Sanjanetta Barnes, Adrienne Bell, Eddie Fisher, Robert “Puga” Thomas and Mikal Williams are seeking the Democratic nomination to represent U.S. District 14 in Congress.
Barnes, 37, is originally from Montgomery, Alabama, and has owned a home in League City for 16 years. Barnes has been with her husband for 20 years, and they have three children, ages 17, 10 and 7, she said. She works as a consultant.
While she has not previously held or sought a public office, Barnes is involved with the American Red Cross, the Special Olympics and has received a Woman of Empowerment Award.
Her campaign website is sanjanettabarnes.com, and her campaign can be found on Facebook at “Sanjanetta Barnes for U.S. Congress — Texas 14” and on Twitter at @bsanjanetta.
Adrienne Bell, 61, is a Houston native who has lived in Pearland for 17 years. She is a teacher and has two children.
Bell was the 2018 Democratic nominee for the District 14 seat and a former member of Pearland City Council. Bell is involved in the Brazoria County Voter Initiative, Progressive Women Voices and the League of Women Voters, she said.
Her campaign website is voteforbell.com, and her campaign can be found on Facebook at “Adrienne Bell for Congress TX-14” and on Twitter at @adrbell.
Eddie R. Fisher, 65, is from Port Lavaca but has lived in West Columbia for the past six years. He is married to Genalyn Fisher, and they have one son, Jase. Fisher is a co-owner of Gulf Hydrographic & Coastal Consulting and attends St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in West Columbia.
Fisher has not previously sought any elected offices but worked for 10 years as the director of coastal stewardship for the Texas General Land Office, he said.
His campaign website is fisherforcongress.org, and his campaign can be found on Twitter at @fisher_tx14.
Mikal Williams, 44, is a Baytown native but has lived in Kemah for 25 years. He is an attorney and has one son, Mikal David Williams II.
Williams has not held any offices, but is a member of Goose Creek Lodge 1192 and the Lone Star Social Club Charity BBQ Cooking Team, he said.
His campaign website is electmikalwilliams.com, and he can be found on Facebook as “Mikal D Williams” and on Twitter at @MikalDWilliams.
Robert Thomas did not return his questionnaire or respond to multiple messages.
Early voting for the primary begins Tuesday and ends Feb. 28. Election Day is March 3.
The winner of the Democratic primary will run against the Republican nominee for the congressional seat in November.
The candidates were emailed identical questionnaires. Their answers appear alphabetically.
The EPA recently loosened wetland and stream protections at the request of industry and farm groups, despite environmental experts’ advice. What is the best way to balance environmental protection and industry needs in Brazoria County?
BARNES: First, it is important that I am elected as the Congressional Representative in CD14. We need to elect legislators that will stand up for what is right and best for the community. Ignoring the advice of environmental experts hurts the community, industry and farm groups. It may increase productivity and profit in the short term, but in the long run, it will have a devastating impact on all of us.
In order to strike a balance, we need the EPA, industry, farm groups and the community to come together and brainstorm how to move forward in a professional manner and not just do something because it sounds good or benefits just one side or the other. It’s called teamwork.
Also, it’s important that the president, Congress and the EPA welcome ideas and scientific facts. The congressional representative in CD14 has to be open to the concept of science and welcome community support in order for us to truly do what’s best for the residents and industry in Brazoria County.
BELL: The relaxation of this regulation means about half of the wetlands in our nation lose federal protection. Our wetlands not only provide a natural habitat for fish and wildlife, but they also help with flood control. Decisions that affect the type and amount of pollutants that can be discharged to our wetlands should be based on scientific evidence.
FISHER: The ruling on isolated wetlands has been a controversy for many years. The ruling that extended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory authority over navigable waterways to include isolated wetlands was an overreach. In Texas, small, isolated wetlands on private property should be an issue Texas A&M AgriLife Extension should work with for farmers and ranchers. Isolated wetlands are important for wildlife and ranching. However, property owners should not have to go through the USACE permitting process to make improvements to their property.
WILLIAMS:Without a clean and healthy environment, farming and industrial work will no longer exist at all. With our Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area, we understand we must be proper stewards to our environment.
I think the best way to balance environmental protection and industry needs is to invest in renewable infrastructure development and workforce solutions to provide the education and jobs training opportunities for our district’s citizens. Bringing the leaders of the hydrocarbon, farming, renewable energy, environmental and education sectors together to focus on this development is the best way to ensure the balance of environmental protection and industry needs while investing in the district.
As your representative, I will work to bring these industry leaders to the table to create good middle-class jobs that will stimulate our economy and increase the quality of life for all residents in the district while also building the infrastructure in an environmentally sound manner that will utilize our renewable coastal resources to support our coastal ecosystem. By doing this, we will preserve our way of life on the Texas coast while continuing to propel the Texas 14th U.S. House District into this century as the energy leaders of the United States.
Coastal counties have recently experienced the wait time for FEMA funds and grants that comes after natural disasters. What could the federal government do to improve and expedite disaster aid?
BARNES: When a natural disaster is declared by the Federal Government, 50 percent of the funding should be given to the state for immediate release to the people and industry requesting help. If there is a flood, individuals should only have to show name and proof of address. This is an emergency and should be treated as such. We cannot continue to pay people who are incompetent doing what they should be the expert in doing. The remaining 50 percent of the emergency funds should have a release requirement of 30 days or less to the people and the community.
As the most powerful country in the world, the United States of America can be in a combat zone in 48 hours or less around the globe, so why can’t we respond to the needs of the American people with urgency during a natural disaster?
