By Mary Alys Cherry
A total of 15 southeast Texas residents are in the running for the District 36 congressional seat formerly held by Steve Stockman of Friendswood — 12 Republicans, 2 Libertarians and 1 Democrat. The district includes part of Harris County and all of Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Orange, Hardin, Liberty and Chambers counties.
Bay Area candidates include the following — all Republicans unless otherwise noted.
John Amdur, a Houston business immigration attorney serving his second term on Nassau Bay City Council, is vice president of the Nassau Bay Economic Development Corp., a native Texan and a graduate of the University of Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration before earning his law degree at SMU.
Amdur says he is passionate about public service and seeks to instill in Washington both the strong conservative values that made our country what it is and the integrity and access to its representative that District 36 deserves.
His family law firm, which he runs, practices business immigration law, and assists organizations in obtaining visas and employment authorization for foreign personnel and in ensuring regulatory compliance. A long-time conservative, he hopes “to eliminate overregulation and bureaucratic overgrowth that unnecessarily stifles the private sector and discourages innovation.” He is married and the father of two children.
Doug Centilli, who lists Baytown as his address, is the former chief of staff for Congressman Kevin Brady.
Centilli has served in a number of political staff positions, including as a special assistant for Gov. Bill Clements and former State Sen. Mike Jackson. He’s been Rep. Brady’s chief of staff since Brady was a state representative, and continued in that role when Brady was elected to Congress in 1996.
Centilli currently serves as a director of the Texas Lyceum, Texas’ premier leadership incubator, and he is on the board of Perfect Attendance, a public-private initiative that combines the strengths of the schools, the business community, community organizations, the media, celebrities and entertainers to reward students to stay in school and to graduate from high school.
He has also served on the board of the Texas Leadership Institute and is an alumnus of the John Ben Sheppard Leadership Institute. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he was also a member of the Aggie football team.
Col. Jim Engstrand of El Lago grew up on a family farm in a blue collar working class family that taught him to treasure faith, free enterprise, patriotism, public service and private business productivity. His parents instilled in him a work ethic by giving him duties such as loading and unloading hay, building fences, taking care of livestock and working in the fields on the farm that his family still owns and operates today.
He served as sophomore and senior class president in his public high school and competed in wrestling, football and track. Additionally he was a member of 4-H, FFA and served as the president of the junior dairymen’s association. After high school, he went on to college and enlisted in the Army National Guard to serve his state and country, joining the infantry and rising to the rank of colonel.
A combat veteran, he has lived his life in private business and public service with Christian conservative family ethics and values as his guide post. He says he is a country boy who understands the hard work a Texas rancher and logger endure everyday in order to pay their bills and is a staunch private property rights advocate.
John Manlove, president and CEO of John Manlove Marketing and Communications, and the former mayor of Pasadena, hopes to go to Washington and get the country back on track.
“I’ve lived and worked here all my life, near the channel and refineries, and I’m proud of that. Hard work and good Christian values are what built this country — not apologies and entitlements. It’s time to stop the Washington madness and put America back on the right track.”
Manlove serves on the Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees which oversees the Port of Galveston.
While mayor, he worked closely with the Port of Houston Authority during development of the Bayport Container Terminal in Pasadena.
Kim Morrell is a former mayor pro-tem and two term city councilman who lives in Seabrook, where he owns a small business and where he helped secure $8 million in grants to rebuild the devastated city after Hurricane Ike.
Married and the father of two children, he is running on a pro-business and economic development platform. He advocates personal freedom, security, job fulfillment and education and deficit reduction and balancing the budget.
“I am a Pro-Life, Second Amendment candidate. I also support building the Keystone pipeline, easing EPA regulations, states’ rights, using the National Guard and military equipment to patrol our borders, and using practical politics in Washington.
Morrell feels we have the right to choose our own healthcare, and the freedom to exercise our Christian family values.
Dave Norman graduated from Clear Lake High and attended Stephen F. Austin and Rice Universities, earning a B.S in Biology and a minor in Military Science that led to a commission as an Army officer and a 24-year career as a helicopter test pilot and an AH-1 Cobra attack pilot that ended in Cold War Germany. Finally, he decided to resign his commission and come home and start a business and continue as a weekend warrior attack pilot in the Texas National Guard. He retired at the rank of major as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
Dave is the principal of Norman Insurance in Webster, an agency started by his mother, Lilian Norman Keeney, in 1972. He and his wife reside in Seabrook and have two daughters in college.
