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11 Republicans and a lone Democrat race for outgoing Rep. Michael Burgess’ seat in the US House

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, speaks during a town hall event in 2021 at Denton High School. Burgess won't be seeking reelection, so 11 Republicans and one Democrat are hoping to fill his spot.
DRC file photo
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, speaks during a town hall event in 2021 at Denton High School. Burgess won't be seeking reelection, so 11 Republicans and one Democrat are hoping to fill his spot.

There are 11 Republicans and one Democrat on the ballot for the March 5 primaries for Texas’ U.S. Congressional District 26.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, announced he would not seek reelection after representing District 26 in the U.S. House since 2003.

District 26 covers a large portion of Denton County, including the southwestern part of Denton, as well as Lewisville, Corinth, Highland Village and Little Elm. It also includes all of Cooke County and portions of Wise and Tarrant counties.

Early voting in the primaries will open on Feb. 20 and last through March 1. Feb. 23 is the last day to apply for a ballot by mail.

The Denton Record-Chronicle spoke with several candidates to address key issues before the upcoming primaries. Two Republican candidates, Mark Rutledge and Brandon Gill, did not respond to Record-Chronicle requests for comment.


Scott Armey

Former Denton County Judge Scott Armey, a private wealth adviser, is seeking the seat his father, Dick Armey, held for nine terms.

The elder Armey was a GOP icon and served as the House majority leader. Scott Armey sought his father’s seat in 2002 and was considered a shoo-in but was beaten by Burgess.

Armey said he supports the effort to secure the Texas border. He is in favor of a more merit-based legal immigration process.

He would also support repairs and updates for U.S. border stations to handle increased traffic in the event a border wall is completed, as well as improvements and expansions of law enforcement tools and equipment for border patrol agents.

“There’s great value in a very, very strong legal immigration process based on merit to welcome new people here to be a part of our nation. ... And I think that we can get there in a way that’s going to be beneficial to our nation and to all the citizens of our country,” Armey said.

Armey said the U.S. needs to focus on attacking government spending and the $4 trillion debt. He said he would favor implementing a 1% budget cut for all federal agencies for five years, including the departments of Education, Commerce and Energy.

“Then that will allow us to establish a new commitment and fiscal responsibility,” Armey said. “And we can build on that to then take a look about what are the responsibilities of our federal government and our other agencies that have either served their purpose or maybe never should have been created in the first place that we can look to eliminate.”

Neena Biswas

Dr. Neena Biswas, a physician and a former Coppell ISD school board member, criticized inflation. She said no one should have to struggle to buy their basic needs, and she disagrees with the U.S. focus on foreign aid.

“We’re also giving this money to all these countries — but this is our taxpayer money,” Biswas said. “So we need to be very careful how we are doing this, we need to audit, we need to make sure that this is exactly what we want to be doing.”

She aims to secure American borders effectively because of human and drug trafficking issues, along with the waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We do need to have maybe a short-term plan for securing the border, which is absolutely important,” Biswas said.

But, she said, the U.S. also needs a long-term plan — that is, “how do we now process the people that have already made it?”

Biswas also wants to improve health care while lowering costs, drive educational reform for higher standards and support veterans.

Vlad De Franceschi

Vlad De Franceschi, a lawyer, was born in communist Yugoslavia during the Cold War to a family with a history of opposing tyrannical regimes throughout central Europe.

On the border, De Franceschi’s stance is that state governments agreed to have the federal government patrol and enforce the border on their behalf. When the federal government chooses not to enforce the border on behalf of the states, it acts unconstitutionally and invites invasion and violence.

“First and foremost, just go back to enforcing the laws that already exist on the books because that’s the easiest, shortest cure,” he said. “Sure, let’s go back and now see how we can improve it and then whether that means undoing the damage done.”

De Franceschi said Congress is allowing inflationary central bank actions to take away the savings and income of future generations due to the national debt. He favors “coin money” and wants Congress to decide its value.

De Franceschi said he would also focus on election integrity, which includes auditing elections.

