Austin Outsider Hopes To Pop The Austin Bubble In Race For Williams’ Senate Seat
The chatter around the Capitol so far about the race for the Texas Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has primarily focused on the two House members in the contest: Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands and Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. But, a lesser-known candidate by the name of Gordy Bunch, a successful businessman and a member of the equivalent of the city council in The Woodlands, says he’s working hard to get his supporters out and “get ‘er done” in the May 10 special election.
Bunch, who was first elected to The Woodlands Township Board of Directors two years ago, says he’s been able to use his business experience to help create one of the best-running governments in the state. Indeed, The Woodlands has seen taxes decrease and debt has been paid down while services have been expanded. He said achieving those goals is a collaborative process. "It comes out of doing the right thing and coming to a consensus,” he said. An insurance broker, one of the first problems he tackled on the board of directors was a lack of an insurance policy on parks and recreation facilities, something that’s essential in a community that can be in the firing line of a hurricane.
Bunch is a family man with a wife and three boys. “We want to encourage our kids to be involved civically," he said. Bunch noted that his father-in-law, Dr. Fred Thornberry, ran unsuccessfully for Texas Ag Commissioner and Congress decades ago. "When it was unpopular to be a Republican he was on the forefront," he said. "We have a little of that in our blood."
On transportation funding, Buch said he recently attended a luncheon where folks from the Associated General Contractors and TxDOT were at his table. "They're happy to get money from any source we can find," he said, pointing to the state’s incredible growth of around 1200 people per day. “We are woefully behind,” he said. "We haven't really visited inflation indexing of any of the fees that we have in our state. Things haven't changed since 1991 or ’93.” Finding dedicated revenue streams for TxDOT – some of that through eliminating current diversions – will be critical moving forward, Bunch said.
Buch was not prepared to go too in-depth about education funding, though he and others realize the lay of the land in the 2015 session will be substantially different depending on what happens with the court challenge to the way schools are financed. However, he called public education a “need not a want.” He said "I know that there's not a one-size-fits-all solution for school districts especially when you get out into the rural areas. For me, I'd have to take a pretty deep look at it before I could give you a good answer."
A veteran of the Coast Guard, Bunch said he’s been on the “front lines” when it comes to some of the law enforcement and security issues facing Texas. “We have immigration issues in this state," he said. "The Coast Guard can't stop it all, but I have some firsthand knowledge in those things - stopping illegal immigration and drug trafficking.” Those problems can’t be solved through bumper sticker slogans, Bunch said. "I'm willing to take the experiences I've had and bring that to Austin and bring a little perspective to how to get things done."
QR readers will recall that toward the end of the budget process this year, former Sen. Williams expressed great frustration with outside conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans. When the Wall Street Journal ran a negative editorial on the budget in June, Williams said the WSJ board was helping those groups line their pockets. "I was really disappointed that they allowed themselves to be used by some special interest groups here in Austin,” Williams said at the time. Those groups were using their criticism of the budget to do fundraising and pay their own salaries, Williams said. “That’s what’s going on.”
Bunch said those groups “don't have any immediate influence on me. I'm open to listening to all sides.” He said fixing problems like finding more money for education and infrastructure will take “backbone” and the “political will to address some of the issues that keep getting kicked down the road.” Bunch said “If we continue to push toward a far-left or far-right, we're setting up our kids for a future that doesn't look that bright.”