Interview: Texas Democrat Mike Collier Takes On America’s Most Divisive Lt. Governor
Mike Collier is running to be the next Lieutenant Governor of Texas. His opponent is the incumbent lieutenant governor, Houston Republican Dan Patrick.
The lieutenant governor is the leader of the Texas Senate and effectively determines what legislation makes it to the Governor’s desk. The position has sometimes been referred to as the most powerful job in Texas government.
Lt. Governor Patrick is well known for leading the legislative charge on Senate Bill 4, which banned sanctuary cities in Texas, and Senate Bill 6, the failed “bathroom” bill, which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the public restroom of their choice.
Collier says Patrick has failed Texas by focusing on discriminatory legislation and that Texans can’t afford another four years of Patrick’s divisiveness.
If elected, Collier says he would turn the state government’s focus to kitchen table issues like protecting public education and rebuilding Texas’ infrastructure. He lists fair redistricting as his top legislative priority because gerrymandering disincentivizes collaboration between Republicans and Democrats.
Patrick, for his part, has not ruled out reviving the bathroom bill in the next session of the Texas Legislature.
Collier has been endorsed by all of the major newspapers in Texas, including the Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, and early voting started in Texas on Monday, October 22.
Read a transcript of my Friday, October 19 interview with Collier below. It is lightly edited for clarity.
Reyna: Good evening. I’m Matthew Reyna with Rantt Media. I’m here today with Mike Collier who’s running for Texas Lieutenant Governor. The lieutenant governor position in Texas is the leader of the Senate and has sometimes been called the most powerful position in state government. Recently, Mike has been endorsed by the Dallas Morning News, and I’m here with him today. Mike, thank you so much for joining me.
Collier: Happy to be here. Thank you, Matthew.
Reyna: Let me get right into those newspaper endorsements. You’ve been endorsed by the Dallas Morning News.
Reyna: You’ve also been endorsed by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Reyna: Why do you think you’re getting these endorsements and Dan Patrick isn’t?
Collier: Well, my opponent is not working honestly to solve the problems we face as a state, and that’s always from the very beginning been my number one criticism of him. And so when you think about the problems that we as a community want to work on; such as public education; such as health care; such as corruption; such as the decline of democracy. We have very serious issues facing our state and the lieutenant governor as the president of the Senate, arguably the most powerful political leader in the state, needs to work on those issues.
And you have in Dan Patrick, a lieutenant governor who refuses to waste any time on those issues. Instead, for pure political gain, he focuses on those things like the bathroom bill which was just so hateful and so wrong. Senate Bill 4, the show me your papers law, which I think was racially motivated. I abhor, I loathe SB4. Throwing money at the border as if throwing 800 million a year at it is securing it. The locals don’t like it. It makes no sense. We’re not doing it.
I could go on and on. Water. Gerrymandering. The things that we need to work on, he’s not working on. The things that he does is for pure political gain. And I’m not a politician, I mean, I just got angry enough to do this, alright. I’m a CPA, but I’m just concerned about my country. I’m concerned about my state. I got angry enough to do it. The newspapers see sincerity in me. And I’ve done my homework so I’m a very policy-oriented guy and that’s why they’re endorsing me.
Reyna: When we talk about these issues, I think most people would say the most pressing issue right now is public education.
Reyna: When I hear you or when I hear [Texas Senate candidates] Steven Kling or Kendall Scudder refer to Dan Patrick as the number one threat to public education, what do you all mean by that? And how would your approach to public education differ from that of the current lieutenant governor?
Collier: Well, I do agree that public education is the most important thing that we face and I do believe Dan Patrick is hostile to public education. I think he wants to destroy it as we know it and I think he wants to privatize it or perhaps you should say profitize it. And he’s wrong, and Texans don’t want that. We want great public schools. It’s the great equalizer. It’s the great leveler. I think we have a moral obligation to all of the young people in this state. Whether you’re rich. Whether you’re poor. Regardless of the color of your skin. Your national origin. We owe everyone in Texas a great public education, and that’s what I support. And that’s what Dan Patrick is hostile to.
He wants vouchers. He wants to privatize, and that makes it a two-tier system when you do that. That means the affluent get a great education and those that aren’t affluent get much less and that’s just not right. It’s morally wrong. So I am pro-public education. He’s hostile to it. And then that translates into funding, right? So if you’re pro-public education, you want to put more money into public education. If you’re hostile to public education, you want to starve it. He’s been starving it for as long as he’s been there. Now, we need to put more money into public education. And my Republican friends laugh at me and say “oh, well you Democrats, you just want to throw money at a problem and make yourself feel better.”
