Collin County Politics: We’re in a War for Our Soul

May 10, 2022

Picture: What a line-up of strong women marching for reproductive freedom! From left to right: Cassandra Hernandez (HD70), Caroline Werner (CCDP Chair), Angie Solomon (Plesa staffer) Iro Omere (CD4), Sheena King (HD61), Mihaela Plesa (HD70), and Elizabeth Michel (President of MADC).

Covid Update: Collin County has 215,289 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 796 more cases than I reported last week and 1,506 of our Collin residents have died (that’s an increase of 2 people). Our transmission rate is still low but a surge could still be coming as it gets hotter. The NY Times said they’re expecting the fall surge to start in the southern states as people head inside to get away from the heat.

Schools: With the election of some radical extremists to school boards, it’ll be interesting to watch how they fit in. For a while now, I’ve been wondering why so many school board trustees vote in lockstep with each other, almost as if they’re afraid to vote outside the majority. It turns out that there’s a reason!

Texas has this obscure education rule (because of course it does) that all 1,100-plus school boards in the state must undergo “Team of Eight” training for three hours each year. The teams consist of seven board members and the superintendent and the goal is to get everyone on the same page. That may sound good in theory but it’s terrible for democracy! We don’t vote people into office to get along; we vote for them to represent us and sometimes that requires disagreement. If group members always agree with each other, it turns into groupthink in which participants are afraid to voice contrary views. That’s how we got the Bay of Pigs and the Challenger disasters.

The radical extremists have shown they’re not afraid to buck the system. But that was when they were outside of it. We’ll see what they’ll do when they’re forced to work within it.

Commissioner’s Court: Cheryl Williams was absent again for the 34-minute meeting. How many meetings has she missed this year? With her $136,000 salary, we certainly pay her enough to actually show up. There was routine business but Joshua Murray’s public comment sure got them in a snit. This will never not be amusing. He began by saying he wanted to comment on an agenda item, the Turnover Report, but since they already voted on it, his comment doesn’t matter. This is an excellent point and one that should force them (not that they will) to put public comments back at the beginning of the meeting.

Murray expressed ongoing concern over staffing levels by pointing out that we have fewer county employees than Denton County which has 150,000 fewer people than Collin. While most cities within our county are growing like wildfire, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency within the court about staffing. This isn’t surprising, of course, because they don’t care at all about services other than the Sheriff’s Department. That’s been clear for a while. I truly believe that every commissioner thinks their job is to keep taxes low and maintain a strong, ensure a punitive presence of law enforcement, and that’s it.  

Rather than address several of Murray’s actual points, Susan Fletcher self-righteously nitpicked that the agenda item referenced was a FYI and not something they voted on. I’m unmoved by her nitpicking. It just so happened to be the case this time but if citizens need to comment on agenda items and can’t speak until the end of the meeting, our voices are silenced. I mean, that’s true in general since they rarely meet with or respond to those of us who disagree with them. In fact, Chris Hill actively blocks people (like me!) from commenting on his page and removes negative comments in general.

This would be illegal if he had an official page which is why he only has a “campaign” page (typical Republican sneakiness). Thus, there is no way for those who disagree with Hill, our elected representative, to talk with him. He won’t answer emails, allow you to comment on his Facebook page, or meet with you personally. Speaking at a meeting (which they purposefully schedule so most people can’t attend) is your only option. Thus, although they won’t listen to your opinion there either, putting public comments at the beginning of the meeting is at least performative inclusion.

It was clear that Murray got under Hill’s skin. Hill reiterated Fletcher’s non-point, concluding that “everything is in order.” Uh huh. Hill then melts down asking the county manager if the court had implemented programs authorizing bonuses for lateral moves, veterans, referrals, etc. to prove they’re doing something. Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t the “own” he seemed to think it was because, despite all these programs, they still have MAJOR problems with recruitment and retention at the jail. Hill sanctimoniously said the court works hard with the Sheriff’s Department and all of their departments (which he quickly hastened to add since he doesn’t want to show the clear favoritism to the Sheriff’s Department) to recruit new talent. Again, this isn’t great. What they’re doing isn’t working and Hill’s petulance is incredibly unattractive.

