Meet the Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor of Texas


Picture courtesy of the @CollierforTexas Facebook page.

Christian Vasquez, Web Editor

Texas Democrats feel that it’s the right time to turn Texas blue, and Mike Collier is their choice to run against Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor.

Collier, a retired accountant from Kingswood, was the finance chairman for the Texas Democratic party. He also ran for comptroller in 2014, losing to Republican Glenn Hegar.

Collier announcied his candidacy of lieutanant governor in July. Scott Milder, a Republican, is also running for the seat.

We ran into Collier at the Holiday Inn Express during his visit to El Paso for the annual El Paso Democrat holiday party where he agreed to a quick interview.

The following in a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity.



Who are you and why are you running?

Mike Collier, I’m running for Texas lieutanant governor, and I’m a Democrat. My story, in a nutshell, is very simple. I got angry when we fired all those teachers and made cuts to public education in 2011. In 2014, the Democrats were looking for somebody to run for comptroller, and I decided that I would volunteer for duty. I’m a CPA, was a partner in PriceWaterhouseCoopers, never done anything in politics except get angry enough at Republicans and the policies to run for office, and it was public education that started me down this path. When the 2014 election cycle was over, the Democrats asked me if I would stay involved and so I served as the finance chair of the Texas Democratic Party, and then in January of this year I said I’m prepared to run again and we collectively decided that I should run for lieutenant governor, which is higher on the ballot and to run against Dan Patrik.

The most important things to me are public education, health care and jobs. You can’t take anything for granted, you have to work on those things, we know that we have problems with public education, we aren’t investing properly in public education and I think that’s wrong. Health care is not working to anyone’s satisfaction, and I suspect that it’ll get worse before it gets better and we really need to roll up our sleeves and make sure that people have access to high-quality, health care, it’s just so important to our state. Finally jobs, and when I think about this part of the state, El Paso and all of the communities that border Mexico, it’s really exciting what’s coming, what has happened and what’s coming, but we must have good trade relations with Mexico, and we must treat people wonderfully here. For political reasons, which I think are very very wrong, Republicans are saying and doing the worst things for the interest of the people in El Paso and all along the border community, and that’s a big part of my campaign thesis.

People say Texas is a red state so it’s hard to run as a Democrat, others say is not a red state just a non-voting state, how would you get people to come out and vote?

I think that there are enough Democrats for us to win state-wide, I don’t think we’ve campaigned on the issues and I don’t think we’ve executed properly and I think that it’s our fault. Which is why I’m doing this and I think we can win. By that I mean two things, first of all, we have to run on the issues that we’re passionate about and the values and the things that we believe in, and show people that as Texas Democrats that we’re going to be good for them in their lives, I mean that’s the important thing. When I think about what matters to people, the sense that I get is people are concerned about education. Are the children getting a good education? Can you afford to go to a trade or technical college if that’s your direction? Do we have great universities that are in reach of working middle-class families? Do you have access to health care? Are taxes fair? We could talk all day long about property taxes which is a real problem. When Democrats work on the issues that matter to people and affect their lives, then they’re likely to vote for us and until we do that they aren’t likely to vote for us and that is what we have not done properly in my opinion and that is what we are doing differently this time.

So that is going to be the big change this election?

I think so, and also there is a real dissatisfaction with Republicans generally. We saw this last night with Alabama.

Are you excited because of that race?

For those of us that want to see a change in politics and we want sensible people, sensible and honorable people, who are projecting our values. We watched Alabama very very closely, and when Mr. Jones won it was a sigh of relief for all of us who want to see our politics go in a new direction. Here in Texas, Texans are very very dissatisfied with Republicans–in my opinion, depends on where you go–but most Texans are getting a really raw deal in property taxes. Republicans are raising property taxes and they’re not dealing honestly with that issue. This SB4 situation, the show me your papers law, is downright hateful. Support for families and what families are concerned about such as education such as tuition such as health care. They seem very indifferent. It’s as if the Republicans in this state want our state to be great for the affluent and for the sons and daughters of the well-to-do, and they are indifferent to the rest. Well, the rest are going to turn out and vote and show them that is not the way they feel.