And here’s where I push back, and I said: “no no, no don’t give me that.” We need smaller class sizes, and we need special education support so our teachers can teach and our children can learn. And that takes money because we need more teachers and more special-ed teachers. We also need very high-quality pre-K and my Republican friends say “well the parents don’t care, there’s nothing we can do.” No, no, I disagree. Particularly, if you take a child who’s really young; show them a safe place, give them a meal, a taste of learning. Then you’ve turned that person into a student; then you’ve turned them into a citizen.
Doing those three things, and there’s more that we need to do. We need to talk about gun safety, school safety. My point is, if you’re pro-public education as I am than you want to do these things and that takes money. Dan Patrick won’t, and I will. And I know where the money’s going to come from too. The money’s going to come from the large corporations who are not paying their fair share.
There’s a defect in the property tax law introduced in 1997. This is where my accounting skills come in. This law was introduced in 1997, and it allows the owners of large commercial, industrial properties to sue their appraisal district and to underpay their taxes and they are cheating the system and cheating our schools. Everybody knows about it. No one has said that I’m wrong. Everyone has said that I’m right. There was recently an investigative reporter in Dallas who looked at it. He said I’m right. Close that loophole, and that’s a lot of money man. Five billion dollars a year they’re cheating us. Close that loophole, get that money back, put it into public education. Now we start to solve the problem. Dan Patrick won’t do any of those things.
Reyna: Now, perhaps the issue that Dan Patrick is most well known for nationally is his stance on immigration, particularly undocumented people in Texas. During his original campaign, I know he referred to undocumented immigrants as invaders. And of course, he is the person who led the charge on SB4. How would your approach to the undocumented population in Texas differ from that of Dan Patrick’s?
Collier: Well, my observation of Mr. Patrick saying [undocumented immigrants] are invaders, Senate Bill 4, his antipathy, his hostility towards undocumented persons; I think it’s wrong. I think it’s morally wrong. I think it’s racially motivated. I detest it. I’m the exact opposite, and I always start with the numbers as a financial guy. So let me share some numbers with you.
First of all, according to a report done by AngelouEconomics, a very well respected economist, there are 1.7 million undocumented persons living amongst us. They consume about 2 billion in resources; education, police, hospital. They pay about 2.7 billion in local property taxes and local taxes. So economically there’s nothing wrong. They’re paying their freight. Secondly, if you look at the incidents of crime amongst undocumented persons, there’s a lower crime rate. So why are we so excited about this? But you know, I’m fine that they live amongst us. They work hard raising their families. So we should relax. We should treat them with respect. We should enjoy their company. And we should give them a path to citizenship so that they can earn their way into being a United States citizen like my great-grandfather did, and all of us are immigrants. Huge difference between me and Dan Patrick on that. That’s where I think we should go.
DACA, the dreamers, should stay. Be treated to in-state tuition. Stay and get your degree. Contribute to our great society. That’s what makes America great for the people who have come here. You’ll hear Dan Patrick say “well, Democrats want bad guys to cross the border and kill us.” No. Here’s where we, Democrats and I, recognize that we have to control access to the border. We have to enforce the laws of the United States of America. I don’t know anybody who disagrees with that.
However, we must do it intelligently, and we must do it humanely. And I’m appalled that we would tear children from their families on the border. That is deeply offensive and troubling to me. And then also, I don’t think the wall makes any sense. I mean nobody has told me that this wall will work. It’s a publicity stunt. When I talk to people about what will work, here’s what I hear: technology, coordination of law enforcement, let’s do it smart. And so there’s a huge difference between me and Dan Patrick in that regard. Huge difference.
Reyna: On that position, you two couldn’t be more different.
Collier: I made a little speech on immigration and border security. That’s all federal, and I happen to be running for lieutenant governor. So you might say, well why would I even say anything? What can a lieutenant governor do about this? Well, I’ll tell you what the lieutenant governor can do about this. The lieutenant governor is arguably the most powerful position in the state. So I’m going to win on November 6th. Guess who my first phone call is going to be on November 7th? Donald J. Trump. And I’m going to let him know. And it’s going to be me and Sheriff Valdez. And we’re going to let him know there’s a new sheriff in Texas.
Anything that happens on Texas soil has to be consistent with our values.
We’ve got thirty-eight electoral votes behind us. The president will listen.
Reyna: We haven’t seen that leadership from the current lieutenant governor.
Collier: No. No. They’re afraid of their own shadow. They won’t stand up to Donald Trump. They’re afraid of their own shadow. They really have compromised our values. Really disappointing. They’ve got to go.
