Mike Collier is serious about his bid for Texas lieutenant governor, but that doesn't mean the Democrat doesn't take the time to stop and smell the roses.
During a phone call on a rainy Thursday afternoon last week, he paused to talk about how "the flowers are just spectacular" while speaking about his policy plans. “This is a great spring for flowers.”
Earlier this month, Collier announced his run against Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor for the second time. In 2018, Collier came within 5 percentage points of beating his Republican opponent, and this time around, the Democrat is confident he’ll make it all the way to the Capitol.
For far too long, Texas politics have been steeped in partisan hatred, Collier said. With a devastating winter storm and deadly pandemic, Texas’ problems have been stacking up.
The past year has hurled one challenge after the next at the state, and some of Texas’ GOP candidates capitalized on 2020’s contentious presidential election. Patrick, for instance, played into the lie that the election was stolen, even offering $1 million for evidence of voter fraud.
But Collier believes Texans need politicians who will focus on the issues that affect their daily lives.
“What Texans really want is a lieutenant governor who will roll up their sleeves and solve problems,” Collier said. “And we’ve got a lot of them. I mean, the problems are just piling up.”
Collier has a laundry list of issues that he thinks need fixing: school funding, property taxes, infrastructure, COVID relief and the energy grid, for starters. The state is lacking the “basic competence of government,” he said. Exhibit A: It failed to keep the power on during February’s cold snap.
Texans are reeling from failure upon failure, and since he last ran in 2018, Collier said “the situation has gotten more dire.”
Despite months of grandstanding, Democrats were unable to flip the state blue during the 2020 general election. Still, that doesn’t discourage Collier: Texas is steadily evolving. Twelve years ago, former President Barack Obama lost the state by 12 points. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost by nine. Last year, Joe Biden came within six.
Plus, Patrick’s approval rating has dropped in recent months. In March 2021, just 37% of Texans said they approved of his performance while the same percentage disapproved, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
Meanwhile, Collier is enjoying greater name recognition. His 2018 race against Patrick and 2014 bid for state comptroller helped prime the pump. In other words, he said: “It’s very much a winnable race.”
The Democrat appears uniquely poised for the moment. An accountant, he’s ready to take on the state’s burgeoning budget deficit.
In a humorous ad that harnesses Collier’s joie de vivre, he attempts to wrangle wandering cows into “talk[ing] about the numbers.” He told the Observer the spot aimed to emphasize his accounting proficiency by contrasting with his farming incompetence.
Every year, thanks to Dan Patrick, corporations are given billions in tax breaks that they haul out of this state while your property taxes continue to go up and up.— Mike Collier (@CollierForTexas) April 12, 2021
That’s why the Texas GOP doesn't want to talk about the numbers.
Unfortunately for them, I'm an accountant. pic.twitter.com/V3etDoFYRk
Aside from being good with numbers, decades of experience in the oil and gas industry have prepped Collier to tackle the state’s energy issues, he explained.
“I think that a lieutenant governor who comes out of the energy industry is not a bad thing for this state,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
Texans can also agree that the right to vote should be protected, Collier said, arguing that GOP-backed bills like SB 7 and HB 6 are inherently un-American. Such legislation would go “well past voter integrity and deep, deep into voter suppression,” he said.
While Texans may have differences in policy, they have an overarching thirst for democracy, and that freedom is being taken away, Collier added.
On top of preserving the right to vote, Collier thinks the state needs to solve issues plaguing criminal justice. Far from being a divisive issue, Collier strongly believes that view is shared by most Texans. Meanwhile, he said his opponent has long attempted to cram the minority position down the majority’s throat.
Campaigning is time-consuming, but Collier still cherishes time spent with family and friends. Last Thursday evening, he looked forward to seeing loved ones at a nice, home-cooked dinner in honor of his mother-in-law. Afterward, he planned to cheers a Bud Light or two and listen to the late country artist Jerry Jeff Walker — “just a couple of old hippies,” Collier said, chuckling.
And while he sure takes Texas politics seriously, Collier insists Texans are always up for a good, shared laugh.
“Texans are a lighthearted bunch. They don’t want politics to be hateful," he said. "They just want politicians to solve problems. And let’s have some fun.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.