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In this series, Texas Tech Public Media sits down with candidates across the board to discuss issues facing their constituents.

Conversations with Candidates: Carl Tepper for House District 84

Carl Tepper - House District 84
Carl Tepper

House District 84 covers much of Lubbock County at the state legislature and will have a new representative following this year's election. For our “Conversations with Candidates” series, we invited the four Republicans vying for the seat to our studio to ask questions constituents care about. Carl Tepper is a local commercial real estate agent on the ballot.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Let's start, just introduce yourself. Tell us more about you.

Carl Tepper: Yeah, Carl Tepper. I came to Reese Air Force Base in 1988 and we ended up loving the place, in Lubbock. We were about the same age as the Tech students. They treated us great. I got to go fly for a few years. I discovered enlisted guys could fly. I flew the C-130. I was aircrew, not a pilot. I was a flight engineer and got to fly in the Gulf War. When it was time to get out, I decided it's time to go to college. I went to Texas Tech University where I was treated really well – one of the best veteran’s universities in the country.

After graduating, I learned the commercial real estate industry: strip centers and warehouses and office buildings. Managed those in Austin for about 12 years. I came back to Lubbock to do the downtown redevelopment project and hone my skills even a little more and then broke away and I'm still doing mostly brokerage and I'm an agent for office building and strip centers and things. I'm an investor. And I was the Lubbock County Republican Party Chairman, I was president of Texas County Chairman's Association. I've been on the Salvation Army board forever.

I'm a horseman. I'm a very avid horseman. I've become an endurance rider. And really enjoy that I have a beautiful wife Robin, and 16-year-old high school student, Claudia, who's now driving and one of the newest members of the FFA.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: This next question is just to kind of give us more insight into who you are. Tell us about a politician, past or present, that you look up to.

Carl Tepper: Oh boy, I always loved Ronald Reagan. He was the guy who inspired me to get into politics. I always loved Teddy Roosevelt. Read everything about Teddy Roosevelt. He was just so exciting a guy, a big sort of cowboy you know, New Yorker, horsemen, gentrified, rancher.

I was the first Republican Party leader in Texas to endorse Donald Trump and I stand by that endorsement. I believed in lower taxes, lower regulation. I thought those trade deals for years were terrible. He touched on that. Defending the border and a stay in Mexico policy, I think the administration was brilliant in doing that. And so I think those were the politicians that really shaped me.

Also, Margaret Thatcher. I lived in England. The Soviet Union was a big deal when I was a kid. And I served in England in the Air Force under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. I'm still proud of that to this day. As a matter of fact, my dog's name Margaret Thatcher.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Why are you running for House District 84?

Carl Tepper: You know, there are some issues out there, I think we'll get to that, that have been under my skin for a long time. As a matter of fact, I have letters to George W. Bush, when he was governor, about property taxes. I learned very quickly when I was a junior property manager, the tough state of property tax appraisals and how they can really throw businesses for a loop. So I've been very frustrated that I feel like this hasn't really been fixed and settled. And I'd really like to tackle property taxes at the legislature.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: What experience do you have with statewide politics? And did you follow the most recent legislative session?

Carl Tepper: Well, like I said, I was a Republican Party chairman, so I've been interested in politics at all levels – federal, congress. I follow the legislature. I've known legislators, my whole life, party people and business people who have been interested in politics. And so I do follow the sessions. Particularly some of the hot issue bills – the heartbeat bill, the UIL bill, which has become a trans bill of who competes, can biological boys compete in girl’s sports – things like that, I find fascinating and how the legislature deals with it.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: You're running for a position that's long been held by a well-respected Republican. As a fellow member of that political party, how would you be different?

Carl Tepper: John was a great leader and a silent leader. He worked a lot in the background, very dignified. I'd like to replicate some of that. But I think people who know me know I'm a little louder, a little more vivacious. Maybe in front I don't tend to speak at the microphone all the time and in the legislature on the floor – I don't want to wear out my welcome too quickly. But I think you'll see me out front a little more. It doesn't mean I'll be doing any more than John. I hope to be very energetic. But yeah, the further I'm getting into this race, I realize how much John actually did, and how admired he was by, you know, police associations, realtors and things like that. So I'd like to replicate that and then go further on some maybe party priorities.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: If elected, what legislation would you prioritize?

