By: David Rupkalvis
Mike Collier spent his career as an accomplished accountant at some of the biggest companies in Texas. His job was simple — follow the law, save the companies money and make sure all the bills were paid.
He now hopes to bring that experience to Austin as lieutenant governor. But to get there, the Democrat candidate will have to pull an upset and defeat incumbent Republican Dan Patrick.
While touring the state since winning the Democrat nod for the seat in March, Collier has spread a message that is not always easy to hear — the state’s financial picture is not great.
“I’m a financial guy, and we’ve got some serious financial issues, and we’ve been sweeping them under the rug,” Collier said. “We need money for transportation infrastructure. We need money for our public education system. We have a health care problem. I have a clear sense of what’s going on. If we can’t deal with this, it’s not going to be the state we love in 10 to 15 years.”
While Patrick has a big lead in name recognition and fundraising, Collier has steadily closed the gap on the incumbent front runner. A recent poll by Breitbart showed Patrick with a two-point lead with 10 percent undecided.
Patrick also announced he would not do public debates before the November election.
“I’ve got him on the ropes, that’s why he won’t debate me,” Collier said.
One thing Collier and Patrick do agree on is more needs to be done in regard to school safety, especially following the shooting at Santa Fe High School in May.
“What we need to do is look at the costs associated with school safety, and it’s more than metal detectors,” Collier said. “If I were the lieutenant governor, I would refer to the school districts to decide. However, it’s going to cost money. My view all along is if we’re going to upgrade security in schools, we have to be honest about the costs.”
Collier said while he supports what local school districts choose to do regarding safety, he is personally in favor of seeing more counselors on campuses. He said having people in schools who can get to know students personally is the biggest improvement that can be made.
“We love our kids. My kids went to public schools, and I dropped them off,” he said. “The world’s changing, sadly, and the question is do we need to modernize our system? The answer is yes.
“I talked to Moms Demanding Action, and they’re advocating sensible gun laws. They’re frustrated we can’t have a bipartisan conversation.”
Collier pointed to two specific things he supports. The first is improved technology to ensure the existing background checks actually work. The second is Red Flag laws. While Gov. Greg Abbott said after Santa Fe he would support Red Flag laws, Patrick announced this week they would not be considered in the state Senate.
Collier explained that when people are convicted of violent crimes, they are forbidden from buying or possessing guns. Red Flag laws, in his mind, are similar.
“Under certain circumstances, you can accelerate things so you can deal with things before and not after,” he said. “That makes sense with two things — does it have a trier of fact like a judge and is it evidence based. The sentiment of the state is clearly in the direction of Red Flag laws so moms can sleep better at night.”
Collier said if he were lieutenant governor, he would make the Senate vote on the issue. Patrick, on the other hand, has announced the Senate will take no action.
“That’s why we’re having an election in November,” Collier said. “Why not bring it up for a vote? That way people can go on the record and go back to their districts and explain their vote.”
Collier was quick to point out he is a strong Second Amendment supporter who owns guns and enjoys using them.
He just thinks there is no danger about having an open discussion about moderate, sensible steps to protect the state.
Collier first ran for office in 2013 when he ran for state comptroller. A lifelong Republican, he switched parties in part because he didn’t like some of the issues Patrick was forcing the Senate to debate.
“I had in mind only to run for comptroller, and I had in mind to only fix the property tax problem and school finance,” Collier said.
But last year, the state party asked him to run for lieutenant governor, and he agreed. If he wins, he said, his goal is simple — fix the financial mess the state is in. He believes, even as a Democrat, that can be done.
“I’ve been working on this five years,” he said. “If you start with the proposition that Texans are more alike than we are not alike, then all you have to do is talk to people and build relationships.”