Friday, October 15, 2004

Felthauser vs Krusee

House challengers in uphill fight

District 52 write-in hopeful says incumbent's all wrong

October 14, 2004

Camille Wheeler
Austin American-Statesman
Coyright 2004

ROUND ROCK -- Write-in candidate Karen Felthauser clashes with state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, on just about every issue, including her opponent's support of a comprehensive Central Texas toll road system.

"He's creating a commuter tax for Williamson County, which is a commuter community," Felthauser, a Democrat, said.

State officials would be better off raising the state's 20-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax to pay for new roads instead of asking commuters to shoulder the burden alone, she said.

"Drivers would end up paying more, but everybody would pay a fair share," Felthauser said.

"More" might exceed $1 a gallon, said Krusee, who has held office since 1992. Even at that amount, "the gas tax doesn't bring in enough money to really ever contemplate a project of that scope," he said.

Felthauser, who has never held public office, is making a run at Krusee's District 52 seat, which covers southeastern Williamson County, including Round Rock and Taylor. Although Felthauser lacks the deep pockets to mount an in-your-face campaign, she said she believes that she can give Krusee a run for his money Nov. 2.

"It's going to have to be the grass roots on Miracle Gro to win it," said Felthauser, whose $2,800 campaign budget pales in comparison with Krusee's treasury, which had $152,000 as of July. His next campaign financial report is due in January.

Krusee says Felthauser's presence hasn't changed his strategy.

"The best way for me to campaign is to continue doing my job," he said, listing toll roads and commuter rail -- two controversial proposals he supports -- and an educated work force among his top priorities.

As chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Krusee spearheaded legislation last year that paved the way for Central Texas' controversial toll road plan. The plan called for more toll roads in Travis County and the construction of U.S. 183-A in Williamson County as a toll road, in addition to several other toll roads being built in Williamson.

"What that is going to mean for the quality of life in Williamson County will be the ability for all of us to spend more time with our families, our ability to attract new jobs and new wealth," said Krusee, a board member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. "The people of Williamson County understand that and have supported that."

Felthauser supports asking Texans to pay a progressive income tax, which would require the wealthiest to pay more and could pay for education, health care and roads. The state Constitution requires voters to approve any income tax.

"People at the top end like to get people's fears whipped up about an income tax when, frankly, most states in this country have decided an income tax is a better plan," she said.

That would be a mistake, Krusee said. "I just can't imagine an agenda more out of step with the people of Williamson County than being against building roads and for a personal income tax," he said.

Felthauser criticizes cuts last year to the state's Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

"It's very short-sighted to not fund this," she said, explaining that people who go without regular medical care often require emergency services.

The state's $10 billion deficit forced lawmakers to make those cuts, Krusee said.

"When times are tough, people like to see the government tightening its belt since that's what they have to do," he said.

Now, with Texas' revenues on the rise, some cuts could be restored next year, Krusee said.

Although the ballot won't include Felthauser's name, each poll booth will have a list of certified write-in candidates.; 246-0008


District 52 candidates

(i) Mike Krusee (R)

Age: 45

Occupation: Vice president for document retrieval company

Education: Attended Georgetown University

Experience: Chairman of House Transportation Committee

Worth noting: First elected to House in 1992. Endorsed by Texas Medical Association, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Association of Business, Texas Hospital Association, Austin Police Association, National Rifle Association, National Federation of Independent Business

Karen Felthauser (D) (WI)

Age: 50

Occupation: Substitute teacher

Education: Bachelor's degrees, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Experience: Has not run for office before.

Worth noting: Endorsed by Texas Federation of Teachers, Education Round Rock teachers' union and Central Labor Council of Austin.

© 2004 Austin American-Statesman: