State rep campaigns at full steam

by Kevin Force, Editor

With just six weeks left before the March 7 primary elections, campaigning is heavily under way throughout Comal County.

Most of the county's races are on the Republican side, including that for state representative of District 73. Although the district covers four counties, both incumbent Carter Casteel and challenger Nathan Macias reside in Comal County..

Both candidates have been hard at work on the campaign trail, pounding the pavement, meeting voters and advertising.

"I campaign every day because I like people," Casteel said. "So I'm constantly out in the public dealing with things that I think help me learn the district and understand the legislative issues important to folks."

Macias, too, has been out in the public in an effort to make voters aware of who he is.

"I knock on doors, my friends and supporters knock on doors," Macias said. "We've got a palm card that everybody hands out. We are trying to run the whole spectrum in this campaign, air and ground. We're doing some television, some direct mail and we're also hitting the communities hard."

Their campaign strategies are similar because their platforms are pretty similar. In fact, the only real debate between the two concerned some of Casteel's speaking notes that Macias claimed planned to portray him negatively and discredited his military service. Casteel has adamantly and repeatedly reported that she does not believe in negative campaigning and would not run such a campaign, prompting the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel to release the notes to the media. If the intent was to earn a little free publicity, then the stunt worked, as both candidates graced the political pages for a few days. But there was really no evidence of a negative campaign.

Casteel, instead, has been focusing on the issues, and asks voters to do the same.

"This race isn't going to be about not being supportive of our military and our troops in Iraq," she said. "This is going to be about issues in Texas."

Both candidates stand firmly Republican on the broad issues, primarily touting education and lower taxes.

"My top priorities are going to be tax relief -- getting our property taxes in line and reduced ­ and funding and improving our schools," Macias said. "I desire accountability in the schools as well as rewarding results that provide a quality education for our children.

"I'm an advocate to get more money into the classroom and not in to the bureaucracy," Macias added. "I support more dollars in the classroom."

However, Macias, who is a resident of Bulverde and the Comal Independent School District, admitted that he did not vote in the district's bond election last December.

Casteel offered a similar politically positive statement on education.

"Public education is foundation of our country," she said. "Democracy does not survive without public education. That's not to that say there is anything wrong with private schools. They hold a place in this society, and I applaud them. Home schooling is perfectly fine with me. But I do know that if we don't educate our children, our entire system will crumble."

As a resident of the New Braunfels Independent School District, Casteel was not eligible to vote in the bond election. But she was a school teacher for 17 years and was instrumental in aiding the CISD pass its bond issue in 1999.

To localize the tax issue, both candidates were asked about the upcoming rollback election facing Comal County voters.

Macias said he was in favor of the rollback election, saying "the citizens should be allowed to determine whether or not that increase is needed.". He did not commit to which way he would vote on the issue, however, but reiterated that he believes in fiscal conservation and that property taxes are too high.

Casteel said that she had not yet made up her mind on the rollback issue and wanted to educate herself more, but was likewise supportive of the matter going before the voters.

"I respect the public's right to file the law and I respect their right to vote, but there's an old saying in my household: 'I will never cut off my nose to spite my face,'" she said. "I certainly value the county park system, the libraries, law enforcement and the court system. When I look on how I'm going to vote, I want to know what (the commissioners court) is going to do. If they're going to cut things that will impact my family so I can get back $20, do I really want to do that?"

Casteel cites her experience on particular issues of interest throughout all four counties in the district. Most of Macias' stances are similar to the Casteel's, falling right in step with the party line, but he focuses on promoting himself as a retired military officer and Texan rather than try to compare to Casteel's experience as the incumbent.

Both of the candidates seem to enjoy the campaigning they have done throughout the district and plan to stay hard at work until their fate is decided in the March 7 primary election.

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