Three months ago, House Speaker Joe Straus violated a deep-rooted custom of Capitol politics when he urged a room full of school board members from across the state to not only make their voices heard at the Capitol, but also to “run for Senate.”
Now, one of them is doing just that.
On Thursday, Fort Bend ISD Board President Kristin Tassin announced her intention to run for Texas Senate District 17, which is composed of portions of Harris, Fort Bend, and Brazoria Counties, challenging State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place) in the Republican primary.
“I’m officially running. The final decision really came down to the fact that the state legislature is just not getting the job done on many issues that [are] important to families in Texas,” Tassin told a news outlet.
Tassin, who has voted in past Democrat primaries, considers herself a Republican and says she’s been a conservative her whole life. Her record and rhetoric tell a different story.
When running for her current post in 2014, Tassin admits to her Democratic voting history, saying she supported and donated to John Kerry’s campaign. Oddly though, she claims that was in 2008, instead of 2004 when he actually ran for president.
Despite her own admission, during her first run for Fort Bend ISD she deflected claims of her being a Democrat, saying that the rumors stemmed from “another Kristin Tassin who has Texas ties and liberal leaning.”
Texas Scorecard was unable to find Tassin’s purported “Democrat twin.”
Tassin, who is in her second term on the FBISD board, has become a bureaucratic favorite. Over the past few years she’s been tapped to give presentations at Texas Association of School Board (TASB) conferences and won the support of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus who said he’s a “big fan of hers.”
One presentation she delivered at a TASB conference detailed her involvement in creating an anti-school choice coalition called “One Voice for Texas Public Education” at the request of State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), saying, “Texas State Representative Dan Huberty, House Public Education Chair, asked that groups supporting public education put aside differences and speak with one voice to advocate for legislation supporting public school in the 85th Legislative Session.”
Tassin’s activism reached new heights during the most recent legislative session. She penned a number of op-eds in left-leaning outlets condemning efforts to expand parental choice in education, and specifically criticized Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Huffman.
Tassin even used the passage of Senate Bill 3, a bill that created Educational Savings Accounts, to attack Huffman saying, “I’m very disappointed that the bill passed. I’m more disappointed that our senator was the swing vote to bring the bill to a vote.”
Although Huffman voted against the bill, her vote helped suspend rules to move the bill out of committee.
In an op-ed in the Fort Bend Independent Tassin said, “Three Republicans voted against SB3 on the final vote – Senators Seliger, Nichols, and Huffman. However, only one of those three Republican Senators, Joan Huffman, voted ‘yes’ on the preceding vote to suspend the regular order of business and allow SB3 to proceed. This was actually the critical vote that allowed SB3 to survive.”
Tassin also opposed Senate Bill 2, a proposal which would have capped the amount a taxing entity can increase taxes without a public vote. But Tassin hasn’t just been fighting against taxpayers in Austin, she’s been battling them at home too.
Most recently, Tassin came out to oppose a push to reform the way Fort Bend ISD trustees are elected. Currently the district elects its trustees via “at-large,” or district-wide elections, but community members have been trying to change the district to a single-member district format to give voters a greater say.
Tassin has opposed the effort, saying it didn’t come from the community and “they don’t want this,” despite the fact that the local NAACP chapter, community leaders, and elected officials have pushed for this for years. Indeed, supporters of the change have gone as far as to suing the FBISD because they say African Americans, who make up a majority of the district, are underrepresented on the board.
While her anti-school choice sentiments, dislike for taxing limits, and affinity for bad company may be widely shared with fellow members of the tax-funded associations of school boards and school administrators, they are wildly out of touch with average Texans. Tassin will have to shake the image of being lockstep with establishmentarians if she plans on joining the unquestionably conservative Texas Senate.
And as for Huffman? Though her record in the Texas Senate was rather lackluster this session when viewed through the lens of the Fiscal Responsibility Index, where she earned a “B,” Huffman was one of the votes Patrick and conservatives could count on to move legislation through the chamber.
At a recent Harris County GOP meeting this week, Patrick appeared to endorse Huffman in her re-election campaign, saying “I need her back in 2019, so work for her and get her back to the Capitol in 2019.”