who understand Texas history a lot better than me, there was a governor who people didn’t like at all so the constitution was rewritten so the Lieutenant Governor could have outsized influence. And when you think about what the legislature can do for people in their lives in Texas, it’s very, very important. Where do we begin? Public education is something that I’m very passionate about. I think we need to have the best public schools in the nation. I’m very supportive of teachers, retired teachers, my grandmother was a teacher. I’ve always been passionate about public education. That’s our future. And the state dominates all of the decisions about financing public education, so that’s a big part of it. Health care is a big part of it. Health care is something on everybody’s mind, it’s unbelievably expensive. We have to work on this. We need to expand Medicaid for example – the legislature could and should do that. The power grid, let’s talk about the power grid, it shouldn’t have gone down and we had people die over that. And then let’s talk about property taxes – property taxes just keep going up and up and up and the legislature does not deal, in my opinion, honestly and fairly when it comes to homeowner property taxes.
3. What sets you apart from your opponent? What are your biggest differences?
Well, so my opponent is not a business man. My opponent is a radio personality. And I’ll stop there. In contract, I come out of the business world. I’m a CPA, and I was a partner for a long time at an accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. My clients were some of the biggest clients. For a living, I solved large, complex problems for my clients. I view the state of Texas as my client. So what I do is I solve problems. I don’t race for headlines, spin, nonsense, I don’t do that. And I have a pretty clear idea, I think, as to how to solve some of these problems. But I also know I need to hear from others. One of the things I’ve learned about campaigning, is you can march into a part of the state thinking you know the issues, until you start asking questions. You think you know the solutions, until you start asking questions. So, a big part of being lieutenant governor, in my opinion, is being out talking to folks and making sure the Texas government is serving our needs. I don’t see my opponent doing that. He takes a lot of votes — particularly in Republican territory — he takes a lot of votes and voters for granted.
4. If elected, what would be your top three priorities? And how will you ensure those three priorities come to fruition?
Always public education for me is priority one. If we don’t get public education right, we’re not going to get anything right. We have a moral obligation to all of our young people so that they grow up and have critical thinking skills, they’re good citizens, employed, happy, and productive – public education. It has to be public education. Most of our students are in public schools. Along those lines is supporting teachers, retired teachers, we don’t pay our teachers enough, we don’t treat them well enough. Testing is a disaster. We must get rid of high stakes testing – there’s a much better way and we need to find that better way. I put all of that under priority number 1, public education. Another priority is health care. So, health care is becoming so expensive that people simply just can’t afford it. They have the best job they can get, they’re doing the best they can, and they still can’t afford health care. It’s not their fault. So we have to deal with that. There’s an opportunity to do that quite simply, which is to expand Medicaid. And most other states have done it, even Republican states. In fact, there’s support, Democrats have always supported expanding Medicaid. The business community has always supported expanding Medicaid. Texans have always supported expanding Medicaid, in my opinion. The republican senate does not. Now, the good news is there are now Republican senators who are warming up to the idea, that’s very good news. My opponent Dan Patrick does not. There are other steps that could be done to expand transparency so you know how much things cost. One thing I despise is surprise medical bills. I’ve been hit by a surprise medical bill and I’m still angry. Not to say that I’m the kind of person to settle a score, but I know how they feel. They worry if they go to the hospital, or the doctor’s office, they’re going to get hit with a bill they can’t pay. That’s just not right. So, criminal justice is very important to me. We have an awful lot of people who are sitting in prison who shouldn’t be sitting in prison. And that’s just not right. A lot of young men, a lot of young black men, end up in prison and they don’t need to be and their lives are pretty much ruined. Black Lives Matter. I can say that because I believe it and we need to work on that.
I also think we have some real problems – like the grid. There are other issues, property taxes, water issues. You really can’t talk about public education without talking about property taxes and the burden that is placed on homeowners and small business has gone up dramatically on Dan Patrick’s watch despite the fact that he’s been talking about it for a decade, he hasn’t done anything about it.
5. Where do you stand on the issue of expanding the state reimbursement for counties and municipalities — such as Harker Heights, Nolanville and Lampasas County — who are disproportionately affected by the 100% disabled veterans’ property tax exemption?
It’s a very, very important issue to people in this part of the state. It should be an issue to every American who’s a patriot, because of the debt we owe our veterans and our veterans who are 100% disabled. We cannot do enough to help them, period. The fact that they get a break on their taxes is fabulous. The fact that the city then, doesn’t have that money, is not fabulous. And what do cities do in response, they have to crank up taxes on everybody else, and that’s not fair to them, or they under fund police. We have to fund police, fire, schools, the rest. To me, it’s a no-brainer, the state should keep local governments whole because it’s in the state’s best interest to treat our disabled veterans with the respect they deserve. We’re a wealthy state, we can afford it. This business about some cities count because they touch the base, but others don’t, that’s just nonsense. I would support fully funding these local governments. We’re a wealthy state, we can afford it, it’s the right thing to do.