A former school teacher and a personal injury lawyer have both filed to seek the Republican nomination for State Representative for District 134, which covers Bellaire and surrounding areas.
Bonnie Parker and Sarah Davis will compete in the March primary to determine who will run against incumbent Rep. Ellen Cohen, a Democrat who has represented Bellaire in the Texas Legislature for two terms.
Both primary candidates say they wish to stop big-spending in the state government, and both have personal reasons why health care tops their list of priorities if they are chosen as the Republican candidate.
Parker, a former resident of Bellaire, said she committed to running on New Year’s Eve when she noticed that no one else had filed in District 134.
“I wanted to make sure there was a Republican candidate,” she said. “I think Ellen Cohen has committed to big government in Texas and I want to stop that.”
Parker was a school teacher in public and private schools over the life of her career, but she retired in 2007 after her husband died. She went on a missionary trip to Uganda with her sister’s church, and there she met two native Ugandans working to make a difference in the country.
“In finding them, I found my calling,” Parker said. She decided to use money from her husband’s estate to found a nonprofit organization that spurs economic development in Uganda.
Parker has served on the governing body of her long-time church, St. Mark’s Episcopal, and she also served as a board member for the church school. Although she has never sought elected office before this, Parker is familiar with the political machine, which may help as she organizes her own campaign.
“I have been a grassroots person in Republican politics, being a delegate and campaigning for other people all of my adult life,” she said. Parker added later: “Right off the top of my head I have at least a dozen people who will absolutely commit to helping me.”
She has already identified several issues that will be prominent in her campaign. Through her years of experience as a teacher, she said she wants educational reforms that ensure every student in the state, including minorities and low-income children, receive a good education.
Less government spending is also important to Parker.
“Primarily I am committed to taking Texas away from the movement towards more government involvement,” she said. Specifically, Parker said she wants the free market to play a larger role in health care than government regulations.
“I have a very selfish reason for that. I don’t believe the average person should have to pay for my health care,” she said.
With acute arthritis, the only health care Parker said she can get is from high-risk pools where the government determines how much people pay. She said the expense is carried by other Texans, and although she would prefer to pay the accurate rates, she doesn’t have the option because of government regulations.
For personal reasons, health care reform also tops the priority list of Sarah Davis, a personal injury defense lawyer who filed for the Republican nomination on Jan. 4.
“I myself am a breast cancer survivor and am really apprehensive about a government-run health care system,” Davis said. She said she received the best possible care at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and she fears the level of care she would have received under a government option.
She is also concerned about the cost of government-run health care, and high costs for other government programs.
“I just feel that what’s going on in Washington may start to occur in Austin if we don’t stop the Democrats from all the spending,” Davis said. “I felt it was time for me to do something about it, more than just grumbling at the dinner table.”
Davis, a resident of West University Place for two years, has not run for elected office before. She said she has focused on putting herself through school — She attended high school in Sugar Land, earned an economics degree from Baylor University and earned a law degree from the University of Houston.
“I’ve been working to be good lawyer to serve my community,” Davis said. At work, she defends people and companies from others who sue them in civil courts.
“Typically, the lawyers you see on TV, I’m their opposing council,” she said. “I defend all types of people from oil and gas companies to small, local businesses.”
Davis said she plans to run her campaign on the ideals of fiscal conservatism, making government smaller and cutting big spending. Serving as her campaign manager and treasurer is her fiance, Kent Adams, who has run twice for the state representative position in the Beaumont area. Davis said she plans to run a grassroots campaign.
“I want to start to get my name out and meet more people in my district,” she said. “Hopefully the weather will warm up a little bit.”
Ellen Cohen’s office has closely watched the filings for the Republican nomination, but will have little information about Parker and Davis until campaigning actually begins.
Regardless of whether Parker or Davis wins the nomination, Cohen said she plans to run this year’s campaign the same as her past two successful campaigns: Listening to district residents and making sure she represents their interests.
“I don’t consider it about who my opponent is. To me that’s not what I’m doing in representing District 134,” Cohen said. “It’s not a race against an opponent, it’s a campaign to get my message out and hopefully to continue to receive the support I’ve received from this district. Democracy is about just what we’re doing, and I support it.”