Carl Tepper: I've got a couple of things I'd like to do. I'd like to keep pursuing pro-life legislation. Even though they made some great advances, I think we can go even a little bit further. I think that Texas, the Texas Tech PUF fund, I know we're going to talk about that, I think soon anyway. So Texas Tech is going to be a priority. I think transportation is going to become a big deal out here. I saw how not to do it in Austin. I sat on Austin's Transportation Commission for nine years. I saw everything not to do. So if we're going to have an I-35 style Highway coming, and it's coming folks. The Ports-to-Plains highway is going to be a major factor out here, is going to grow West Texas, I think unbelievably. And I think we need to design it correctly from the beginning.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: So you mentioned we are going to talk about the PUF. Just for listeners out there, to put it simply, the Permanent University Fund takes money largely generated in our part of the state, and gives it to the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems. But only those two school systems. Would you like to see that change? And if the answer is yes, how would you propose doing that?

Carl Tepper: To give even a little bit more feedback, it's important for people to realize the PUF fund isn't going to be broken up, it's just not going to happen – it's not politically viable. But chances are that Texas Tech and the University of Houston – it was very smart for our legislators to bring in the University of Houston because one quarter of all the votes in Texas come from Houston – so Texas Tech and University of Houston will be designated as sort of flagship emerging research universities. And they will have their own standalone PUF fund, that will probably be seeded with some billions of dollars from the existing University of Texas and Texas A&M PUF fund. And I'm very much for that. And it looks like this is the first chance, in reality, in the history of Texas, that Texas Tech and University of Houston and possibly other emerging flagship universities in Texas will have access to this type of fund. So I think it's important we get there.

And by the way, people who are rolling their eyes and thinking, you know, we've talked about this before, and it's never happened. The vet school was very controversial in Texas, very controversial at Texas A&M, and ultimately, our legislators got it through from, you know, the top of the Panhandle down to here. And so that should be a harbinger, an indicator that we can get this done.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Public education issues have dominated statewide news lately. What are your priorities there?

Carl Tepper: You know, I've been very happy with the public school system. My daughter's doing great there. And they really helped in ways that I didn't expect and they're doing things I didn't expect. So I'm very happy with the public school system. Funding for the public school system is always going to be controversial.

I'm hearing a lot of disinformation out there about the funding for the school system. The legislature gives the school system, in some form or fashion, some kind of a raise, it just never seems to be enough. So it seems like the school superintendents and school board members are always at odds with the legislature. I think that needs to end.

I think the Texas Association of School Board has done a real disservice to their members. So I'd rather go directly to our superintendents, I'd rather go directly to our school board members and find out their issues – and by the way, directly to the teachers, and some of the faculty and staff at the schools and find out what they really need, and get that done right now. I heard a statistic that for every teacher, there's also an administrator of some sort, which could also mean a bus driver or food service person, housekeeping staff, you know, we need to find a way to get more money to the teachers, and not have all this ancillary stuff that we're dealing with and funding and get it more to the children.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Lubbock largely avoided the effects of ERCOT’s power failure last year, but has since joined that electric grid. A lot of area voters are worried about that. What changes would you like to see to the state's electric system?

Carl Tepper: Thank you for asking that, because we're not getting asked that enough. We have a capacity problem. By state law, you have to buy the green energy options first. So the wind power, the solar. We need more capacity, real capacity, and the most real capacity you're going to get is from natural gas.

Right now, there's no incentive to build natural gas because it's cheaper per kilowatt hour to build the wind turbines and the solar power because of federal subsidies. So, the legislature came real close last time to making sure that natural gas was incentivized as much as the wind and the solar and I think we need to pursue that again and make sure it goes through. It's very important that we get natural gas. It's really the most effective energy but right now, it doesn't pay its investors back as quickly as the wind and the solar.

*more information on renewable energy and federal subsidies can be found here

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Since there are no democratic challengers in this race, the upcoming primary election is incredibly important. For our final question, why should voters cast a ballot for you?

Carl Tepper: Well, you know, I'm a known factor. And I'm going to give you some endorsements, State Senator Charles Perry, State Senator Drew Springer. I've got the endorsement of the Project Destiny PAC, the For West Texas PAC, Texas Homeschool Coalition. I might be their best friend on some of these issues, I might not. But they're endorsing me because I'm a known factor. They know who I am. The Texas Philosophy Forum are very concerned about personal injury attorneys getting to the legislature.

So I'm not giving you those endorsements just to brag, I'm here to tell you this is your vote. But the reason why these folks are going to vote for me is because they know how I'm going to vote. I'm a conservative Republican. I'm socially, fiscally conservative, and I think they're going to be looking for that kind of leadership in the legislature and I hope you are, and I hope the voters will consider voting for me. I'd really appreciate that.

Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at saselfwa@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.

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