Looking back, Trey Holcomb said he’s always been a Libertarian at heart. The 49-year-old public school teacher has largely voted Republican, but the election of Donald Trump led him to part ways with the Grand Old Party a few years ago.
“I looked at what the Republican party was saying they were about and what they were actually doing,” he said, “and it didn’t match up. They want to extend compassion to some groups but not to others. If you are going to love thy neighbor unless they are a refugee from another country, that doesn’t make sense to me. Why not treat people as individuals. There are great Christian people in the Republican party, but, as a party, that’s not what it stands for anymore.”
Disillusioned, he went with an open mind to Tarrant County’s Democratic primary in 2016 only to find narrow partisan talking points that Holcomb said felt contrived to garner votes. The real issues that are facing this country — ballooning national debt, endless foreign wars, unjust marijuana laws — were largely missing from the discourse of both parties.
Partisan politics dumbs down elections into fearmongering over abortion rights and gun control, Holcomb said. Both parties, he added, are guilty of misrepresenting the other side to gain votes. While the idea of joining a political party felt anathema to his new insights, Holcomb saw an opportunity to make a difference as a candidate for Texas’ 12th Congressional District under the Libertarian ticket.
Libertarianism, Holcomb said, is based on the “philosophy of liberty. You own your life. Your decisions should not be made for you.”
On March 10 at Billy Bob’s Texas, Holcomb will plead his case to Libertarian Party delegates at the party’s county convention. If chosen to represent the Libertarian party in the national Congressional race, Holcomb will face the winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries. Incumbent Republican Kay Granger is facing off against TCU grad and staunch conservative Chris Putnam, who, according to the Texas Tribune, has shown “fundraising prowess” with an early haul of $456,000. The Democratic primary will pit aircraft assembler Danny Anderson against college professor Lisa Welch.
For the first time in recent memory, Granger, who is in her 12th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, appears to be politically vulnerable. Her ambitious pet project, the $1.2 billion (and rising) flood control development north of downtown known as Panther Island, has suffered from ballooning costs, construction delays, and a noticeable absence of promised federal funds (“Buddy, Can You Spare a Billion?” April 11, 2018).
“Everyone who is paying attention [to the Panther Island debacle] is frustrated,” Holcomb said. “Whether that amounts to change at the polls remains to be seen. Granger has been in Congress since 1996. I have no interest in being a career politician. Politicians who stay in for a generation and enrich themselves are only there for themselves. That’s how Congress operates.”
Holcomb is building his campaign on three pillars: addressing the national debt, stopping the United States’ endless cycles of foreign wars, and reforming marijuana laws that have sent hundreds of thousands of nonviolent young men and women to jail for the offense of smoking a plant.
Future generations of Americans will be forced to pay down the debt that they did not create. Holcomb sees national debt as a moral issue and a growing political crisis. The U.S. government’s public debt is now more than $20 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
“This country was founded on principal,” Holcomb said. “Look at the primary source. No taxation without representation. When you’re at $5 or $10 trillion, you are now borrowing money from people who have not been born yet. If that’s not an example of taxation without representation, I don’t know what is.”
The killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the subsequent saber-rattling tweets by Trump have been a reminder of how the United States is seemingly always on the verge of war. Holcomb sees profits as driving that cycle. Banks fund our debt, he said, and our debt floats the military. Around one-sixth of federal spending goes to the military, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“I’m a 49-year-old school teacher,” he said. “They have 49-year-old teachers in Tehran, too. Why should we impose our views on their life? I have had kids in my class who went to war. Some were improved, some were maimed, and some didn’t return. It changes your perspective.”
Teaching has also informed his views on marijuana. When politicians visit Holcomb’s high school history class, many teenagers ask about the prospects of marijuana law reform.
“My first impression was, ‘These kids want to know when they can legally get high,’ ” Holcomb said. It turns out that “a lot of these kids have relatives who have been caught in possession of a plant. Now, they have legal consequences for an action that didn’t hurt anybody. That has to stop. Kids have a good B.S. detector.”
Marijuana is legal for medical purposes in 33 states. It’s only a matter of time, Holcomb said, before marijuana is rescheduled by the Food and Drug Administration from its current status of Schedule 1, the category reserved for heroin and other controlled substances that are deemed highly dangerous for public use.
Holcomb feels good about his chances of earning his party’s nomination and garnering a large number of votes later this year. Most voters, he said, aren’t diehard Democrats or Republicans. The binary thinking that drives our elections is an illusion that is perpetrated by the entrenched powers who benefit from being reelected.
Holcomb said his campaign will be an awakening for Tarrant County voters who are fed up with politics as usual. He’s betting that voters will respond to a concept that has been the bedrock of American values since 1776.
“There’s a marketplace of ideas” that will be presented to voters, he said, and “I think freedom is pretty popular.”