February 16, 2014

When state Rep. Matt Schaefer ran for the District 6 seat two years ago, he pledged to not continue a pattern of recklessness we’ve seen from the last two state House members — alienating House leadership and rendering themselves irrelevant in Austin.

Sadly, he went to the capitol and did exactly what Ted Kamel and Leo Berman did before him — he picked a fight with the powerful Speaker of the House, and thus ensured that his voice and his vote were less than worthless. They became harmful to East Texas interests.

What Schaefer failed to learn in his first term is that the system is the system. We may regard it as rotten, but it’s what we have. Schaefer’s committee assignments show the fruits of falling afoul of leadership. He’s on Criminal Jurisprudence and the Defense and Veterans Affairs committees — minor committees, both led by Democrats.

On the issue of the pharmacy school for the University of Texas at Tyler, Schaefer parses the words — he says he’s a “co-sponsor,” but that just means he supported it. His name as author on the original bill killed it, according to many reliable accounts.

We are disappointed that Schaefer’s eyes continue to be anywhere but on his district.

He talks about gun control and Obamacare, and he even takes credit for statewide reforms in vocational education. But where was he when the Tyler school district was passing (by a two-to-one margin) a bond issue that included career and technology education here, when other local elected officials publicly supported it?

He talks about border control and immigration (another federal issue). But it seems the fences he’s most interested in building isolate him from being a substantive part of any solutions.

His challenger, Skip Ogle, would be a welcome change. He can work with others — and his focus is on our community, our needs, and our concerns. Ogle has a proven commitment to East Texas — as demonstrated by his long history of community service.

Politics is a means, not an end. If our state representative is ineffective, we suffer for it. The upcoming legislative session is too important for the District 6 seat to be held by a member who was reckless in the last session, and has no intention of changing his ways.

We would like to see Skip Ogle represent our district, and build the bridges that will benefit East Texas.


In contrast, Smith County Judge Joel Baker has grown into the office he’s now handling ably and effectively. There was a learning curve, and Baker made some mistakes early on. What’s refreshing and commendable is that he owned up to them and corrected them where he could.

Baker is now being challenged by retired Gen. John Furlow. Furlow is qualified – both men, in fact, actually seem overqualified. But county government requires a very different style of leadership than the military, and Furlow seems unlikely to bring the leadership style that Baker has been able to grow into.

Still, a challenge to any incumbent is a positive thing — no elected official should become complacent. Baker should listen thoughtfully to issues raised by Furlow, including transparency and long-range planning, and correct course, if needed.

But we find that the Smith County Commissioners Court, with Joel Baker at the head, has found its footing and is doing good work. We’d like to see what more Baker can do for the community.

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