AUSTIN, Texas — The Primary Runoff Election is Tuesday. Texans voting on the Democratic ticket will have to decide who will face off against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in November -- accountant Mike Collier, who was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018, or Carrolton State Rep. Michelle Beckley.
KVUE News invited the candidates to participate in a debate. Both initially agreed, but Rep. Beckley backed out and declined our requests for an interview ahead of the election. Collier did speak with KVUE's Ashley Goudeau ahead of the election.
Ashley Goudeau: This is your second time running for lieutenant governor of Texas, third time running for a statewide office, right? In March, you are in 41% of the vote. Now you're headed to a runoff with State Rep. Michelle Beckley. She got 30% of the vote just about. I want you to talk to us about why you believe you're the better candidate in this race.
Mike Collier: "Well, you know, it's a big state and it's hard to campaign statewide. And running a statewide campaign is a very, very unique proposition. One of the reasons why I chose to to run again, after coming very close to beating Dan Patrick, is because you realize there's so much to learn. You need an infrastructure. You need a network. You need supporters in a state as big as this. And so that's the reason for the rematch, because we came close. And then I think if you look at folks who follow politics, who support candidates, who endorse candidates and all of the endorsements, all of the endorsements have come my way. And it's a recognition, I think, that we're building a very large, very diverse coalition, which is what it takes. It looks just like Texas, as big and as diverse as Texas, and building that coalition. And that's why I think that I'm the best candidate and that's why I believe I can win."
Goudeau: As you are aware, a Democrat has not won a statewide office, a statewide seat in Texas, since 1994. Now Rep. Beckley has said that she can change that because she points to the fact that she flipped the House seat to represent the district that she currently represents. And she says you only came close to beating Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick back in 2018. What's your response to that criticism from her?
Collier: "The state is a very, very big state. Each individual representative district is less than 1% of the size of the state, if you think about it. And so, you know, we're not rounding up tens of thousands of votes, but we're rounding up millions of votes. And there's nothing to compare to running a statewide race."
Goudeau: If you do win this primary and then you are elected lieutenant governor in November, what's going to be your top priority for the state of Texas? And what are you going to do, day one?
Collier: "Well, first, let me say this. As I drive around the state and I talk to Texans, and not just Democrats, but I talk to Texans of all political persuasions, and ask the question, do you think our state is better now than it was four years ago? Are you feeling better about our state and about democracy than you were four years ago? And the answer to that is no. I mean, people are very, very unhappy with the political leadership in this state. Specifically, Dan Patrick, who I'm hoping to replace, is very, very focused on culture war issues which divide and vilify. And it's just so awful. What he doesn't do is focus on the real issues that affect Texans in their lives, like, for example, property taxes, like funding public education, like fixing the grid. The lieutenant governor is the most powerful position, some would say, in the state because lieutenant governor, as president of the Senate, has tremendous influence on what the Senate works on. So as lieutenant governor, what I would do is make sure that the Senate is focused on what people really care about in the state, like fixing the property tax problem and fixing the grid and funding public education and do the other things."
Goudeau: So, again, day one, if you're elected, what are you doing?
Collier: "Well, we have some things that the Legislature did in the last session that Texans are very, very unhappy about. We're going to have a lot to say in the state about a woman's right to choose and make decisions for herself and her health care and her future. Only a woman can make those decisions. Not a bunch of men in the Legislature. And we have to reverse what they have done with this vigilante style approach to an end around the Constitution. It's conceivable that the Supreme Court will take away those constitutional protections. In which case, it's the Legislature that we'll look to. And you'll look to this lieutenant governor, who will be the first pro-choice lieutenant governor in Texas history. And we'll make sure that we fight for those rights. We'll stop vilifying trans kids, which is terrible. I will promote LGBTQ equality, and we have other things we have to reverse. For example, permitless carry was an absolute disaster for the state. So we need to go back and reverse those things. So, I mean, the first order of business is to reverse the terrible things that this legislature under Dan Patrick did. Then, we immediately turn our attention to and at the same time, frankly, we turn our attention to solving the problems that we face in the state like property taxes, schools fixing the grid and the other things that I mentioned."