How did you enjoy the Democratic holiday party last night?

Oh it was wonderful, it was organized by the party. A lot of candidates. A lot of energy. A lot of enthusiasm. I first came to El Paso almost 40 years ago when I was marching in the Longhorn band and we came to the Sun Bowl. I have a vague recollection that the airport was new and under construction. I fell in love with El Paso. We sat in the stadium and we saw the mountains, and I have never seen anything quite like it and the sun was shining on them in a way that made it beautiful so I love coming to El Paso. When I ran for comptroller I came here three times. When I ran as a county party finance chair I came here twice. I was scheduled to come here around Labor Day, but we had a big hurricane where I live and I got stuck. But I just love it here and I intend to come back. Some say that statewide officials don’t come often enough to El Paso often enough, El Paso is going to say “Mike comes here too often.” I like it that much here.

What policies that Dan Patrick has tried to get through do you disagree with?

The difference between me and Dan Patrick is crystal clear. He is hostile to public education, and I am a champion of public education. He is raising property taxes and deceiving us, and I’m a CPA, I think that we should lower property taxes for homeowners and small businesses, point number two.

Point number three, in terms of just showing just compassion and respect for people, I mean he’s pressing this bathroom bill, SB4, anti-immigrant policies, sowing anti-immigrant hate and distrust. I am the exact opposite. I mean the people who come to this country come here for the right reasons, they want to make a better life for themselves and they want to make a better life for their family. I mean it should be done legally, you want everybody to follow the law, so that it’s fair, but we should treat people with respect.

Finally one last thing, you know I was raised Catholic and I’m proud of this. So I have a value system that’s deeply ingrained and that I’m very committed to, and compassion is a big part of that. Compassion is missing in Texas politics in Republicans, and I’m not going to try and explain it. See if they can explain it. It’s their problem and not mine. I just know that we want to bring compassion back.

So what do you think about the closing of abortion clinics around Texas? Would you hope to make it easier for them to open up?

So I’m Catholic, and I would prefer to see no abortions. But I  also don’t wish to make that decision for a woman on her behalf. So I’m for freedom, I’m for the constitution. I look at it in terms of women’s health in the broader sense. So the things we’ve done in the state, for example, to vilify planned parenthood, abortion services are not available to poor people who are away from the big cities which just isn’t fair. There is an element of a lack of fairness there. I’d like to see fewer abortions but the way to achieve that is to do the hard work of education and adoption and for some people in their culture in their religious belief contraception. That’s the way we should focus on reducing the number of abortions, but not force decisions on women. It’s their choice it’s not my choice.

So you wouldn’t support a law that says an abortion clinic has to have a certain hallway width?

No, I think those are stunts and deceptions and they’re designed to politicize. I don’t want to politicize the issue. It’s a very very delicate subject. I don’t want to make politics over it, and that is what they do. I am not there. I am not there.

How would you raise the Texas economy?

First of all, we have to invest in education. We have to support our public universities. We must, for this part of the world, improve our trade relations with Mexico. We were headed down a good path. They’ve taken us down a path I don’t like. Because the symbiotic relations between what we are doing economically and what Mexico is doing economically is fabulous. As somebody said last night, we should not build walls we should build bridges. We need to invest in infrastructure. We need to invest in our transportation infrastructure and parts of the state water infrastructure and actually health care. There is a linkage to access to health care and economic prosperity because the healthy workforce who is trained and skilled not only are they as individuals happy and providing for the family but then they are fueling the economy with good workers and good knowledge and so forth. So those are the things I have in mind.

What is your stance on immigration?

I think SB4 is hateful, I think it makes our communities dangerous it doesn’t make our communities safer. I think the Republicans are being very insincere on that point. I think that people like I said earlier, people come here for all the right reasons. To make a better life for themselves and for their families. I think we should treat them with respect, they make wonderful neighbors. They should have a lawful route to citizenship. We should support that we should encourage that. And make it possible to achieve the dream that my great grandfather achieved. It’s as simple as that. We are all immigrants. Are the laws that are on the books now, setting side SB4 which is terrible, are the immigration laws on the books now, they could probably be improved. I think many people do believe they should be improved. I do think people should follow the law. I mean if you come in this country you should have a legal path, and earn your opportunity to be a citizen. Which is a wonderful thing to be a United States citizen. But you should be able to, and we should not break up families and threaten families. That’s the part that breaks my heart now is that people feel very threatened. Like their families are going to be broken up when they are here for the right reason.

