Lloyd Criss hopes he can turn Galveston’s seat in the Texas House of Representatives blue again. State Rep. Wayne Faircloth, the man Criss is trying to replace, hopes voters don’t want to change horses midstream.
Criss, a former state representative and chairman of the Galveston County Democratic Party, is challenging Faircloth in the race for Texas House District 23. Voters will decide who takes the seat during a Nov. 8 general election
Faircloth was elected to the District 23 seat in 2014, replacing Craig Eiland, a Democrat who retired after serving 19 years in the house.
Faircloth is the first Republican to represent Galveston in the legislature since the post-Civil War Reconstruction. He acknowledged that controversy in the national election around GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump could influence his down-ballot race.
“I am concerned about it, and that’s why we’re working to knock on doors and call people and use the media and the mail,” Faircloth said. “It’s just the rhetoric of this whole campaign. I have to remind people that I’m not running for president.”
As a freshman, Faircloth authored bills that declared the Texas Gulf Shrimp the official crustacean of Texas, and that named the Galveston Causeway after George and Cynthia Mitchell. He is also involved in weightier issues, including the committee discussing possible coastal barriers that could protect Galveston and points inland against future hurricanes and storm surges.
Those things are all connected, as they draw more attention to the area, he said. He hopes that leads to action on weightier issues in the next session.
“The whole point is to focus the attention of the legislature onto our district,” Faircloth said. “I don’t think it’s ever been done at the level we did this last session.”
Faircloth also noted legislation he worked on that changed the makeup of the board of directors for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. The bill changed the association’s board to include three representatives from the coast, three from the insurance industry and three from communities at least 100 miles away from the coast.
The result was a fairer balance of interests at the agency, Faircloth said. The board this year voted not to increase windstorm insurance premium rates. It was the first time in six years the rates did not increase.
“Working the floor, it was imperative that we changed the makeup of the board and the funding formula,” Faircloth said. “In the past, industry always outvoted consumers.”
Faircloth said he hoped voters would recognize the leadership, and his work building relationships in Austin since 2014.
“This is about effective leadership,” Faircloth said. “It’s not about personalities, it’s not about personal agendas, it’s about representing the people here in our district. That’s what we’ve done.”
Criss, 73, lives in La Marque. He served as a state representative from 1978 to 1990. He was elected as the chairman of the Galveston County Democratic Party in 2005 and served in that position until declaring his candidacy for the seat last year.
“I want to get the job done,” Criss said. “Since I’ve left, I’ve been watching the legislature and what they’ve done and I’ve been unhappy with the results.”
Criss’ three tentpole issues are fully restoring cuts to the state’s public education system, cutting property taxes for homeowners and reducing windstorm insurance rates.
“When I served in the legislature, our highest budget priority at that time was education,” Criss said. “Now it’s just the opposite.”
Texas’ education funding system was deemed constitutional by the Texas Supreme Court in May. However, the court urged the legislators to again reform the system, leading some to believe that there will be a special session during the legislative session.
He called the windstorm reforms passed by the last legislature an illusion, and anticipated rate hikes would come again soon.
“The insurance industry is in control,” Criss said. “They’re writing the rules, and they’re going for more. A lot more. I’ll fight that.”
It’s the second time a Criss has challenged Faircloth for the District 23 seat. His opponent in the 2014 was former District Court Judge Susan Criss. Faircloth received 56 percent of the vote. Faircloth actually received fewer votes than Criss in Galveston County, but was put over the top by a wide margin in Chambers County.
Criss said he hoped the national race would change those numbers this election.
“I think it’s going to be positive for me,” Criss said of his chances in Chambers County. “I’m working over there. I’m not going to give you my strategy, but I’m working over there.”
Texas’ House District 23 includes Galveston, Texas City, La Marque and the Bolivar Peninsula, as well as communities around Galveston Bay in Chambers County.
Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24.