None of our stellar “leaders” addressed Murray’s overall point about the Turnover Report. For example, the Highway Patrol had a 60% turnover rate while the Detention employees had a 31% turnover with a 23% overall turnover rate for the entire Sheriff’s Department. This seems problematic but our “leaders” are too busy trying to show up Murray to actually deal with it. That will turn out well.

Frisco School Board: I’m heartbroken over the loss of Kelly Karthik, the only progressive in her race. Some are blaming her for being the “spoiler” in the Place 2 race, including her incumbent opponent, Natalie Hebert who lost to a radical extremist by 53 votes. By the way, this is a prime example of your vote having way more impact in local elections. Instead of blaming the thousands of dollars spent by conservative PACs on Lowe’s campaign, articulating a better message herself, or maybe not going out of town the week before Election Day, Hebert sent a nasty message to Karthik and two prominent Democratic activists. Wow! I can’t say I’m sorry she’s gone. She seems delightful.

Hebert actually told them they owe all FISD students an apology and they’re more terrible than Representative Jared Patterson and “more vile” than Trump (both of whom she’s supported in the past because duh, they’re Republicans), all because they tried to elect someone with progressive values. When screenshots of her poor loser rhetoric became public, Hebert doubled down. I’d love to tell you that people excoriated her for her terrible behavior but remember, these are Republicans. Of course, they didn’t! They’re not ones for personal accountability (unless you’re poor or a person of color) or civility (that’s for Democrats). No, they did what they always do: turned Hebert into a victim and blamed the “leaker” of the message. Who could’ve seen that coming? That’s what they do now when their poor behavior becomes public.

I could spend all day complaining about what happened in this race and how some Democrats immediately started blaming Karthik and those who voted for her but we’re better served if I enumerate the lessons learned instead.

  1. If there’s a qualified Democrat in a race, vote for that person. Period. Republicans vote as a bloc and don’t let questions about purity or possibility bother them. We must do the same. This also means not being apologists for Republicans. Let them do their own dirty work.
  2. Quit blaming fellow Democrats who actually vote for progressive candidates. The only Democrats who need to be blamed are the ones sitting out the elections. They are the reason we’re not winning races and they’re also the ones we need to reach. Make a plan now to get 5 fellow Democrats to the polls in November.
  3. We must – absolutely, freaking must – prioritize local elections. That means recruiting qualified candidates early, fundraising for them (their PACs are killing us), volunteering for their campaigns, and voting for them. The Republicans have prioritized municipals for decades. We must do the same. It also means getting involved in your city council and school board.

To be clear, the 2 radical extremists just elected to the Frisco school board will be absolute disasters. There’s no doubt about that. But Democrats start running into trouble if we support “moderate” Republicans when there’s a better option. After all, we have “moderates” to blame for the unqualified hacks on the Supreme Court (thanks, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski) and other judicial benches. If we want the country to move forward, we have to stop compromising our values and do the work!

Richardson School Board: There were several races across North Texas that should be quite instructive for Democrats and that includes the two RISD seats. Despite the Richardson Families First PAC spending thousands on these two races, one of the extremist candidates lost outright to Rachel McGowan (a progressive candidate) despite it being a 3-way race. The other extremist is in a run-off with Vanessa Pacheco, another progressive candidate. Yes, Richardson is bluer than many of the other cities in Collin County but they’ve demonstrated that we can take on the extremist PACs and win.

Local Politics: Run-offs are on May 24th. YOU MUST VOTE!! Here are some results from the municipal elections which many Democrats sat out. If we had shown up in Allen and Frisco, we’d have a lot more to celebrate.

Allen ISD: Incumbent Amy Gnadt is returning along with two radical extremists. Buckle up, Allen residents!

Allen City Council: Chris Schulmeister and Ben Trahan both won re-election. I mean, yay? I don’t love them but at least they weren’t as bad as their opponents.

Frisco ISD: Incumbent Gopal Ponangi barely eked out a win. Two radical extremists will join him on the board. Great job, Republicans!

Lovejoy ISD: Julie McLaughlin was the big winner in her race.

Murphy City Council: Both Elizabeth Abraham and Jene Butler, members of the Liberal Women of Collin County, won big. Woohoo! They too faced PAC money and personal attacks but kept focused. Congratulations!!

Parker City Council: Unfortunately, Edwin Smith didn’t win. Only 1,504 total votes were cast in that race. Smith deserved more support.

