Larson established a reputation as one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House, opposing some high-profile party priorities like the GOP’s election law reform bill that passed last year. The quixotic Republican announced in October that he would not seek re-election.
Larson’s seat, House District (HD) 122, will likely stay red. Averaged over the last two general elections, 59 percent of the HD 122 population voted Republican. After the legislature drew new district maps, HD 122 gained a marginally stronger Republican advantage, bumping this figure up to 60 percent, according to The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index.
One Democrat and four Republicans are racing for the seat. The unopposed Democrat, Angi Arambaru, is an entrepreneur and former member of the mayor’s Fitness Council.
Lawyer and entrepreneur Adam Blanchard, former San Antonio city councilwoman Elisa Chan, financial executive and veteran Mark Cuthbert, and construction entrepreneur Mark Dorazio are competing in the Republican primary. All four attended a live forum on Monday night that generally took the form of a race to the right as the candidates vied to prove their conservatism to the crowd.
Moderated by the Hill Country Conservative Network, the forum touched on water usage, property taxes, and Republican Party priorities.
Chan called total property tax elimination “a great goal” but stopped short of calling it feasible. She presented a plan to buy down school taxes by 50 percent, resulting in a 25 percent reduction of the average property tax bill, over 10 years.
“I think it is a great goal, but it will probably have to supplement something else, perhaps sales tax, or have a very, very disciplined spending cut,” Chan said.
Chan voted to increase San Antonio property taxes and levy property taxes to pay for a pair of bonds in 2012. She also voted for property tax abatements for various corporations in 2009 and several times in 2010.
Cuthbert expressed support for buydowns but said he would address the root cause of high property taxes by “unleashing” school choice, which he said would ultimately lead to lower school tax bills.
“We can buy down and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, we have a spending problem. And most of those taxes go to our schools. And we have over 5 million students in Texas schools right now. We’re spending $10,000 to $12,000 dollars per student across the state,” Cuthbert said.
“The only way that we’re going to address the level of spending and therefore can really address our property taxes is by reforming the system. The only way to reform that system is by unleashing the entrepreneurial powers of choice.”
Dorazio’s plan involves buydowns but also would target tax appraisers as well.
“Our budget is capped at population plus inflation. And we always receive revenue above inflation. We want to take part of that revenue and put it into the rainy day fund and the balance of that revenue to start paying down the operations and maintenance portion of the tax bill,” Dorazio said, adding that he has spent time discussing the issue with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hagar.
“We’re going to have to legislatively throttle them and bring them under control,” he further said of tax appraisers. “They only need so much money to run the government.”
Blanchard offered a similar plan, supporting buydowns and calling for more popular input in the appraisal process.
“Our tax collector is elected by the citizens. But our tax appraiser is appointed by a board that is selected by the taxing entities themselves,” Blanchard said. “We have to create accountability for the tax assessor.”
Prompted by the moderator, each candidate chose two legislative priorities for the Republican Party of Texas that did not pass in the 2021 legislative session.
Dorazio spoke first, touting his position as chairman of the platform for those priorities. He said that banning child sex transitions and taxpayer-funded lobbying were the two priorities he was most disappointed to see falter. Blanchard agreed on both points.
Chan said she would have liked to see more property tax relief and tougher penalties for violating the new election law. Lawmakers downgraded the penalty for illegal voting in the bill from a felony to a misdemeanor before it passed.
Cuthbert, who spoke last, chose property tax relief and a ban on vaccine mandates.
So far, Chan has a strong lead in fundraising with over $546,000 in cash on hand, followed by Adam Blanchard with $193,000.
Dorazio has nabbed the highest-profile endorsements in the race, backed by former governor Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz.
Blanchard is endorsed by Larson, Texans For Lawsuit Reform, and the Texas Association of Business.
Though voters won’t see a true test of the candidates’ authenticity until a winner takes Larson’s old seat, their campaign messages alone promise a stark departure from the outgoing nonconformist.
Update: This article has been updated to include Blanchard’s endorsements.
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