With early voting beginning in the Republican primary election on Monday, February 14, Texas Scorecard asked candidates in the race for Texas House District 17 a series of questions to help voters make up their minds before heading to the polls.

Jen Bezner
Stan Gerdes (No response received)
Paul Pape (No response received)
Tom Glass
Trey Rutledge

The following are the full, unedited responses we received.

Why are you running for office?
Bezner: I chose to run for HD-17 because my experience tells me we need new, energized, conservative representation. We need a representative who has a strong, consistent presence in the district, who listens to constituents, and who is willing to stand up to special interest groups when formulating solutions to the major issues threatening our quality of life. As a native Texan, wife, mother, and follower of Christ, I could no longer sit on the sidelines. Texans in HD-17 need to be heard at the Capitol, and as the next Republican representative for HD-17, I’ll make sure they have that voice.

Glass: Everything Texans hold dear is under assault from the globalists and Marxists who have seized power in DC.  I hope to unite Texas elected officials to resist unconstitutional acts, the violation of the rights of Texans, and the destruction of our way of life by the feds in Texas.  A representative should represent the people of his district to Austin, not Austin to his district.  These are not usual times.  We don’t need politics as usual.  I am the most qualified and committed to champion our values.

Rutledge: I have always felt a calling from God to serve others. From serving in the Marine Corps to working in Juvenile Corrections I have always followed that calling and believe that this office is where I am being called to continue that service. Over the last several years we have seen everything we believe in, as conservatives, come under attack. Our elected leaders have done nothing to fight back and it is time we stand up and elect leaders who will fight for our freedoms and truly serve the people they represent. As a representative, I will always fight for the constitution, your individual rights, and to preserve the values that we love about this great state.

What are the three main issues facing the district you hope to represent? How will you address them?
Bezner: My number one goal would be protecting our liberty by stopping government overreach. The vaccine and mask mandates should be stopped and citizens allowed personal medical freedom. Employees should not have to choose between their jobs and a COVID vaccine, and parents should be allowed to make medical decisions for their school-age children (not the school district).

Additionally, we need to focus on managing the population growth anticipated for the years ahead, along with the associated need for additional housing and government services. This can and should be done without losing the sense of our small-town communities. We will need to increase our infrastructure and law enforcement as soon as possible to stay ahead of the curve for that growth. 

It’s also imperative to keep our water resources here in TXHD#17 and protect our farm and agricultural lands. I also believe the open border policies of the federal government are immoral and unsafe; Texas must secure our border and protect Texans and Texas lands. These are just a few of the topics that I look forward to working on as a state rep.

Glass: Rapid growth is stressing this rural district – We need to secure our irreplaceable groundwater from depletion, protect our Texas grid against all hazards, and stop the inflation and property appraisal system from driving us out of our homes.

We know that our fundamental values and Constitutions are being violated in a full court press by both the feds and too many in Texas government  —  Enforce our Constitutions against all overreach.

We want representation of us to Austin – not representation of the special interests in Austin to us – Implement the Republican priorities despite establishment and Democrat opposition.

Rutledge: District 17 faces problems with the overpumping of our groundwater, the increasing of property taxes and issues within our educational system. I believe that we need to create a balance between the conservation and pumping of groundwater as well as use our infrastructure funds more effectively to create infrastructure that supports the recharge of groundwater through rainfall. I will address the increase of property taxes by proposing a multi year comprehensive plan to eliminate them altogether. As far as our education system, I will fight to keep critical race theory out of our classrooms, fight all mask mandates placed on our children and create 100% transparency between the curriculum and the parents.

Texans all across the state are reporting an ever-increasing property tax burden. Should the property tax system be fixed? If so, how?
Bezner: The US Army and many corporations have deployed lean/six sigma methodologies driving economic efficiencies.  The US Army alone saved 19.1 billion within just the first 5 years, it is past time for our state and local governments to do the same. When we give our governmental entities the tools to operate more efficiently with the expectation to deliver results, I am confident this will result in a lower tax burden for the citizens resulting in real, long lasting property tax relief! 

Glass: Eliminate the wasteful, arbitrary, maddening property appraisal system that drives renters and owners out of their homes.  Move to a clerical recording of sales price that will be used as the property valuation by the taxing entities until the next owner uses his purchase price as his valuation. Implement the TPPF plan to use excess growth in state revenues to buy down local maintenance and operation school taxes over time, ending that portion of school property taxes and the need for Robin Hood. Consider replacement of all property taxes with consumption taxes.

Rutledge: I believe that we need to lower property taxes down to elimination. It is not reasonable to end property taxes overnight but we need to create a comprehensive plan in order to achieve this. It is time we allow Texans to own their properties, not the government. The money that will no longer be brought in from property taxes can be replaced by the cutting of unnecessary spending, consumer taxes, and ensuring that lottery funds actually go to education, as was promised by the state when Texans voted to create the state lottery.

Should Democrats serve as committee chairs in the Texas Legislature?
Bezner: I am opposed to any Democrat being given a powerful position in the state Capital, such as committee chair.  The legislature needs to meet for 140 days then go home to their constituents whom they represent, we do not need special session after special session driven by minority Democrats who use their status as a committee chair refusing to bring forth Republican agenda items or stall them out in committee.

Glass: No. One of the reasons I am running is that I want to change the culture of the Texas House to be less beholden to Democrats and special interests and more beholden to the voters of their district and the priorities, principles, and platform of the RPT.  We will have one of the largest freshmen classes in a long time, and I hope that we will unite to accomplish that objective.

Rutledge: I strongly believe every democrat that broke Quorum should have immediately been stripped of their title as committee chair. I do not believe that democrats should serve as key committee chairs in an overwhelmingly Republican Legislature. The majority of Texan voters go out and vote every election to have strong conservative leadership represent them and I believe it is a failure of our state legislature to take their voice away and appoint a committee chair that does not support their views. We see time and time again, conservative bills that would bring more protection to individual rights, killed by democratic committee chairs.

How would you characterize the state’s response to the coronavirus? What would you have done differently?
Bezner: I will call for a special session to address any concerns arising from Executive Orders that last more than 30 days. I also will fight to ensure legislation is passed to prevent Texans from choosing between accepting a pharmaceutical product or their job.  While I am all for prohibition of vaccine mandates, we must go further to ensure Texans are protected against having to consume or be injected with any pharmaceutical product into their bodies as a condition of employment.

Glass: The lockdowns, mask mandates, and vax mandates have been massive violations of our unalienable natural rights protected in the Texas and U.S. Constitutions.  I and my Texas Constitutional Enforcement group worked very hard in the last legislative session in an attempt to never again in Texas have lockdowns, mask mandates, government between patients and doctors, closing of churches, prohibitions on seeing loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals, etc.  The existing Texas Disaster Act is unconstitutional, if only on separation of powers grounds.  We made some progress, but have lots more to do in 2023.

Rutledge: It is easy to say how each state succeeded or failed in hindsight. I believe Texas did well as a whole, given the extraordinary circumstances, but we could have done better and fought more for the freedoms of our citizens rather than give in to an overreaching government. I believe that there should have never been mask mandates implemented in this state. Any form of state mask mandate is a direct violation of the freedoms of its citizens. I believe that Texas should have allowed every single business and house of worship to remain open throughout the pandemic. The right to choose if you attend a church or shop at a business should be up to the individual, not the government.

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