Early voting started Tuesday, Feb. 16 for the Texas primaries. We’ll be part of the “SEC” presidential primary that makes the network news, but there are also some local races worth analysis. One of them is the County Commissioner race in District 1, which encompasses areas of White Rock that are east, north and south of the Lake including pieces of Dallas, Richardson, Garland and Mesquite. See our previous introductory piece on this race.
The only candidate in the Republican primary, and therefore guaranteed a spot in the general election, is 26 year-old Steven Rayshell. Steven graduated from UT-Austin and is currently a commercial sales executive for Stream Energy. While in school he served as a Legislative Assistant in the Texas Senate. After graduation, he has been active in the Dallas County Young Republicans as Information Director and Chairman.
The Dallas City Council and Dallas ISD typically get more media attention than the Commissioners Court. What do they actually do? “The Commissioners Court doesn’t dictate policy.” Rayshell explains. “They don’t create laws but execute policy by building a budget around laws passed by the state and federal government affecting public health, the justice system and transportation.”
Why is he running? “I get asked that question a lot, mostly around ‘Why do you want to get your hands dirty?’ “says Rayshell. “That question encompasses why I decided to run. I started looking at the race six months ago. We have some great legislators at the state and federal level but that’s not the case at the local level.”
What beef does he have with the Democratic incumbent, Dr. Theresa Daniel and her work on the Court? “What I am seeking to do differently on the Court is change the culture. I want change from back room dealing and dishonest practices to a culture of integrity, transparency and honesty. I believe the Court should go back to meeting four times a month. We need to insure the recent changes in purchasing strategies are watched.”
Rayshell believes the large issues facing the Court are the “growth in population and how it will affect the infrastructure” and “the jail that’s falling apart.”
In the Advocate’s coverage of the City Council elections last year there was a debate about the increase in Council pay to $60,000 annually and whether that was a full-time job. In the case of the Commissioners Court, the County Commissioners earn in excess of $130,000. “If I was on the Court, I could make an argument for lower salaries or maybe getting another staff member,” says Rayshell. “It’s definitely a full-time job. You and four others dictate nearly a billion dollar budget. The focus should be on that and nothing else.”
Rayshell has been to a handful of Commissioner meetings but says he mostly views them on-line. “Hey, I’m a millennial and get my info in the most effective way for my time, “ Rayshell shares. “ I have heard the incumbent mention that she hasn’t seen me at meetings, but she should know I’m watching.”
What does Rayshell think about the John Wiley Price indictments? “Clearly, the focus has not been on the County needs”, says Rayshell. It’s one way he plans to differentiate himself from the incumbent. “The incumbent has voted with Price over 90 percent of the time. Commissioner Price gets one vote, not two or three or four. I will be my own voice on the Court,” he adds.
Although Daniel won her first term with 62 percent of the vote in 2012, Dallas County Commissioner District 1 looks like it could a Republican district. Of the six Texas House Representatives whose districts make up the majority of Daniel’s county district, four are Republican—Button, Villalba, Burkett and Sheets. Why this contradiction in voting patterns? Rayshell thinks it was low voter turnout, although that historically has favored Republicans. If he can get out the voters who supported these Republican State Reps and are running for reelection, it seems like he could make it a closer race than last time.
When not campaigning or selling energy contracts for Stream, Steven listens to ESPN, CNN, George Strait and Clint Black. And sports favorites? All Longhorn, all the time.
After the primary, this could be an interesting general election race. For the primary, if you’re an early voter, go to the county web site for polling locations. If are a game day voter, Election Day is Tuesday, March 1.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.