Reyna: Come November 6th, if you win. When you’re in office, it’s likely the Texas Senate stays in Republican hands. How will you be able to work across the aisle and make sure stuff gets done but also, I know of some in the Texas GOP on the further right, like Pat Fallon. People of that mold. People that have proved themselves to be bad faith negotiators, the most extreme in their party on issues like immigration. How do you work with those kinds of people?
Collier: You know, it’s a wonderful question because everybody is just repulsed by the lack of civility and being able to work together in politics. I mean, particularly young people, they can’t imagine it being this bad. I can remember times when it wasn’t this bad. Gerrymandering is the root cause of it by the way. We’ll come to that. So let’s assume that there’s plenty of Republicans in the Senate. I’m a Democrat. I’m the lieutenant governor. There’s a lot of Republican Senators. I believe that Texans are more alike than we are not alike.
There is a moderate thought process amongst Republican Senators, not all of them; you got Pat Fallon out there, I met Pat. He might cling to this absurd and wrong notion that we should have vouchers for example. But Texans will have spoken. I mean, this is a referendum on public education. This is a referendum on Healthcare. It’s a referendum on property taxes. It’s a referendum on gerrymandering. They might choose to buck the trend and ignore Texas voters, but I don’t think many will. I think it will drive a huge change in their calculus.
And to the extent that there are Senators that hold out and want to cling to the old way of doing it, which Texas don’t want, and they’re going to prove that they don’t want by electing me. Then we’ll be polite. We’ll do our best. They’ll vote against me, but I get two sessions with 18 months between sessions. The lieutenant governor gets a four-year term. The legislature meets twice with an 18-month break between sessions. So it’s really quite simple. Will the important things come up for a vote? Close that property tax loophole and get that money back. Expand Medicaid, which is the right thing to do. Sensible gun laws, which is what everyone wants. And kill gerrymandering.
Four votes. They might vote no. Pat Fallon might vote no. But then I’ve got 18 months, and I’ll chase him right back into his district, and I’ll campaign, and I’ll let everybody knows this is what your Senator voted and that’s not right. We’ll do it again. The second time we vote, they’ll vote yes.
Reyna: Now you’ve brought up gerrymandering a couple of times, a couple times in that answer specifically. My next question to you was what do you think the state Senate is going to look like next year? Do you think the composition will be more favorable to Democrats? But in that answer, how do you think gerrymandering hurts the chances of picking up some seats that may have been in play in this kind of year?
Collier: Well, let’s first talk about what gerrymandering is. Gerrymandering is the dark art of drawing congressional districts using big data, computing horsepower. That’s why it’s become a malignancy as technology has driven us to place where districts are drawn so they’re purely Republican or purely Democrat. And because Republicans draw the districts and make sure that they’re pure R or pure D, the Rs outnumber the Ds.
And that way people stop voting and nothing changes and you control the Senate and House forever and ever. That’s what gerrymandering is all about. Gerrymandering is evil. Because if you have a district, that’s pure Republican or pure Democrat, then the representatives of those districts do not have an incentive to work together. If you work with the other party then come back and tell your district what you did, then somebody in your own party is going to run against you. You want to keep your job, you fight.
Now, imagine if you have congressional districts that are drawn, not by politicians, but by ordinary citizens. So that you have Democrats and Republicans and independents and Libertarians and everybody living together as communities do. Then you go to Austin, for example, if you’re a congressman or congresswoman, do your best, you come home, and everybody in your district is a little it angry and that’s good because then you have to solve those problems locally and bring people together if you want to get reelected. The only people that get reelected year after year will be those that bring people together. That’s the essence of democracy. That’s the essence of leadership.
Now, how does that relate to the work that we’re in, in the Senate? Let’s assume for a minute that we are successful, in terms of putting more money into public education, closing the loophole, expanding Medicaid, etc. All of those things are temporary because I could lose the next election and then they go right back to the old way of doing it because gerrymandering allows them to control the outcome. What makes it permanent, lasting. This is why this is so important to me. Not just because it brings back democracy and civility, but because the things that we do are permanent.
Kill gerrymandering then you have statesmen. Then we’re focused on policy and fighting, and then democracy works. And the will of the people, the expectations of the people, are reflected in policy as it comes to the legislature. It’ll change everything.
One last thing: once we kill gerrymandering we can then turn our attention to campaign finance reform. And that’s a huge problem we’ve got to solve. I don’t think that we have any hope of solving [campaign finance reform] until we kill gerrymandering.
Reyna: And what power would you have as lieutenant governor to begin to work on that problem?
