(Austin, TX - Wednesday, March 5) Not a bad night for anti-toll candidates in Texas. Incumbents Sen. John Carona, Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, Rep. Bennett Ratliff, and Rep. Ralph Sheffield were all beat by their anti-toll challengers Don Huffines, Rodney Anderson, Matt Rinaldi, and Molly White. Several anti-toll candidates made it into run-offs, with one, Bob Hall, taking on a 10-year incumbent, Senator Bob Deuell.
Anti-toll TJ Fabby won the plurality of votes for the open seat in House District 10 and will face John Wray in a run-off. Collin County Commissioner Matt Shaheen also won the plurality of votes for an open seat in House District 66 and will enter a run-off with Glenn Callison. Anti-toll Timothy Wilson made it into a run-off on the Republican side and Tommy Calvert on the Democrat side for an open seat for Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 4. Others with a poor record on tolls and transportation like Rep. Diane Patrick and Rep. Lance Gooden got beat by challengers Tony Tinderholt and Stuart Spitzer.
Anti-toll incumbents had a great night with Rep. Jonathan Stickland and Matt Schaefer handily winning re-election against strong challengers. But there were disappointments, too. Top rated anti-toll Debra Medina didn’t make it into a run-off in the Comptroller’s race against two pro-toll candidates Glenn Hegar and Harvey Hilderbran.
In the Senate District 25 race, incumbent Donna Campbell managed to convince enough voters to give her another chance despite campaigning as anti-toll and voting pro-toll 4 out of 5 times in her freshman session. Campbell avoided a run-off with a strong challenger, former San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan. For House District 121, Matt Beebe couldn’t knock off incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson couldn’t edge out incumbent Nelson Wolff in the County Judge race. Perhaps it’s because San Antonians aren’t yet paying tolls.
In the statewide races, though many of the candidates had tainted records on tolls, who can ignore State Senator Dan Patrick’s big numbers over incumbent David Dewhurst in the Lt. Governor race. Patrick got a 'B' rating from the top anti-toll group Texans Uniting Reform and Freedom (TURF) over Dewhurst’s 'F,' and Ken Paxton and Wayne Christian were preferred over the other candidates for Attorney General and Railroad Commissioner, respectively, and both made it into run-offs with the plurality of votes.
All told, anti-toll candidates cleaned up around the state, especially in areas where toll roads are becoming prolific. The issue has lit a fire across Texas as this new tax on driving is hurting more and more families who are already struggling to make ends meet and keep gas in their tanks. As more toll roads come online, expect to see a sea change with transportation taking a front seat to other issues.
With congestion tolling now a reality in Dallas-Ft. Worth on the LBJ and soon to be on the North Tarrant Express, navigating the complex maze of variable toll rates that charge drivers a premium in peak hours (as high as 95 cents a mile without a cap!) based on the level of congestion not the actual cost of building the improvements, this runaway tax in the hands of unelected boards will only grow hotter.
In San Antonio, TURF has launched a petition drive called Let SA Vote to amend the city charter to force a vote on toll projects. If successful, it could be a blueprint to stop unwanted toll projects outside the legislative process in other cities.
Tolls represent one of the most anti-freedom, anti-taxpayer policies in politics today, and politicians love them because they can get roads fixed without voting for a tax hike, or so they think. But it won’t take long for Texans to figure out tolls are a tax hike - a BIG one - that will eventually effect every mile they drive. With all the taxpayer loan guarantees and subsidies being used to bail out loser toll projects, the cronyism involved has already started to backfire. If there’s anything Texans hate, it’s big government and cronyism, and toll roads deliver both.