State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, will face a Democratic challenger in Katherine Turner-Pearson, a Waco archaeologist, as he runs next year for an eighth, two-year term representing Texas House District 56.

Turner-Pearson, who has never run for political office, sits on the McLennan County Tax Appraisal Review Board and the Waco-based Community Race Relations Coalition Board.

“I see myself as going down to the state and representing my district here in McLennan County, not looking at what’s going to be the national thing to do for the party, not looking at what is trending across the nation,” Turner-Pearson, 59, said. “What is the best thing for Waco? Waco is booming right now, but some people are being left behind, so we need to lift those people up while still keeping the growth going.”

Turner-Pearson is a Waco native and owns Central Texas Archaeological Resources. She said reforms on property tax, prison population and Texas’ maternal mortality rate would be her top priorities if elected.

“I wasn’t raised to say, ‘Somebody should do something,’ ” she said. “If you say, ‘Somebody should do something,’ you go and you do something. It’s really come down to that.”

Turner-Pearson has taught as an adjunct professor at Central Texas College in Killeen. As part of that job, she has spent time at a women’s prison, where she believed some inmates were serving unfair sentences.

She is also unsatisfied with the Texas Legislature’s efforts this session to combat the number of mothers who die during or after childbirth.

Texas’ maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology last year. The study places Texas’ maternal mortality rate in 2014 at almost 36 deaths per 100,000 live births, much higher than the national average of almost 24. Texas’ rate is also higher than any country in the developed world listed in the CIA World Factbook.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill allowing a state task force to continue studying the issue until 2023.

The task force was formed in 2013 and found that, between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, the Texas Tribune reported.

“This is a crisis,” Turner-Pearson said. “We need to find out why this is happening and then see what we can do to stop it. It was mentioned a little bit this last year in the Legislature and not much was done about it.”

Anderson, a retired Waco veterinarian, has served seven terms representing District 56, which covers roughly the southwest half of McLennan County, including much of Waco and Riesel, Hewitt, Woodway, Lorena, Moody and Crawford.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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