Goudeau: You have said fixing and addressing property taxes numerous times. I'm going to ask you, do you believe that's the greatest issue facing Texans today?
Collier: "It's one of the biggest issues. When you travel the state and it's Democrats, Republicans, Independents, North Texas, South Texas, there's not one inch of this state or one Texan who has lost faith in Dan Patrick. They see their property taxes going up and up and up. And all they hear from him is spin and nonsense. And he is not dealing honestly with the property tax problem. Now, I come out of the corporate world, as you know, and I'm an auditor, I joke, but I don't mean this, I'm not joking -- I get lied to for a living. I've analyzed the state's finances, and the reason property taxes are out of control is because the state is not doing its job. They point the finger at locally elected officials and that's wrong. The state has to do its job. They aren't dealing honestly. There's huge loopholes available only to the largest corporations where they're underpaying their taxes, which means that homeowners are having to pay more while they pay less. And so until we have an honest discussion about what's really happening with taxes, they are just mocking us and our taxes go up and up and up."
Goudeau: So really, do you think that the key is closing those corporate loopholes?
Collier: "That's a big part of it. You know, we cannot ask homeowners to continue to bear the brunt of increasing taxes. And so we have to understand why is it. You know, and I'll oversimplify this, but most of what we do in your community is a joint venture between local and state. Local, their money comes from property taxes. State, their money comes from a lot of places, including largely the large corporations. So as they reduce the taxes from the large corporations, they allow the property appraisals to go up, the property taxes to go up. And all they're doing is shifting the burden onto the backs of homeowners, and we get nothing for it. Dan Patrick is not honest about it. He has never dealt honestly with property taxes. And that's a big reason why I got into this in the first place."
Goudeau: You know, you and Rep. Beckley share some very similar, I would say, policy stances on a lot of the issues important to Texans, from the power grid to how we fund public schools. Where do you differ from her on policy?
Collier: "Well, I think we probably align pretty well on policy. The question is who can execute? Who can actually get the job done and, frankly, who can win? I mean, I'm very proud to have been endorsed by all of her colleagues in the House who have endorsed. So 17 members of the House, her colleagues have endorsed me. And the reason why they've endorsed me in this race is because we know each other, they have watched me work over the years and they've said so in their endorsement statements. And what they've said is they think that I have the technical skills to to be a good lieutenant governor and actually get the job done. And they also think that I can win. And that's why they've endorsed me."
Goudeau: Winning in November, obviously a really important thing for the Democratic Party. But it's going to be a sizable feat. I mean, Dan Patrick easily won in his primary. He has quite the war chest ahead of him and he has not lost a statewide race. What's the key to defeating him?
Collier: "Well, you know, Democrats haven't won in 30 years. And one of the reasons why we haven't won in 30 years is that nobody stays in this fight and runs a second time. And it's a big state and it takes experience and it takes a coalition. And I came close last time, four years ago, and I was gaining on him right up to Election Day. If you've heard the expression, a football team never lost a game, they just ran out of time. I'll tell you, when we get to Election Day in 2018, I was gaining on him. I felt then and I feel now that if I had more time and more money, I could defeat him. I will have much more money this time because we have a much more sophisticated fundraising operation. I have a much more robust team, because when I said I wanted to go back after Dan Patrick, some of the best advisors in the country came and said, 'We'll help you,' because they know how important Texas is. And so, and I'm out. I mean, I am on the road and I'm meeting people. I've put on I don't know how many thousands of miles, tens of thousands of miles so far in the primary, meeting voters where they are -- not taking any voter for granted. Going out and asking them, you know, here's what I think we need to do to solve the problem and here's what I think is how we'll solve it, what do you think? And engaging voters. And so that's going to be the key to success."
Election Day is Tuesday, May 24. The polls will be open from 7 am until 7 pm.
You can watch Ashley's full interview with Mike Collier here:
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