April 17, 2014

Gordy Bunch’s business experience makes him the right choice to represent District 4

Residents of state Senate District 4 through the years have shown a penchant for electing big men to represent them. We mean that both literally and figuratively.

From 1977 until 1995, it was Carl Parker, a liberal Democrat from Port Arthur who was an outsized force for public education, the environment and industrial safety, all while serving, unofficially, as the Senate’s resident wit. (Parker: “If you took all the fools out of the Legislature, it wouldn’t be a representative body anymore.”)

From 2003 until last fall, it’s been Tommy Williams, a conservative Republican from The Woodlands who left the upper chamber after a decade in office to serve as the vice chancellor of federal and state relations for his alma mater, Texas A&M University. Williams, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, earned a reputation as a smart, no-nonsense lawmaker willing to cooperate with the other side of the aisle, despite his strongly held conservative views.

Williams and Parker both cut a wide swath through the Capitol (again, literally and figuratively). Unfortunately, the four candidates seeking to succeed Williams in a May 4 special election come nowhere close to the caliber of the senator they would succeed.

Three of the candidates – Michael Galloway of The Woodlands, state Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands and state Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe – have legislative experience, although their records are not impressive.

Back in 1995, Galloway was a 29-year-old political novice who upset a Senate legend – Carl Parker himself. His one term was undistinguished, to put it kindly. Texas Monthly, naming Galloway to its “worst list,” was less kindly: “He had no more influence on the course of events in the Senate than a speck of dust in the path of a bowling ball.”

Galloway, who now runs an oil and gas production company, told the Chronicle editorial board that his “grit and determination” set him apart from his competitors. We’re not persuaded he would be any more effective in the Legislature than he was nearly two decades ago.

Toth, a first-term state representative, upset 10-year incumbent Republican Rob Eissler in 2012. The tea-party favorite, a small-business owner and former pastor of The Woodlands Church, is energetic and articulate, but his focus seems to be on far-right issues that have little to do with the everyday concerns of Senate District 4, a Republican stronghold that spans Jefferson and Chambers counties and includes portions of Harris, Montgomery and Galveston counties.

Toth’s most significant piece of legislation, among 18 he filed, was a bill that would exempt the State of Texas from any federal regulation regarding firearms. The bill was unconstitutional on its face. Last August he tweeted that President Obama was preparing to launch military strikes in Syria to “support his friends in al-Qaida.”

Creighton, chairman of the House Republican caucus, who initially decided to run for agriculture commissioner, has served in the Legislature since 2006. An attorney, rancher and developer, he told the Chronicle editorial board that he would continue to promote the federalism and 10th Amendment issues that have characterized his House tenure. He promised to “bring people together in a solution-based perspective,” but beyond that he either would not or could not offer a compelling rationale for his candidacy.

Our endorsement, almost by default, goes to Richard “Gordy” Bunch, a Coast Guard veteran, CEO of The Woodlands Financial Group and treasurer on The Woodlands township board. He also serves as chairman of The Woodlands Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bunch touts his business experience and his township track record of lowering property taxes below the effective tax rate and paying down city debt. In addition to his township experience, he seems to have a good grasp of issues that affect the district, including education needs in Beaumont and Port Arthur and transportation needs throughout the area.

Early voting begins April 28 and ends May 6. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be necessary.

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