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Eltife, Hall, Estes receive leadership roles

Bob Hall won 59 percent of votes and will once again represent Texas Senate District 2.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has announced committee assignments for this year’s Texas Senate and Northeast Texas will be fairly well represented. Each one of the three Republican state senators from the KETR listening area has an assignment as either chair or vice-chair on one of the 14 committees in this session of the Texas Legislature.

Kevin Eltife of Tyler will chair the Committee on Business and Commerce. Eltife, whose district includes Lamar, Franklin and Wood Counties, will also serve on the Committee on Administration and the Committee on Finance.

Freshman Senator Bob Hall of Van has replaced Bob Deuell as the lawmaker representing Delta, Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, Rockwall and Van Zandt Counties, as well as part of Dallas County. Hall will serve as vice chair of the Border Security Subcommittee. That group will be led by chair Brian Birdwell, a Republican from Granbury. Hall also received three other assignments, most notably on the Transportation Committee. Hall was also selected to serve on the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs and also on the Committee on Natural Resources and Economic development.

Craig Estes of Wichita Falls has a large North Texas district that includes part of Collin County, including Farmersville and Princeton. Estes lost his chairmanship of the Committee on State Affairs, though he will continue to serve in that group. Estes was replaced by Houston Republican Joan Huffman. Estes will be the vice chair of the Committee on Natural resources and economic development. Estes will also serve on three other committees: Health and Human Services, Nominations, and State Affairs.

Patrick eliminated four committees that were organized in the 2013 Senate. Absent from this year’s session will be last session’s committees on Open Government, Jurisprudence, Economic Development and Government Organization.

A closer look at the State Senators and their districts:

Texas Senate District 1

Counties: Bowie, Camp, Cass, Franklin, Gregg, Harrison, Lamar, Marion, Morris, Panola, Red River, Rusk, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Wood.

Overview: Most of East Texas falls into this district, including Interstate 20’s Piney Woods corridor of Tyler (pop. 96,900), Longview (pop. 80,455) and Marshall (23,523). District 1 also includes most of Northeast Texas and its sub-regional centers Mount Pleasant (pop. 15,564), Paris (pop. 25,171) and Texarkana (pop. 36,411). The northern part of the district is less populated and less developed. District 1 relies on a traditional commodity economy, with oil and timber dominating. The hydraulic fracturing boom has been less dramatic in its effects in East Texas compared to other petroleum-producing areas in the state. Both the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System have member institutions in the district (Tyler and Texarkana, respectively). 

Kevin Eltife
Credit State of Texas
Kevin Eltife

  This is the most water-rich region in Texas, with the state’s only naturally occurring lake (Caddo Lake) providing recreation and tourism, while a proposed reservoir near Mount Pleasant (Marvin Nichols Reservoir) has produced an ongoing controversy for the Texas Water Development Board and other concerned parties.

The State Senator: Tyler businessman Kevin Eltife has served in the Texas Senate since 2004. Eltife is a former mayor of Tyler and a former member of the Tyler City Council. Eltife won with 71.65 percent of the vote in the 2012 general election and is scheduled to defend his seat in 2016.

Contact State Sen. Eltife: Email: kevin.eltife@senate.state.tx.us. Telephone: 903-596-9122. Twitter: @KevinEltife.

Texas Senate District 2

Counties: Delta, Fannin, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, Rockwall, Van Zandt; Dallas (part).

Overview: This rural-suburban district includes growing, affluent communities near Dallas as well as rural areas with slow economies and declining, aging populations. In Dallas County, the district includes Mesquite (pop. 139, 824) and part of Garland (pop. 226,876). Other cities of note include Rockwall (pop. 37,490) and Rowlett (pop. 56,199) along Lake Ray Hubbard, as well as rural county seats Greenville (pop. 25,557), Sulphur Springs (pop. 15,449) and Terrell (pop. 15,816). Delta County has the lowest average weekly wage in the United States at $378, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while Rains County ($528) also ranks among the nation’s lowest earners. Hunt County hosts a regional university, Texas A&M University-Commerce (enrollment 12, 321). Many of the district’s issues relate to the changes wrought as the Dallas metropolitan area expands into once-sleepy communities, while older suburbs close to Dallas adapt to urbanization.

State Sen. Bob Hall (R-Van)
Credit votebobhall.com
Bob Hall

The State Senator: Bob Hall, a retired businessman from Van Zandt County, will replace Greenville physician Bob Deuell, who represented District 2 since 2003. In the Republican Party 2014 primary election, Deuell finished first with 48.5 percent of the vote, but was forced into a runoff with Hall by failing to receive 50 percent. Hall finished with 38.8 percent in the primary, while Mark Thompson totaled 12.7 percent. Hall defeated Deuell in the runoff election by 300 votes (18,230-17,930). In the general election, Hall finished with 83.6 percent of the vote. An organizer for the Canton Tea Party Patriots, Hall has not held public office before. Hall has identified his policy areas of interest as including tax reform, transportation policy reform, immigration and Right to Life issues. Hall defeated Deuell in part by running to the right of the veteran legislator, who was once considered one of the most conservative lawmakers in Austin. Hall was boosted by support by Texas Right to Life, which broke with Deuell over end-of-life care issues in SB 303.

Contact State Sen. Hall: Email: Bob@VoteBobHall.com. Telephone: 214-632-1391. Twitter: @VoteBobHall.

Texas Senate District 16

Counties: Archer, Baylor, Clay, Cooke, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Shackleford, Stephens, Throckmorton, Wichita, Wilbarger, Wise; Collin (part), Denton (part).

Overview: This North Texas district is composed mainly of rural counties north and west of Fort Worth. But at its eastern edge, District 16 wraps around the Dallas suburbs to include the eastern part of Collin County. The district includes most of Denton (pop. 113,383), as well as Wichita Falls (pop. 104, 553) and Sherman (pop. 38,521). Hydraulic fracturing has introduced economic development as well as environmental and infrastructural concerns to most counties in this district. That’s not the case in eastern Collin County, where District 16 contains Princeton (pop. 6,807) and Farmersville (pop. 3,301), two country towns evolving into exurbs. The eastern corner of the district also includes the small communities of Josephine (pop. 812), Lavon (pop. 2,219) and Nevada (pop. 880) that overwhelmingly rejected the Northeast Gateway toll road proposal.

A letter addressed to Estes from Equality Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union and Texas Freedom Network said adding the language to the bill would "not only allay our remaining concerns, but allow our organizations to support this legislation."
Credit State of Texas
Craig Estes

The State Senator: Craig Estes, a Wichita Falls businessman, has served in the Texas Senate since 2001. Estes was the president pro tempore of the Texas Senate in 2013. Estes won the 2014 general election with 86.65 percent of the vote.

Contact Sen. Estes: Email: craig.estes@senate.state.tx.us. Telephone: 940-689-0191. Twitter: @EstesForTexas.

Mark Haslett has served at KETR since 2013. Since then, the station's news operation has enjoyed an increase in listener engagement and audience metrics, as well recognition in the Texas AP Broadcasters awards.