The Red State is first out of the box to report some excellent news: Lt. Cmdr. Juan Garcia, who flirted with a run for Senate, will be challenging State Rep. Gene Seamon in HD32 (PDF map). Greg has the press release and the election analysis. Seamon underperformed by almost five points before getting a free pass in 2004. This is a winnable race, and even better it's a key part of CD14, which ought to help Shane Sklar as well.
Up in Longview, State Rep. Tommy Merritt has himself a challenger:
Patrick Franklin is racing against time in what he said is his bid to make history.
"As far as I know, I'm the first openly gay candidate to run for any office in East Texas," said the 29-year-old Longview resident, "and for that, I'm very proud."
Franklin needs about 300 more signatures or $750 before the Monday filing deadline to run in the March Democratic Primary for District 7 state representative. If he files and wins the primary, he would face Republican Tommy Merritt, who is seeking re-election to what would be his seventh term.
District 7 represents Gregg and northern Smith counties.
Franklin was a Republican, but switched parties after the Republican endorsement of Proposition 2, a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved in November that prevents state and local governments from recognizing civil unions and limits the definition of marriage to one man and one woman.
"My friends, they may have beaten us in one election, but they have not silenced us," he said Tuesday to the Longview chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "I stood by and watched it one time. I will not watch it happen again."
Franklin, who opposes the death penalty because he said it's unfairly given to minorities, suggested an income tax to help solve the state's school finance debacle.
He said the current property tax system makes it difficult for those living in rental property to move to home ownership, and increasing sales taxes would be unfair to poor, working-class families.
"The whole process seems to be about avoiding coming up with a solution instead of solving problems," he said of school finance efforts in Austin.
Franklin also suggested bus transit systems to move Texans from their reliance on oil.
"There's no reason that, even in towns like Longview, Tyler, White Oak or whatever, that you don't have transit systems that go from city to city," he said.
Franklin, the assistant manager of Wilson's Leather at Longview Mall, is a graduate of Sabine High School and received an economics degree from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. He also announced the inaugural meeting of the Gregg County Stonewall Democrats at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at the party's office at 211 W. Tyler St. in downtown Longview.
Finally, while I've no doubt that statewide elections will dominate government this year, I'd like to know if coverage of those elections will be up to the challenge. In particular, I'd like to know when the major dailies will notice that David Dewhurst is no longer unopposed for Lieutenant Governor. The Star Telegram seems to be the first to pick up on the story that was broken by the Marshall News Messenger.
Democrats have their first official candidate for lieutenant governor. Retired Appeals Court Judge Ben Z. Grant of Marshall, who also served for 10 years in the Texas House and was one of the reform-minded "Dirty Thirty" in the early 1970s, said he's willing to take on incumbent Republican David Dewhurst.
"I'm running uphill, there's no doubt about that," said Grant, 66. "But I strongly believe in the two-party system, and the voters need to have a choice in November."
Grant said he was encouraged to run for the state's No. 2 post by Bob Gammage, a Democratic candidate for governor who was also a member of the Dirty Thirty.
"We passed a lot of good reforms, like the Open Meetings Act, back then," Grant said. "And it looks like Austin could use another dose of that now."