On Sunday, we had an event on the border where families who have not seen each other in decades were able to, for five minutes, able to talk to each other.

Terrific. See the things that offends me the most about this is that they are using immigration and the dynamic between Mexico and the United States for political reasons and it’s making things much worse for people here. In terms of their family. In terms of their relationship. In terms of their jobs. In terms of everything. They’re using for political purposes this part of the world and it’s awful and I can’t stand that. If you read the newspaper sitting in Houston or go further north what they are saying about border communities is wrong and unfair and disparaging. We should be encouraging people to look at-I view it as a real bright spot. I love to come here and we should be encouraging people to invest and we should be encouraging people to live here and they’re doing the exact opposite for political reasons.

What would you do to help El Paso?

I would say that there is no substitute for being there. I do think our state leadership should come here and come here often, and build relationships that would make sure that we’re sensitive to the issues. I’m pleased with what I’ve done so far and I intend to do quite a lot more. Second is, we discussed, I want to make sure that state resources are flowing to El Paso for public education and also for trade and technical schools and tuition support for great universities out here. I think we should be very mindful of health care, to make sure people have access to health care. We should have expanded Medicaid, and we didn’t and that was flawed policy. I really think we should provide leadership for the cross-border relationship, and stand up to that guy in Washington who is talking about a wall. I mean, my opponent is silent as to these matters. Which I think is very very bad for El Paso. Once we show people what a wonderful place it is and improve the cross-border relationship that will encourage people to come and invest, create jobs and the economy grows and that’s what people want.

When you were talking to the El Paso Democratic party last night, what were the big topics that came up?

We talked an awful lot about jobs. We talked about the big three: education, health care and jobs. And then also we talked about a very strong desire to see Democrats win in Austin. Because there is a lot of Democrats in El Paso, so you know that if you have a Democrat in the lieutenant governor position, you know you have a friend in Austin. So a lot of the talk was “Let’s get out there and win.”

How do you see the 2018 election going for Democrats? You have Beto O’Rourke for Senate, your running for Lt. Governor and 10 candidates running for Governor.

Well, first of all, I’ve gotten to know Beto and he’s fabulous, I mean Beto, he’s obviously popular and well known in El Paso, but he’s done a remarkable job of exciting Democrats across the state with a good message. Just a good message-we want government to work honestly and to do good things. He hates corruption as I do. So he’s very good for all of us that Beto is running at the top of the ticket. We have a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates. It would be improper to side with one or the other. I would say that Jeffrey Payne, who’s here in El Paso, is everywhere. But we have a lot of good people vying for that position. Lieutenant governor is the most important in my opinion. The most important political position in the state and my opponent, Dan Patrick, is uncharacteristically unpopular. So his approval ratings are stuck below 50 percent. I think people are onto him. There was a poll taken in April, by the Texas Lyceum, and they asked a question, surveyed 1000 Texans randomly sampled, and asked them “In a head to head contest between Dan Patrick and Mike Collier who wins?” and I got more points, more votes than he did. Not because people know me so much, you know I have a lot of work to do to get my name out, but because people know him. The general dissatisfaction with politics would work very very good for us.

One last thing is there is always a lot of good politics and candidates in El Paso because Democrats are very successful in El Paso. The same can be said for places like the Rio Grande Valley and the city of Houston. But if you go outside to the Democratic strongholds into what are often considered the Republican parts of the state, what you’ll find in 2018 is tremendous energy with down-ballot candidates that we did not see in 2014 which is very good for us. In fact, I made a recommendation to the party that if we want to do better statewide we need to have better more down-ballot candidates everywhere and I thought that would be the hard part coming into 2018 but Donald Trump has changed that. Good candidates are pouring in. Good people. They know how long the odds are. They don’t care how long the odds are. They are motivated by the right force, which is the desire to protect our democracy and to fix politics. That is very encouraging in 2018.