State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, announced Monday that she will not run for re-election in 2016, giving potential successors plenty of time to decide whether to file for the office and mount a campaign next year.
Crownover, first elected in 2000, said it’s time to close this chapter of her life and see what’s next. Fellow Republican Read King has been the only contender to formally announce his candidacy, though more are expected from both Republicans and Democrats.
Crownover touted her success at this past legislative session as part of her decision not to seek re-election.
“I had such a good session. We got funding for the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University; we were able to pass the bill for the student center for TWU. I think our state-supported living center is protected from people who were talking about closure,” she said. “I just checked off a lot of my ‘to-do’ list and thought this would be a good time to exit on top and see what was next.”
District 64 covers a portion of Denton County, including Denton, Corinth, Hickory Creek, Krum, Lake Dallas, Lewisville, Sanger and Shady Shores.
Crownover said she is thankful to voters for sending her to Austin for eight two-year terms.
“I loved working with the people in our community,” she said. “We have a great, unique community and that’s a blessing.”
Crownover said the criticism she has taken recently for her vote on House Bill 40 had no bearing on her decision.
“History will prove that was the right thing to do,” she said. “I probably didn’t do a good enough explanation of why. We were going to get HB 40 the way it was or with protections for the city. I worked to get the protections, while the Senate was happy to pass the bill without [them].”
Crownover said she has no one pegged to replace her and is interested to see the election play out in 2016.
Speculation that Crownover would not run again swirled during the last legislative session, particularly during the battle over HB 40.
The controversial legislation limits the ability of cities and other local governments to regulate oil and gas activities in their jurisdiction. Although it passed by a wide margin, HB 40 did not have unanimous support from Denton’s delegation.
Yet Crownover kept her cards close to the vest even as other longtime legislators announced at the end of the session that they would not run again.
The Conservative Foundation of Texas, a political action committee, recently sent out a large color mailer supporting Crownover’s voting record on the budget, debt reduction and tax cuts.
And while she maintains nearly $107,000 in her campaign war chest, her latest report showed she had not accepted any political contributions in the past six months.
One longtime staffer, Kevin Cruser, left in November after seven years to direct legislative affairs for Texas Woman’s University.
King, who planned to challenge Crownover in the 2016 Republican primary, called the move an acknowledgment of his challenge in the last primary, when he received 45 percent of the vote.
“It’s a good day,” King said.
However, while her announcement changes the playing field, he said it won’t change his campaign strategy, even if another Republican candidate enters the primary.
“I’m still going to get out and knock on doors and meet people and hear what they have to say,” King said.
Local criminal defense attorney Rick Hagen confirmed his interest in running for Crownover’s seat Monday afternoon.
In a formal statement, he said he’s had a strong desire to serve ever since he was a legislative assistant to state Rep. Jim Horn in 1987 and a briefing attorney for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
“I’ve lived in Denton all my life and I truly care about the people in the district,” Hagen wrote. “I am a conservative Republican and passionate about the Constitution.”
Hagen may be best known locally for his defense of former Denton police Officer Bobby Lozano, who was convicted in 2009 of his wife’s 2002 shooting death.
Hagen has put together an advisory committee and will likely make a formal announcement sometime later in public, he said by phone Monday afternoon.
Early commitments to his committee are Jim Horn, Sparky Pearson, Melissa Lux, James King and Glen Carlton, Hagen said.
Denton County Republican Party members will miss Crownover’s seniority and good representation in Austin, said Dianne Edmondson, party chairwoman.
“But I think there will be a good Republican to take her place,” Edmondson said.
Her Democratic counterpart, Phyllis Wolper, said the county Democrats would be fielding a challenger for the open seat.
“That person would certainly have a higher chance of being successful and we expect them to be, running in an open seat, running against an unknown candidate from the other party,” Wolper said. “We look forward to the competition with whatever person the Republican Party puts forth.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
Born: Oklahoma City
Education: bachelor of arts, Southern Methodist University, 1969; master’s degree in education, Texas A&M University, 1972
First elected: She became a member of the Texas House of Representatives in 2000 after her husband, Ronny Crownover, died in office.
Committees: Currently chairwoman of the House Committee on Public Health, and serves on the Higher Education Committee.