Collier: Well, we’re going to vote. Here are the steps involved: If we go to an independent redistricting commission, as a few other states have done, we have to decide what works best for us. We’ll pick amongst the several, pick the one that’s best for us perfected to make it ours. But that process begins with the legislature approving and then goes to the governor, the governor has to sign it. It then it goes to the people. Then we amend the Constitution. Then our work is done. So step one, is for me as lieutenant governor, to do committee assignments in the calendar of bills to make sure that I get a vote.
The most important thing, in terms of gerrymandering, is that I get a vote during the first session. I’ll probably lose that vote. That’s alright, because I get another session and I have 18 months between sessions. And I believe that most Texans want to kill gerrymandering, even Republicans. Because Republicans recognize that it leads to corruption. That’s one of the side effects of gerrymandering because you don’t have a real kind of accountability. So I’ll probably lose the vote the first time. I have 18 months to marshal the resources to campaign in key senatorial districts, and I’ll take the vote the second time. We’ll get it the second time. It’s on its way to the governor, on its way to the people, and we’ll have that problem solved within four years.
Imagine that we kill gerrymandering within the next four years. We have to vote. I mean in 19 days is when we have to cast our vote to do this, but we’ll set a process in motion to kill gerrymandering within four years, the rest of the state, the nation will follow. Within 10 years we will solve the problem death of democracy and civility. Now imagine if I don’t, and we don’t do those things. Then we’re on a path to destruction. I mean democracy is not going to survive if we stay on this path. That’s why gerrymandering is so important.
Reyna: Well it’s interesting that you say that, and I’ll start to wrap it up with this: What does four more years of Dan Patrick look like for Texas?
Collier: Well, needless to say, I think it’s a disaster. Where do we start? First of all, retired teachers are going to most likely get deeper cuts to their benefits because there’s no plan to fund the increasing cost of health care for them. They were handed a very bad deal. There are retired teachers who can’t afford to take their medicine. It’s cruel. It’s not Texan. I think it’ll get worse for them. Retired teachers are going to see their defined benefit pension plan converted, in my judgment, to a 401k, which they do not want and I don’t want it for them. Because that effectively is a pay cut.
I think we’ll have larger class sizes because there’s not going to be money. He says he’s going to give teachers a $10,000 raise; you know the only way to accomplish a $10,000 raise for teachers without funding is to fire teachers. So those that you don’t fire get a raise, sitting in bigger classes. It’s ridiculous. So another four years of Dan Patrick is going to be very hard on public education and all the things that I just discussed. Property taxes for those who care about property taxes, by the way, even if you’re renting if you’re young, you’re paying property taxes. They’re going to keep going up. Because they’re not addressing the root cause of the issue.
We will not expand Medicaid. People will die as a consequence of that. It makes no sense. We will not un-gerrymander the state. So that’s a good place to start, and we won’t do anything about water, we won’t do anything about climate change, we won’t do anything about the things we care about in another four years of Dan Patrick. I can’t imagine a worse fate for our state, and he’s going to throw that bathroom bill at us. He’s already told us. Which is going to be extraordinarily damaging to our culture, our sense of self, and community. It’s hateful, and businesses aren’t going to come here.
I mean the only way to get them to come back here is if I beat him. We’re not going to have a Super Bowl. We’re not going to have the Olympics. We’re not going to have the World Cup. Amazon won’t come. These jobs won’t come. Companies won’t invest here if he does this again, but he won’t because I’m going to beat him.
Reyna: And that’s all the bad things that would happen if Dan Patrick wins, but as a final pitch: Why should voters choose you over the man you’ve nicknamed do-nothing-Dan.
Collier: Well first in reverse order for this conversation, but probably in the order of priorities: I’m going to fight to kill gerrymandering and set us on the path of saving democracy. I’m going to fight to put more money into public education because that’s the great equalizer. We’re going to do it by reforming the property tax law. Big corporations are cheating us. They know it, and I know it. We’re going to get that back. We’re going to vote to expand Medicaid which is a wonderful start in terms of improving our Healthcare. I believe Healthcare is a universal right. Then criminal justice reform, which we didn’t have time for. We should not be locking people up for minor, nonviolent offenses such as marijuana. We love people working, not in prison. So there’s a lot of work to be done there.
Those are the things you get if you vote for me. If you vote against me, then you get the same. I can’t recommend that.
Renya: That’s Mike Collier. He’s running for lieutenant governor of Texas. You can follow his campaign [on Twitter] @CollierForTexas. Mike, thank you so much for talking to me.
Collier: Thank you, Matthew. A real pleasure. A real pleasure.