By Bill Spinks
In a sense, Texas House District 10 Rep. John Wray passed the baton to the candidate likely to replace him in Austin next year, Republican nominee Jake Ellzey, during the final session of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Legislative Series.
Ellzey, a retired U.S. Navy officer and fighter pilot who lives in Midlothian, works today as a pilot for Southwest Airlines. He won the March primary election for the Republican nomination for the state House seat being vacated by Wray. Ellzey will face Matt Savino, a Libertarian, in the Nov. 3 general election.
"I’m excited for what 2020 holds in store for our state," Ellzey said. "This is going to be one of the most consequential sessions ever ... There are going to be a lot of interesting issues, not only the priorities that we had before, but new ones. The priorities that we had before are going to be affected in different ways."
Ellzey served as a social aide in the George W. Bush White House, a member of the Texas Veterans Commission, and the CEO of the public speaking and professional development organization HoldFast.
Wray announced last year he would not seek reelection to a fourth two-year term, and said he was stepping back in order to return to his family and his law practice.
"Representing Ellis County was one of the great honors of my life," Wray said.
Wray is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas School of Law. After practicing law in Houston for six years, Wray returned to his hometown of Waxahachie in 2002 and began his own general civil service law firm while being active in numerous civic organizations. He served on the Waxahachie City Council from 2008-2014 and was mayor of Waxahachie from 2013-2014.
Wray thanked educators, health care professionals and first responders for facing the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ellzey had plenty of kind words for Wray and talked about the friendship the two have developed.
"His service to this community is truly lifelong … and his service isn’t done," Ellzey said. "He’s passionate about this community, but he’s dispassionate in how he forms his policy and the policies he has put forth as our representative. He has very big shoes to fill, and I’m very grateful to follow in his footsteps."
During his address to the Chamber, Ellzey touched on a number of topics that will play prominently at the Texas Capitol starting in January: COVID-19, the state budget, redistricting, and the power of the legislative branch. Ellzey added that the first item on the agenda will be electing a new House speaker to replace outgoing speaker Dennis Bonnen.
Ellzey said his priorities are, in no particular order: protect private property rights, stop the high-speed rail project, improve and protect public education, keep the Texas economy growing, stand up for veterans, lower property taxes, defend the Second Amendment, and protect the right to life.
Regarding the state budget, Ellzey said it will look vastly different from the budget approved six months ago, with the energy sector experiencing tough times. Ellzey stated he is fiscally conservative, but expects flexibility in the budget due to the unforeseen effects of the pandemic.
The 2021 legislative session will also be responsible for redistricting based on the 2020 Census, most likely in a special session after the regular session ends in late May. Ellzey said he expects that Texas will add two congressional districts, and where legislators draw these lines will have a significant impact on future policy.
Ellzey also said the U.S. Constitution limits the power of federal government, which why the U.S.’s response to the pandemic appears much different than elsewhere in the world.
In summary, with a hotly-contested election coming up amid turbulent times, Ellzey said there are lots of "unknowns" in store for the next legislative session.
"What I can promise you is that I will try to serve to the best of my ability with a servant’s heart according to the Constitution with quiet professionalism," he said.