Luisa del Rosal

Luisa del Rosal served as the chief of staff for Congressman Tony Gonzales of the Texas Congressional District 23 in 2021.

“I’m also the one that doesn’t meet on-the-job training,” del Rosal said. “I’m the only one that has been in Congress that has worked on Capitol Hill and understands the intricacies of the institution. I’m a former chief of staff, so I know what it means to run an office.”

She grew up in Mexico and said she understands what’s going on at the border and is in favor of adding Border Patrol agents and processing coordinators.

She said Congress would need to send more immigration judges to get claims quicker instead of having individuals waiting about six years.

Another issue for her is infrastructure, specifically U.S. Highways 377 and 380.

“I tell people, it’s the real kitchen table issues that people want to talk to me after they talk about the border,” de la Rosa said.

Congress must cut spending, she said, and stop the federal government from just printing and giving money away.

“And one of the things that Congress can do is a congressional audit,” de Rosal said. “So I’ve talked a lot about why are we not starting congressional audits on our spending on federal spending, just to see where we should be making cuts so that we can tighten our belts. The other thing is that we should pass a balanced budget amendment.”

Other key priorities for del Rosal are protecting the Second Amendment, free enterprise and American energy independence.

Brandon Gill

Brandon Gill is the founder of the DC Enquirer, a conservative website and a recent transplant to Flower Mound.

John Huffman

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently endorsed John Huffman, the mayor of Southlake and a business owner.

“It’s just an absolute honor for him to recognize this race and my candidacy,” said Huffman, who said he first met Perry in 2004.

Huffman is known for rejecting diversity, equity and inclusion practices in Carroll ISD, which has become the subject of federal civil rights investigations.

Huffman was one of the founding donors of Southlake Families PAC, which fought against Carroll ISD’s diversity plan, according to the Fort Worth Report.

In a recent campaign ad, he described himself as the only candidate who won against liberals by flipping the school board and rejecting their DEI agenda.

“I am the only candidate in this race for Congress who stood up to the liberals and won,” Huffman posted X, formerly known as Twitter.

He said he has to the border and spoken to Border Patrol agents, and he has six points to fix the border: having asylum-seekers stay in Mexico, deporting immigrants, declaring war on drug cartels, revisiting birthright citizenship, impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and bringing a Republican president back to the White House.

Huffman said his experience as the Southlake mayor makes him the right candidate to help reduce the national debt. He would also cut federal programs.

“As Southlake mayor, I balanced the budget every single year I’m in office and also have the distinction of cutting property taxes below the effective rate five years in a row,” Huffman said.

Other key issues for Huffman include expanding American energy development — oil, natural gas and next-generation nuclear — as well as stopping what he calls the weaponization of the administrative state against the American people.

Jason Kergosien

“I am not a politician — I actually have no interest in being a politician,” Jason Kergosien said. “I’m a technologist. I’ve been over 25 years in the tech industry. And so I bring to the table wanting to solve problems and actually creating plans to solve problems working with different vested groups, to find solutions, and then actually building them, and then actually testing the results of them.”

Kergosien said Congress needs to take care of American interests instead of foreign interests.

“So the way that I would focus on that is to simply not allow the omnibus bills, not allow the pork bills to go through,” Kergosien said. “... If I were in Congress, I would not be voting for a bill that supports Ukraine and Israel before America. That doesn’t mean I don’t support other countries’ interests, but ours have to come first, especially with America being in crisis.”

Kergosien said the border and the budget are key issues he would address but said he wants to focus on having fair elections and freedom of speech.

“If Donald Trump is in office when I come in, then I will work with him to make sure that he has the funding for the border wall,” Kergosien said.

Kergosien said the U.S. would need to hold big tech accountable, and advised carefully considering the use of artificial intelligence.

“I’ve worked with businesses to automate their systems based on AI. So I can tell you that there’s great potential, and there is no stopping it,” he said. “On the other hand, we need to look at how AI is going to be used, not just for in the public domain, but how the government is going to be using it.”

