If there's one Democratic-held seat in the State House that people think has a strong chance of flipping to the Republicans, it's the West Texas district HD85, now being vacated by former Speaker Pete Laney. It's a solidly Republican district in all other aspects, giving George Bush over 65% of the vote in 2004, and the same candidate who ran against Laney that year is running again this year against his would-be Democratic successor, Joe Heflin.
For what it's worth, Laney has been saying that he expects Heflin to hold his seat. That may be bravado, but Heflin is racking up a bunch of nice endorsements, with the latest being the Texas ParentPAC, which had previously endorsed Ellen Cohen. I've got their press release right here, which I'll quote in part:
"Joe Heflin has the experience, wisdom, and integrity necessary to follow in Pete Laney’s footsteps and effectively represent West Texans in Austin," said Texas Parent PAC board member Dinah Miller as she kicked off a regional media tour. She said this is one of the most important races in the November 7 general election, and the statewide parent group believes Heflin is clearly the better choice.
Texas Parent PAC board member Charles Olson said Heflin will be a leader in Austin to stop consolidation of rural school districts, whether forced by state legislation or deliberate state under-funding of small schools. “West Texas schools need a strong advocate at the Capitol who can explain why rural school districts need their fair share of state funding so they can serve students well, recruit and retain top-notch educators, and pay for rising electric and gasoline bills.” There are more than 40 independent school districts in House District 85, and public schools are critical to the life and success of each community.
Olson said Heflin is the epitome of an experienced public servant and community leader who is needed as a lawmaker at the state Capitol.
Heflin is the only candidate in the race who has held elected office, having served as Crosby County Judge and Crosbyton City Council member. During his tenure as County Judge, Heflin had a range of experiences that prepare him to address complex legislation at the Capitol. He was County Juvenile Board chairperson, emergency management coordinator, county Appraisal Review Board member, South Plains Association of Governments treasurer and board member, Regional Alternative Dispute Resolution Action Committee member, and more.
The breadth and depth of Heflin's professional and life experience is unmatched in the H.D. 85 race, Olson said. "The icing on the cake for Joe Heflin's West Texas credentials is that he is a true cowboy," he added. Heflin was a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and traveled with the ENMU Rodeo Team. He put himself through college by working on ranches and by shoeing horses. Since 2001, Heflin has been the master of ceremonies each year for the Cowboy Gathering in Crosbyton.