The race for Texas House District 56 pits a seasoned Republican incumbent seeking his eighth term against a community-activist archaeologist who wants to shake things up in Austin.
Charles “Doc” Anderson, 73, has represented District 56 since 2004 and touts his experience, his accomplishments, his near-misses and his desire to serve in his re-election campaign against Democrat Katherine Turner-Pearson, a 60-year-old first-time candidate from Woodway.
Turner-Pearson, who owns Central Texas Archaeological Resources, said she is running because she “just got fed up” with watching the Legislature spin its wheels on hot-button issues that invite legal challenges while more important matters including school finance, prison reform, property taxes and maternal mortality rates are not addressed properly.
“This last legislative session, there were so many things I disagreed with,” she said. “I felt like we in McLennan County were not getting represented correctly. The school funding problem was a big part of that. And then legislators went ahead and pursued vouchers. They were also taking away more and more women’s rights and their freedoms. And what they were doing to our teachers in retirement was a travesty.”
Charles “Doc” Anderson, 73, a longtime veterinarian, seeks re-election to the Texas House of Representatives for District 56. In this interview, he discusses public education, property tax reform and whether Waco has sufficient political capital regarding key projects.
Anderson, a retired veterinarian, serves as chairman of the Texas Legislative Rural Caucus, vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy Resources and a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock. He cites his leadership role in helping to short-circuit a plan by TXU in 2006-2007 to build coal-fired power plants around the state as an example of where he has made a difference.
“I was the only one in the House willing to stand up to TXU,” Anderson said. “That involved 18 plants with nine ringing Waco within 50 miles. These 18 pulverized-coal plants were just too many, too much of that technology.”
Anderson said his inspiration for his stance came when he was driving his niece to barrel-racing events around Central Texas and realized air quality, and possibly public health, would suffer if the coal-fired plants came to fruition.
“No one had any idea what was literally on the horizon,” Anderson said. “We would have been a non-attainment zone (for air quality) immediately, just like that, and that would have impacted businesses. But more important than that was what might happen to these kids.”
Turner-Pearson has taught the past few years as an adjunct professor for Central Texas College at the state prison in Gatesville. She also has volunteered her archaeological skills to work with the Waco Hispanic Museum at the La Pila Fountain excavation, an historic fountain from the former Calle Dos neighborhood near Indian Spring Middle School in downtown Waco.
She said she rates Anderson’s legislative impact over the years an “F.”
“He hasn’t done much,” she said. “He has been there for almost one and a half decades. He should have gotten a lot more done. I don’t think he’s really gotten much accomplished. The bottom line is I’m going down there to get some things done for my community and to represent McLennan County. I’m not going to waste my time down there. I’m not going there for fun and games.”
Katherine Turner-Pearson, 60, a local archaeologist, seeks election to the Texas House of Representatives for District 56. Running as a Democrat, she has sat on the McLennan County Tax Appraisal Review Board and the Community Race Relations Coalition Board.
Turner-Pearson, who served four years on the McLennan County Tax Appraisal Review Board, said the two issues District 56 constituents want to talk about the most are school funding and property taxes. She said a decrease in state funding to schools is driving up property taxes and that needs to be changed.
“People are very aware of some of the troubles our schools are in,” she said. “I think they’re realizing, too, that because of this political climate and some of the news coverage, property taxes are involved. …
“We need to re-fund our schools from the state level. We could do that if we would quit wasting money at the state level. We waste a lot of money. If we paid attention to where our money was going in the Legislature, we would have enough money to fund our schools properly.”
Anderson said he has fought for teachers and tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill to get appraisal boards elected instead of appointed.
“It might not necessarily have been successful, but support of education where we had that teacher empowerment bill to put teachers back in control of the classroom,” Anderson said. “If they weren’t getting support from administration, they could form their own committee by secret ballot of teachers. They asked me to run that three different times, three different sessions, because there again the Texas Association of School Boards said, ‘You can’t give the teachers that much authority.’ Flat-out told me that. And I said, ‘No, no, we need that.’ ”
District 56 covers most of North Waco, West Waco, Woodway, Hewitt, McGregor, Robinson, Crawford, Lorena and Moody.