Joel Krause

Business owner Joel Krause ran for the same congressional seat in 2014 and 2016, losing to Burgess in the primaries each time. Krause was also a political consultant for Bob Dole’s presidential run.

Krause said he’s running for truth, accountability and responsibility while still maintaining conservative ideals.

“Right now, I think the United States is ... so divided that it’s going to be difficult for us to conquer some of the problems ... coming forward [like] China and AI and many other things,” Krause said. “So we need to be more unified as a country. And I think we can do that through truth, accountability, responsibility.”

Border security, inflation, spending, health care, China and crime are among other issues Krause would focus on.

Doug Robison

Doug Robison was elected to the Denton County 393rd District Court bench in 2008 and reelected in 2012, 2016 and 2020. He retired in order to pursue Burgess’ seat in Congress.

Robison said he would focus on border security because it’s the number one issue that has been addressed to him. He would pursue border policy changes and seek to finish building a physical border wall.

“I think expediting legal immigration and getting that process will help solve the illegal immigration problem,” Robison said.

The second issue he wants to focus on is the economy. His plan would be to start cutting government departments slowly, including cutting the departments of Energy and Agriculture.

He also said he believes in a strong America but said Congress would need to be smart in defense budget spending.

Other key issues for Robison include what he described as defending the oil and gas industry from Democrats and the Biden administration, denying federal funding to organizations or entities that support abortion, and protecting the Second Amendment.

Mark Rutledge

Mark “Big Rut” Rutledge is a mechanical contractor.

Burt Thakur

Burt Thakur, is an engineer and Navy veteran who became a champion on Jeopardy! champion during Alex Trebek’s final season as host.

Thakur has previous campaign experience running in the primaries for California’s 25th Congressional District in 2022. He had filed for a neighboring Texas congressional seat last spring but then switched to run for U.S. House District 26, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Thakur said the Declaration of North America treaty aims to provide asylum status to migrants displaced by climate change and allow for free movement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, calling it “a disastrous situation.”

He said there needs to be a six-month moratorium on immigration to address the backlog of 3 million people waiting for processing.

He criticized the U.S. State Department, which he said refused to give asylum status to a U.S. special forces translator in Afghanistan who was later killed.

“Yet, the person who translates for special forces can’t get access into this country,” Thakur said. “ … So this is where I say enough is enough.”

He said he would help reduce the federal budget, which would include repealing the Patriot Act.

“I think this is going to do a number of different things,” Thakur said referring to the Patriot Act. ”I think that the military-industrial complex has been overrun, effectively with consultants, and with people who are not getting good deals to the government.”

He said the U.S. has too many agencies that are not doing their job, such as the Department of Education.

Thakur also supports bringing back critical infrastructure manufacturing to grow the economy. His other issues include investing in new technologies to use local natural resources and increasing federal services and resources for veterans.


Ernest Robinson Lineberger III

As the only Democrat running for House District 26 in the primaries, Ernest Robinson Lineberger III will most likely face the winner of the Republican primary in November. He has 15 years of experience as a U.S. naval officer and over 27 years at Texas Instruments in semiconductor manufacturing.

Lineberger said he would focus on supporting technological innovation, military veterans and economic growth. He said he doesn’t want to take away anyone’s guns but wants to make sure they’re safe and secure.

“I am running because there was no Democratic option in the last ballot, and it looked like there wasn’t going to be again in this ballot,” he said. “And I just think that is so unfair to our district, our communities, Texas and the nation.”

Lineberger said he’s in favor of supporting Ukraine because its war with Russia is a world war waiting to happen. He also favors having a better court system to maintain the southern border.

“We need enhanced ability to handle those people,” he said. “The reason we have so much catch-and-release right now … is because we don’t have the court capacity to hear their cases promptly and take care of business.”

According to his campaign website, no one is really pro-abortion.

“It becomes a decision based on the health/mental health needs of the mother,” Lineberger says on his website. “To my mind, there is little room for the national nor state government to force this outcome. I don’t see it in the Constitution directly or by any inference. On the other hand, we need to do more to help all of the children and parents and others that are already here and in need.”