The two Republicans who would like to replace Larry Phillips as the state representative for District 62 will face each other in a runoff on May 22. District 62 is comprised of Grayson, Fannin and Delta counties.

Sherman attorney Reggie Smith and Van Alstyne engineer Brent Lawson both answered questions for the Herald Democrat to help voters decide which of them should face Democrat Valerie Hefner and Libertarian David Schaab in the November general election.

The questions and the answers that Smith and Lawson gave appear below.

1. What do you think about school vouchers and their possible use in the Texas education system?

Smith: “The use of public tax dollars should always be paired with a high level of accountability. This is never more important than when it comes to funding public education. Vouchers is an issue where Brent Lawson and I fundamentally disagree. Brent has openly advocated for school vouchers throughout this campaign. However, the data clearly demonstrates that a voucher program would only harm our schools in District 62 by draining away funding, thus increasing the burden on local property tax payers. I am a fierce defender of our local schools, and have the endorsement of parents and teachers throughout District 62.”

Lawson: “Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and I support empowering parents to fulfill that responsibility. School choice has been supported by conservatives like Friedman, Reagan, and 75 percent of Grayson County Republicans in the March 6th primary. It is a plank in the Texas GOP platform, and currently operating in 30 states that we can evaluate for best practices. I prefer the Tax Credit Scholarship approach to school choice over ‘vouchers.’ Any education reform effort must ensure that our public schools have the funds and flexibility required to perform their vital mission of educating Texas children.”

2. What do you think should be done to alleviate the problems with the Texas Teachers Retirement System? How would you pay for the fix?

Lawson: “Rising health insurance costs are the biggest threat to the retirement of Texas teachers. The state must shoulder more of this burden. Texas collects plenty of taxes to fix teacher retirement but needs to be responsible with those taxes. Education dollars lost to budget diversions must be returned to education. Texas loses billions every year to government waste, fraud, costs associated with illegal immigration, and excessive testing. A portion of those dollars would cover the costs of addressing the teacher retirement health insurance crisis and provide much needed periodic cost of living increases for our retired educators.”

Smith: “A sound Teacher Retirement System is a promise we made to our teachers and one that we must keep in order to honor their commitment to educating our children. Texas teachers do not contribute to Social Security (and are not eligible for those benefits). Therefore, the importance of TRS to their retirement security cannot be overstated. We must properly fund TRS by making it a top budget priority and addressing funding inequities in the system. We must also reduce escalating healthcare premiums and deductibles by fully funding the system and accessing better health plan options.”

3. What do you think is the biggest issue facing the counties in the district and how would you address those issues?

Smith: “Crime from our border, such as drugs or human trafficking, is felt here in North Texas and beyond. We must secure the border and stand firm against sanctuary cities by supporting local law enforcement and first responders and giving them the resources they need to keep us safe. I am the only candidate in this runoff election with the support of the law enforcement community including Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser, Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson, Delta County Sheriff Ricky Smith, and Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt. I’ve also been endorsed by every major law enforcement association in Texas.”

Lawson: “Skyrocketing property taxes are hurting people in every county in our district. Economic growth is a blessing for Grayson County, but rising property valuations are dramatically increasing the tax burden in too many cases. I support Governor Abbott’s plan to reduce the amount that property taxes can grow without taxpayer approval. The ultimate local control is when the taxpayers have a voice. Significant changes to the property tax system require fixing school finance. It is time for Robin Hood to end and for the state to take responsibility for making sure that poorer districts have the resources they need.”