Issues he plans to focus on include flood reform, NASA and space exploration, the economy, energy independence, defending the Second Amendment and immigration reform and border security.
Robin Riley is a former mayor of Seabrook and also served four years as chairman of the board of the Houston Ship Channel Security District.
A University of Houston graduate with a degree in mathematics, he spent nearly 20 years working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and has also spent nearly 20 years working in the oil and gas industry designing drilling systems.
He hopes “to get our great nation back on track and headed in the right direction while ensuring that we have a federal government that stays out of the way of our market-driven economy and out of our daily lives here in Texas.”
While mayor he worked to improve the city’s infrastructure, opened a new fire station and partnered with Harris County to open a new library.
Michael Cole of Orange, the only Democrat in the race, got interested in politics his senior year at West Orange Stark High, running for the school board just before graduating in 1994. Today he is an educator at Little Cypress-Mauriceville, where he works with students with discipline issues and sponsors the Chess Team and the Robotics Team. He is also in college with the ultimate goal of earning a doctorate in history and a degree in space sciences. His wife of 10 years also is an educator.
Five years ago, a foot infection led to the loss of his right leg below the knee.“I do not let this stop me; the prosthetic has reminded me how precious every day of my life truly is. But, I will not allow this to slow me down. This has also taught me how our health care system needs work. Without insurance, there was no way that I could have afforded these treatments; without insurance, I would have lost my life and not just my foot.”
Robb Rouke of Deer Park, a Libertarian, graduated from Ball High in Galveston and attended Galveston Community College and the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
“My reasons in running for public office is simple, I believe in ‘More Freedom and Less Government.’”
“I believe that we can limit government spending by cutting the fat and the abuse, but not the meat; that we as a legislative body act as a go-between for big and small businesses as a means for new jobs in Texas. I believe in allowing for small business sales taxes to be utlilized for the support of our firefighters across Texas.”
He is a former Galveston ISD substitute teacher and also worked for the Republican National Committee, the National Right to Life Alliance and as a union representative for SEIU Local 100 before going to work as a clerk for Kroger six years ago. He was a Republican candidate for Congress in Virginia, 2003-2004.
Rodney Veach of Pasadena, also a Libertarian, is a graduate of Texas A&M, where he earned a B.A. in Finance and his MBA.
He currently works as a NetSuite administrator at Confidential in Houston. Previously, he worked as a procurement agent for Able Communications in Pearland, as the general manager of Domimo’s Pizza in Pasadena and as an inventory specialist for Milan Institute of Cosmetology in Houston.
Dr. Brian Babin, a dentist, is a former mayor of Woodville who appeared at a rally in Beaumont Jan. 18 to show his unwavering support for the Second Amendment Constitutional right to bear arms. He ran for Congress back in 1996 and 1998, both times unsuccessfully.
Phil Fitzgerald, a Liberty construction contractor by trade and a former Liberty County judge who was being investigated concerning federal money that was supposed to be used for cleaning up after Hurricane Ike. He has been cleared for now of charges but may still have to face charges at some point.
Pat Kasprzak of Crosby, an attorney, is the only woman in the race. She graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., with a degree in political science and earned her law degree at the University of Houston Law School, where she met her husband, Dan. After working for 18 years as vice president and trust officer at JP MorganChase, she became a high school teacher in Galena Park ISD — a switch she feels prepared her with skills critical to being an effective legislator.
Chuck Meyer of Liberty, an assistant district attorney for Hardin County, is a former BlackBerry executive and high technology attorney who hopes to push Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to create a special purpose Savings Bond program to support NASA’s plans for human space flight.
“Funding human space exploration is not a Republican issue, not a Democrat issue, it is an American issue. We cannot afford to relegate human space flight to the annals of history,” asserts Meyer.
He has a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in Operations Research from George Washington University and his law degree from American University. He is married and the father of three daughters.
Ben Streusand of Spring currently serves as the advisory board chairman of Americans for Prosperity – Texas, a national organization, whose one million members are dedicated to reducing the size and cost of state and federal government.
Streusand (pronounced Stru-zand) is a 30-year veteran of both the investment banking and mortgage banking industries and a former president of the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association. He currently manages C Capital L.L.C., a private equity firm, and serves on the board of the state’s Texas Tuition Funds and the Texas Tuition Tomorrow Fund.