Brent Beal has never run for public office, but frustration has prompted the business professor to challenge incumbent Louie Gohmert for the Texas District 1 U.S. Representative seat.
“Frustration that in my view, I don’t think Rep. Gohmert has ever earned really the right to represent this district. He was gerrymandered in in 2005, and he’s never been legitimately challenged, and I don’t think he’s doing a particularly good job,” Beal, who is seeking a place on the ballot as a democrat, said. “It’s frustrating to me that he’s never had a serious competitor.”
The leap to politician from educator has presented a learning curve that Beal has been chipping away at since deciding to run for the District 1 U.S. representative seat earlier this year.
“I don’t pretend to be the greatest candidate. I have no idea what I’m doing, or at least I didn’t four months ago. I’m a business professor,” he said.
Beal, who lives in Nacogdoches with his family and teaches business classes at the University of Texas at Tyler, made a couple of stops in Kilgore as part of a 50-city tour around the district to meet citizens and gather at least 1,000 signatures for a petition that will exempt him from fees associated with placing his name on the 2018 ballot.
Pat McClenan and Toni Erskine signed Beal’s petition.
“I think when our political entities are competitive that we win… I just admire the people who are willing to step forward and make this a competitive race,” Erskine said, adding she is not satisfied with Gohmert’s job representing the district. “I think when voters have choices, we have better representation. I am happy to get to play a little bit of a role in that by signing my name.”
McClenan added she is happy to see candidates who “are willing to step up and stand for something.”
During his stop in Kilgore Beal questioned Gohmert’s priorities.
“He needs to be here talking about economic development, working on the ground, pushing these kinds of things, trying to make people’s lives better. Instead, he’s off on right-wing talk news shows playing into the culture wars,” he said. “We don’t need that. We need somebody who’s going to take the job seriously.”
Beal’s decision to run as a democrat has nothing to do with the “cultural wars” and arguments being covered by cable news networks, but instead it is about jobs, economy and development.
“The reason I’m a democrat is because when it comes down to a CEO’s $50 million bonus or a small business or a worker, I’m going to side with the small business or the worker,” he said. “There’s no way I could run as a republican because I see what’s going on.”
He sees the work being done to promote business targeting the promotion of big business, he said.
“And big business is putting small and local businesses out of business systematically in this district,” he continued. “Hospitals are closing, coal plants are moving, manufacturing has left. That’s not because of any big conspiracy, that’s because of large corporations that have structural advantages that are able to shop around and get all sorts of tax breaks and leverage their power in the marketplace to step on the necks of the people that are around here, and Gohmert supports 100 percent all of those policies that are hurting our business community, and I just can’t do that.”
District 1 encompasses 12 counties, including Gregg and Rusk Counties, but also portions of Upshur and Wood counties. Then, it goes as far south as Angelina County and covers from Smith County to the Texas-Louisiana state line.
In order to reach 50 cities in the district, he said, he is going to the major centers, but also the small towns that have less than 1,000 people where, he acknowledged, he might find a high percentage of voters who selected President Donald Trump last November.
“One of our campaign themes right now, and I’m serious about it, is that we are running to represent everybody. I’m not running just to represent the people that support me or just the people on the left or any other group. This is a government job, and the job once you win is you belong to everybody. When you win, you belong to everybody or you should belong to everybody; you should represent everybody. That’s critical.”