If money raised and endorsements are decisive factors in a political race, Cynthia Flores, a Round Rock social services case manager, would easily win the March 6 Republican primary for Texas House District 52.
The district — currently held by Republican state Rep. Larry Gonzales, who isn’t running for re-election — encompasses most of Round Rock, some of Georgetown and extends east to Hutto and Taylor.
Flores had raised $92,000 by Jan. 25 and had the endorsements of Gov. Greg Abbott, Gonzales and Texas Alliance for Life, among others.
Careful with how she addresses certain issues that have divided the GOP, Flores wouldn’t comment to the American-Statesman on the performance of outgoing Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who the Texas State Republican Executive Committee has censured for obstructing the party’s conservative agenda. Straus and his lieutenants blocked bills last year restricting bathroom use by transgender people.
“I’m not going to get into what I thought about him,” Flores said of Straus. “I don’t think that does any good. I think we need to look forward.”
She instead said she is ardently against elective abortions and wants to further boost border security to prevent human trafficking. Flores said she supports requiring voters to approve property tax increases of 4 percent or more — currently, elections are triggered at 8 percent — and bring down property taxes in part through addressing the inefficient way school districts are funded. She said she supports increasing the state’s share of public school funding so that local property taxpayers aren’t shouldering most of the burden.
Chris Ward, a clinical trial auditor, who is second in fundraising with $17,000 in contributions, said he’s not a fan of Straus or Gonzales. Straus isn’t conservative enough and Gonzales didn’t do enough to address high property taxes, he said.
Ward said he also wants to fix school financing to help curb property tax increases. To bring costs down for schools, he wants to consider consolidating services and positions at small school districts, ensure that school districts are granting construction projects to lowest bidders when possible and eliminate the recapture system under which school districts with high property wealth give some of their revenue back to the state to be redistributed to property-poor school districts.
The Round Rock school district will send back $8.3 million in recapture money in 2018, according to an estimate from the Texas Education Agency.
“I’m not going to be type of person to say that all things can’t be on the table,” Ward said of his approach to fixing school finance.
Ward said if he’s elected, he will donate the $14,400 salary he would make over his two-year term as state representative to nonprofits in the district, including those that help victims of domestic violence.
The third Republican candidate, religious nonprofit president Jeremy Story, has raised $12,000. He did not respond to requests for an interview.
The Republican primary winner will face Democrat James Talarico, head of an education nonprofit, in the November election. Talarico has raised $75,000. Early voting for the primaries ends Friday.
About the candidates
• Cynthia Flores, 52, is a case manager for the Round Rock Area Serving Center, which provides such social services as a food pantry and financial assistance for utilities and rent for low-income residents. She has a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation studies from the University of North Texas.
Civic participation: Flores is a community representative on the Allen Baca Senior Center Advisory Board and was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the board of directors for the Brazos River Authority. She is a member of the Professional Women of Williamson County organization, Catholic Business Networking and Williamson County Non-Profit Networking group.
• Jeremy Story is the president of Campus Renewal, a nonprofit that organizes campus ministries. He has a government degree from the University of Texas, according to his website.
Civic participation: Story serves on the board of directors for the National Day of Prayer and is the state chaplain for the Republican Party of Texas, according to his website.
• Chris Ward, 42, audits clinical trials to ensure patient safety and proper data reporting. He has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in critical incident management from Saint Leo University.
Civic participation: Ward said he’s been involved in charities including the American Cancer Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Halo House, Austin Angels, Veteran Collective, Boot Campaign and 22Kill. As a member of the motorcycle community, he has also supported Texas Baptist Children’s Home, Helping Hand Home, and Clubs for Kids.
• James Talarico is the only Democrat running in Texas House District 52. He is executive director for Reasoning Mind, a nonprofit that provides math learning material for children. He has a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in education policy from Harvard University, according to his website.
Civic participation: Talarico did not respond to a request for comment from the American-Statesman.