Luis La Rotta knows he’s trying to win an election in a part of Houston that has consistently voted Democrat over the years.
But the young Republican and Northside native said he has a good pulse on the area, having grown up in the district he wants to serve in the state legislature. And while many of his philosophies and policy stances are in line with the GOP, La Rotta also describes himself as a reasonable, independent thinker.
He hopes local voters view him the same way as they elect the next District 148 seat-holder in the Texas House of Representatives, with early voting scheduled through Oct. 30 and Election Day on Nov. 4. La Rotta and Democrat Penny Morales Shaw are vying to replace Anna Eastman, a Heights Democrat who won a special election for the seat early this year but subsequently lost to Shaw in a Democratic primary runoff decided by 200 votes.
“I think I can represent a large group of people, can represent Democrats and Republicans, because I see both sides of the issue and I follow the facts,” La Rotta said. “I think I bring to the table a balance that’s sorely needed.”
Shaw characterized La Rotta as a candidate who “would fully support the Republican slate” and said voters who want a state representative with Democratic values should cast a vote for her. She touted her decades of experience as a civil rights attorney and advocate and her recent work as policy deputy chief for Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, which included implementing a countywide emergency shelter plan in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Advocating for women’s and children’s rights, a cleaner environment, access to healthcare and quality public education are among the points of emphasis for Shaw, who beat Eastman with the help of an endorsement from Jessica Farrar, the Democrat who served District 148 for 25 years before retiring at the end of September 2019. Shaw said she also has endorsements from U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, former U.S. Rep. Gene Green and State Rep. Armando Walle, who is serving as the COVID-19 recovery czar for Harris County.
“Democrats, for the most part, want somebody who reflects their values as far across the board as possible,” Shaw said. “They know I have a track record in all those areas.”
Shaw said she is especially passionate about improving healthcare access for working families and ensuring they receive preventative care, which she said in the long run is more cost-effective than treating medical ailments after they have arisen. She said she also is concerned about the treatment of immigrants in a district that is more than 60 percent Hispanic.
La Rotta said he agrees that improving public education and healthcare access and protecting individual liberties are important issues in the district. He said his solutions to those problems are just “vastly different” than what many Democrats would propose.
La Rotta said he favors a free-market economy over public-private partnerships and would push to do away with the state’s franchise tax to help small businesses grow. He also said he supports law enforcement and wants to ensure police forces are adequately funded.
“Nothing is predetermined,” La Rotta said of the notion that District 148 will continue to favor Democrats. “Just as the community is changing, so are their perceptions. The community also is probably weary of 25 years of the same policies that have not moved the needle forward in many areas. So I think the area’s primed for changes.”