BELL: I am in support of the bipartisan legislation, Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act, that designates permanent disaster assessment teams within FEMA. This is an important first step in being proactive to future disasters because it would reduce the current time of waiting 48.5 days for major disaster declarations. The quicker disasters can be assessed, the quicker FEMA recovery efforts can begin.
FISHER: First of all, I would like to thank The Facts for asking questions that are important to citizens of District 14. FEMA is a complicated process that requires congressional funding and presidential commitment.
When I was the director of coastal stewardship for the GLO, I was one of four directors and deputies on the Hurricane Ike Tactical Recovery Team. I coordinated the initial debris cleanup and emergency repairs to critical infrastructure. I worked closely with Commissioner Dude Payne to develop complex FEMA recovery funds for road and dune repairs on Follet’s Island.
The FEMA process requires Congress to approve funding and the president to manage execution of appropriated funds. President Trump does not believe in the mission of FEMA and has unnecessarily delayed funding post-Harvey. If Trump is reelected, the process of recovery from hurricanes will be challenging at best. Even with bipartisan support at the congressional level from the House and the Senate, President Trump set up a byzantine system of recovery funding meant to delay and deny recovery funding.
Our current congressman, Randy Weber, was surprised to learn his opposition to recovery funding from Hurricane Sandy would hurt Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Other members of the House pointed out his hypocrisy, and it took assistance from Democratic members of Congress to finally approve Hurricane Harvey funding. However, even after the funding was approved by Congress, President Trump did and continues to do everything in his power to limit, restrict, deny and delay recovery funding.
The best solution for FEMA funding is to elect a congressman and president who believe in the mission of FEMA for all citizens.
WILLIAMS: After the 2018 elections, the new majority in the House of Representatives passed legislation fully funding FEMA for disaster relief. That legislation was held in the Senate when the Senate majority refused to bring it to the floor for consideration and while the president refused to support our citizens of Puerto Rico. When the administration reluctantly agreed to fund Puerto Rico’s disaster relief and the Senate forced to vote on the measure, it was then held up by House Republicans.
What you can do is send a message to the Senate and to other members of the House of Representatives by voting for the Democratic candidate in your federal and local races, and with that vote demand the support of legislation that fully funds FEMA disaster relief efforts and provides full, nonpartisan staffing in order for the agency to perform its relief efforts expeditiously.
Our citizens are not political pawns to be played when they are in their most desperate times of need and support. As your representative in Washington, D.C., when disaster strikes in our district, I will demand immediate action and relief by the federal government and will not stop pressing the administration until our citizens receive the assistance they desperately need during those times of crisis.
Port Freeport is benefiting from congressional funds for a rail project to a multimodal industrial park. Why is federal support necessary to facilitate Port Freeport’s growth?
BARNES:For the time being, I am neither for nor against federal funds being used toward the rail project to facilitate Port Freeport’s growth. I certainly am for increasing jobs and boosting the economy. However, I’m doing in-depth research on the project to determine the impact this will have on the community and will get back to you with a more defined stance on the issue.
BELL:This expansion is so important to Freeport and the surrounding communities. This is a key infrastructure project which brings economic benefits to this region by creating jobs and greatly improve infrastructure.
FISHER: Port Freeport has received some federal funding for developing its widening and deepening project for increased cargo and LNG shipping and for the 36A railroad from Freeport to Rosenberg. However, the funding is woefully lacking for this vitally needed project. The port deepening and railway to Rosenberg are the type of infrastructure projects that should be primarily funded at the federal level. These projects will bring jobs, reduce traffic, improve ship safety and reduce pollution.
Port Freeport is uniquely positioned to speed up supply-chain shipping from all areas of the world. Port Freeport does not have the offshore backlog of ships the Port of Houston has. Ships can enter and exit Port Freeport faster than any other port on the Texas coast. The relatively short distance to deep water and the distance from the Gulf of Mexico to port docking are key advantages to moving Port Freeport rail and deepening projects forward quickly.
I support a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and Port Freeport can make the transition happen faster and more seamlessly. Exporting LNG from Freeport LNG to Pacific Rim countries to replace coal-fired power plants with natural gas is a key to the transition to renewable energy. As we look ahead to the structure of Congress and the presidency in 2021, it is quite likely the House will remain Democratic.
All funding bills originate in the House. Randy Weber, as a Republican, will have no support for pushing federal funding forward for these projects. The Senate may be red or blue, but Texas senators will support funding for Port Freeport. The president in 2021 will likely be Democratic. Infrastructure funding will be a priority of a Democratic administration. I will sponsor and lead legislation to fund these important projects for Port Freeport, Texas and the nation.
WILLIAMS: The federal government enacted the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 affecting railroad regulation. As industry and trade have grown throughout the nation and the expansion of international trade markets it is the job of the federal government to invest and maintain the infrastructure to ensure the movement of commercial goods.
Port Freeport ranks in the top 10 ports for chemical pass-through, top 20 ports in total tonnage and 26th in containers pass-through of all United States ports. With such volume of products passing through Port Freeport for national and international destinations, federal support is imperative. Infrastructure development costs, such as the rail project the U.S. Department of Transportation Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program is currently funding, should not be the sole burden of the citizens of the district of port locations, more especially when the entire nation is the beneficiary of Port Freeport operations.
That is why federal support is necessary and why, as your representative, I will advocate for U.S. Department of Transportation Grant Program funding for infrastructure development and maintenance for all Congressional District 14, but more especially Port Freeport.