We recommend in the race for Texas Senate District 16
Incumbent Democrat Nathan Johnson faces challenger Brandon Copeland.
This is the first re-election campaign for Johnson, 54, who defeated far-right Republican Don Huffines in 2018 to represent this district, which covers an oddly shaped section of Dallas County including some eastern and western suburbs. Johnson’s challenger, commercial real estate developer Brandon Copeland, appears to be picking up where Huffines left off. His campaign website indicates he would favor abortion restrictions in all cases, and includes inflammatory language about “leftist school boards … pushing radical ideology … indoctrinating our children.” Copeland didn’t answer questions in our Voter Guide to let readers know where he stands on important issues like school funding, health care and energy. He also didn’t participate in our candidate interviews.
By contrast, Johnson, an attorney, uses no straw man arguments. In our interview, he demonstrated the ability to understand and articulate positions with which he disagrees.
Among the many voices calling for Medicaid expansion in Texas, Johnson’s may be the clearest. He has reams of data, much of which he can recall from memory, to support the measure. Like this: It costs Texas six times as much to care for an uninsured person, through first responders, county hospitals, and other expensive measures, as it does to care for an insured person. For Johnson, this isn’t an ideological or political debate; it’s simple math.
Johnson is smart on the use of the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, a pile of $27 billion sure to be the subject of much political wrangling next session. Johnson wants to use a portion of it to cover one-time expenses at state agencies like the Texas Juvenile Justice Department where resources are scarce and outcomes poor. Johnson noted that the IT systems in many agencies are so antiquated and siloed that staff send data by fax. He also proposed the creation of a system of water projects to recharge aquifers over the next several years. Using some of those funds for major capital investments is wise.
Johnson favors sensible gun reforms, including red flag laws, expanded background checks, and raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. He suggested a sales registry for ammunition, which would likely be unpopular.
On the border, he acknowledges the federal government should be doing more, and that it’s appropriate for Texas to help. He said he would like to see what can be done if various levels of government work together, instead of at odds with one another.
On energy, he wants to see connections to out-of-state grids that can be used in cases of emergency. He supports renewables but is clear-eyed about the need for dispatchable power now.
Johnson is a serious candidate with legislative experience and a track record of public service. He is the clear choice in this race.