It still boggles the mind that Rep. Valoree Swanson won her seat in Texas House District 150 in 2016 by running to the right of its long-time occupant, fellow Republican Debbie Riddle, who had burnished her conservative credentials by warning about “terror babies” on national TV and argued free education was straight from the “pit of hell.”
Swanson, a longtime political activist and darling of the unscrupulous right-wing lobby group Empower Texas, didn’t pass a single bill her first session despite a long list filed, including efforts to outlaw abortion, which has been legal since 1973, shorten the early voting period, require fetal death certificates after abortions, make English the official language of Texas and our personal favorite: tax people who buy newspapers.
Her second session was better, though. She authored some bills seemingly outside Empower founder Michael Quinn Sullivan’s bucket list. They included legislation on disaster preparation, school safety and one that seems far-fetched but has become law in well over a dozen other states: declaring pornography a public health hazard, which even drew Democratic support. More than a dozen bills she sponsored and co-sponsored became law.
Swanson, 63, also worked across the aisle to help fend off right-wing opposition to a bill that helped the City of Houston expand affordable housing in multifamily units within city limits.
Swanson didn’t meet with the editorial board. We’re hopeful about signs that she may be maturing and branching out as a lawmaker. Still, her extreme views fueled by her activist focus hamper her effectiveness in the House as a whole. And in June she made headlines for pushing back on Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 contact tracing program, arguing in part “the threat was wildly exaggerated.”
So, we were eager to hear from her challenger.
Michael Robert Walsh is earnest, informed and