Prosper ISD: We held back the extremists (sort of) with the wins of Jorden Dial and Kelly Cavender. Garrett Linker, a strong conservative, won Place 6 by 23 votes (yet another example of how important voting in local elections is!). Let’s hope he isn’t too extreme and is willing to listen. By the way, Linker’s win was almost solely due to the people who live in Windfall…er, I mean Windsong Ranch in Denton County. They turned out to vote for him in droves. If only Democrats would vote like that!

Prosper City Council: Marcus Ray won his race.

Richardson ISD: Progressive candidate Rachel McGowan won her race. The other 2 races are in run-offs. Both progressive candidates Vanessa Pacheco (District 2) and Dr. Catalina Garcia (Dallas College) are still in the running. Richardson Democrats, YOU MUST SHOW UP ON MAY 24!!

When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion.

Ethiopian Proverb

Given all the GOP money poured into our municipal races, it’s clear they outspent and out-organized us. We could despair about this because we’re in a terrible situation. But then we’ll never get out of it. We could decide to vote only for the least worst Republicans. But if you vote for a cold instead of the flu, you’re still sick. Or (and this is the solution I like) each and every one of you can stop complaining and start doing something. Voting is no longer enough; you need to do more. If the Ukrainian people had meekly complied or merely grumbled when an overwhelming force arrived to conquer them, they’d be under Russian control right now. We need to show the same kind of courage.

Part of this courage means not voting for the least nasty Republicans (who are getting harder to find) or, even worse, not running our own candidates. Not running Democrats is an awful long-term strategy. It gives us no chance to elect progressive people to serve. None. Sane people wanting a fresh alternative to tired candidates without solutions or (even worse) with terrible ideas will have nowhere to turn. Many will likely stop voting because why bother.

All this “strategy” of voting for Republicans when there are progressive options does is nullify any influence Democrats might have because Republicans will realize they don’t have to consider our wishes. If they know we’ll always reliably vote for their least awful candidate, then why reach out to us and try to earn our support? They don’t and they won’t. We’ll be without any power at all.

I know many are against splitting the vote when we run a “spoiler” because it will end up with a radical extremist in office. After yesterday’s election, we now have several extremists in leadership positions and it’s horrific but there are several silver linings. This may wake some people up to how important local politics are and stimulate activism. We’ve been letting the extremists control the narrative for far too long. Maybe we have – at long last – hit bottom.

If establishment Republicans grasp that Democrats won’t just go along with the program, that we’ll work for progressive candidates, they may truly understand their dilemma. In the Frisco race, it was obvious that the loser Hebert counted on getting Democrat support. That’s why she blamed us when she lost. Her tantrum was embarrassing but I hope other Republicans take note. If Democratic votes aren’t certain, they’ll have to work against radical extremists themselves and this means working with us. Politics is a game of compromise. So far, we’ve been the only ones doing that. No more. We need to make them recognize they need to give us something too.

Although it feels yucky right now, there’s no need to despair. As I keep saying, municipal elections are low turnout races. As demonstrated at least twice in this election cycle, wins can be accomplished by only a few votes. WE CAN DO THIS!! But it means starting to work now and not waiting until a few weeks before the next election. Republicans can outspend us but we can out-organize them. They did it in Georgia in 2020 and we can do it here.

Democracy requires participation which is why each and every one of us must step up and do more. Consider running for office. Sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. Contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 3

  1. Excellent comments, Misty, about the need for Democrats running for local office and for Democrats to support and vote for those Democrats. The lessons learned you listed for the Frisco School Board also apply in the City of Plano.

  2. Yeah if Hebert was the “least worst” who people wanted to vote for, that says a lot about the quality of candidates the Republicans are supporting … and unfortunately, it shows us that our voters need more education. I don’t know for sure if the Democrat (a qualified Kelly Karthik) could have won that race, but she sure couldn’t if even Democrats didn’t vote for her. And even worse, the lack of support by Democratic voters will discourage other Democrats from running … that’s a really bad long-term strategy.

    I know, I know … it’s all complicated. But what’s simple is that we vote for qualified Democrats when we can. We recruit them; we train them; we fund them; we support them. That’s what the Republicans do. We should too.

    1. Wholeheartedly agree: “But what’s simple is that we vote for qualified Democrats when we can. We recruit them; we train them; we fund them; we support them. That’s what the Republicans do. We should too.”

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