The Chron­i­cle en­dorses Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher for U.S. Con­gres­sional Dis­trict 7.

Vote Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher, a mod­er­ate Demo­crat, for the 7th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK - John Cul­ber­son - Re­pub­li­can Party: (out of 5) Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher - Demo­cratic Party:

Hous­to­ni­ans can take it as a point of pride that the 7th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict once was rep­re­sented by none other than for­mer Con­gress­man Ge­orge H.W. Bush. This year, vot­ers have the op­por­tu­nity cast their bal­lots for a can­di­date who re­flects the val­ues once em­bod­ied by that long-ago politi­cian — some­one who un­der­stands the dis­trict, is pro-busi­ness and rep­re­sents the mod­er­ate wing of their party. That some­one is Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher.

Rarely do we meet a first-time can­di­date so well pre­pared, so knowl­edge­able about the job, so right for the dis­trict.

Fletcher, 43, has run an im­pres­sive cam­paign and gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion for turn­ing a solidly red dis­trict into a swing seat, and she did it by ex­tolling the virtues of hard work, ad­vo­cacy and co­op­er­a­tion.

Fletcher clearly un­der­stands the heart of this wealthy, ed­u­cated dis­trict — which in­cludes West Univer­sity, the Gal­le­ria area, Mey­er­land, the En­ergy Cor­ri­dor and parts of the Jersey Vil­lage and Cy­press area. As an at­tor­ney she rep­re­sented clients across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and blazed a trail that shat­tered a glass ceil­ing as the first woman to make part­ner at the elite AZA law firm.

At a time when plenty of Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans sprint for the par­ti­san hin­ter­lands, Fletcher has re­claimed the cen­ter. She op­poses sin­gle-payer health care and backs off­shore drilling. Her im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy mod­els the bi­par­ti­san 2013 com­pre­hen­sive bill that passed the Se­nate but didn’t get a vote in the House.

More than long­time Re­pub­li­can in­cum­bent U.S. Rep. John Cul­ber­son, or even her op­po­nents from the heated Demo­cratic pri­mary, Fletcher un­der­stands this di­verse, chang­ing dis­trict and has demon­strated a pas­sion for putting its res­i­dents ahead of rank par­ti­san­ship.

No doubt, Cul­ber­son did his job af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey. He used his po­si­tion on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee to help trans­form an in­sult­ingly sparse White House re­cov­ery bill into an ad­e­quate fund­ing pack­age. As we said at the time, we don’t want to imag­ine what would have hap­pened af­ter Har­vey with­out Cul­ber­son in Congress. But Cul­ber­son’s ten­ure in Wash­ing­ton didn’t be­gin when the rain started to fall, nor did his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties end af­ter the flood­wa­ters re­ceded.

Cul­ber­son was first elected to pub­lic of­fice in 1986 and has rarely faced a se­ri­ous chal­lenger out­side a Re­pub­li­can pri­mary. It shows. His ca­reer has been spent pro­mot­ing his own pet projects rather than serv­ing the lo­cal needs of his home dis­trict. That’s why it took the great­est nat­u­ral dis­as­ter in Hous­ton his­tory to com­pel him to act with nec­es­sary pas­sion.

It’s not that Cul­ber­son doesn’t care about wa­ter. He does. But most of the time, he seems to care a bit more about the wa­ter on Europa, an icy moon or­bit­ing Jupiter, than he does the wa­ter in the Addicks and Barker dams. Or in our bay­ous. Or in our homes. Cul­ber­son has ex­pended un­told po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal try­ing to force NASA to send probes to Europa in search of alien life. That’s an ad­mirable sci­en­tific mis­sion, even if some plan­e­tary re­searchers think the lim­ited re­sources could be bet­ter spent.

Here on Earth, Hous­to­ni­ans can rest as­sured that Fletcher will pri­or­i­tize hu­man life over the ex­trater­res­trial. That in­cludes life-sav­ing flood­ing poli­cies that em­pha­size pre­ven­tion over costly re­cov­ery.

It also in­cludes poli­cies on guns and im­mi­gra­tion fit­ting for the con­stituents of this dis­trict. By a mar­gin of 60 per­cent to 35 per­cent, likely vot­ers in the 7th sup­port a fed­eral ban on the sale of as­sault­style guns and high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines, ac­cord­ing to polling by The New York Times. By 55 per­cent to 39 per­cent, the dis­trict op­poses an im­mi­gra­tion bill that would cut down on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and fund a wall along the U.S. -Mex­ico bor­der.

Not only does Cul­ber­son fail to re­flect these pref­er­ences in Wash­ing­ton, he doesn’t even try to craft con­sen­sus.

On im­mi­gra­tion, Cul­ber­son has long sup­ported a zero-tol­er­ance de­por­ta­tion plan — the sort of pol­icy that in­evitably splits moth­ers and kids. When he met with the ed­i­to­rial board, we tried to tease out some sit­u­a­tion where Cul­ber­son might sup­port dis­cre­tion al­low­ing lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies to pri­or­i­tize the truly dan­ger­ous. In­stead, Cul­ber­son ar­gued that each im­mi­grant — un­doc­u­mented par­ents with cit­i­zen chil­dren, Dreamer school­teach­ers, Har­vey he­roes with­out proper pa­pers — should be rounded up by fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion if con­victed of any crime, no mat­ter how mi­nor. Lo­cal po­lice chiefs and oth­ers who don’t com­ply should have their fund­ing cut off.

No sur­prise that Cul­ber­son was one of the few Congress mem­bers re­ported to have a friendly re­la­tion­ship with for­mer White House Chief Strate­gist and alt-right leader Steve Ban­non.

Hous­to­ni­ans de­serve a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who con­sid­ers health care and ed­u­ca­tion more im­por­tant than blood and soil.

On firearms, Cul­ber­son is un­will­ing to con­sider rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions to keep guns out of the hands of the men­tally ill. Dur­ing their meet­ing with the ed­i­to­rial board, Fletcher said she be­lieved that fed­eral agen­cies like the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs should share in­for­ma­tion with the gun back­ground check list to en­sure that peo­ple deemed men­tally in­ca­pable can­not pur­chase deadly weapons.

“Two times in the past three years I have wo­ken up to hear there’s a gun­man in our con­gres­sional dis­trict who had men­tal ill­ness is­sues ran­domly shoot­ing peo­ple,” Fletcher said.

Cul­ber­son grew vis­i­bly ag­i­tated at the idea and ar­gued that the only cir­cum­stance when some­one should be pro­hib­ited from buy­ing a gun is by a ju­di­cial or­der. When it comes to health care, only Fletcher has an ar­tic­u­la­ble vi­sion for bring­ing costs un­der con­trol. She wants a pub­lic op­tion to cre­ate a base­line safety net for all Amer­i­cans and to al­low the fed­eral govern­ment to ne­go­ti­ate drug prices to bring down the cost of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Cul­ber­son, on the other hand, still doesn’t have much be­yond re­peal­ing Oba­macare.

To­day, Texas’ 7th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict is rep­re­sented by a life­long politi­cian. That means se­nior­ity on key com­mit­tees. It also means stag­nancy, stub­born­ness and stilted poli­cies.

Hous­ton is chang­ing. Vot­ers need a rep­re­sen­ta­tive who can keep up. We thank Cul­ber­son for his ser­vice in the weeks af­ter Har­vey, but now it is time for some­one new — Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher.

Photo cour­tesy Lizzie Pan­nil­lFletcher

Lizzie Pan­nill Fletcher rep­re­sents change.

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