Political newcomer Matt Schaefer topped longtime incumbent Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, in the race for Texas House District 6, according to complete but unofficial results Tuesday.
With 100 percent of polling locations reporting, Schaefer won the election with 57.7 percent of the vote, or 11,138, to Berman’s 42.3 percent, or 8,172 votes.
District 6 represents Tyler and western portions of Smith County. Schaefer will take office Jan. 1, 2013, because there is no Democratic challenger in the general election.
Schaefer, 36, chose to run for District 6 and challenge a seven-term incumbent as his “first foray” into public office. It’s a daunting task, he said. But he also believes District 6 voters are ready for a leadership change.
As an attorney, Naval Reserve officer and property manager with a blue-collar background, Schaefer said he has the credentials to effectively serve as a legislator and communicate with varying groups.
“It took a team effort,” he said of the victory. “You don’t win an election by yourself, and a lot of good people got behind me.”
Heading into Election Day, Schaefer said he had been receiving “good feedback” from stalwart Republican voting bases, such as veterans and core local GOP party supporters. On Tuesday he said he and campaign volunteers had “worked the polling locations hard.”
Berman, 76, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former Arlington city councilman who was elected to the state House in 1998, was seeking his eighth term.
The long-time legislator touted his constituent services as his top priority, the “best” among House members, and the part of the job that gave him the most satisfaction. He said that when constituents called, wrote or emailed him with problems or questions, he made the effort to find resolution and answers.
In January, Berman was hospitalized and found to have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With two chemotherapy treatments remaining, Berman said his doctors recently informed him the cancer was in remission.
Tuesday afternoon, Berman said he was at peace with a victory or a loss and suggested Schaefer would make it close. He said his fight against cancer did not allow him to visit with constituents door-to-door as he had in the past.
“It’s been my highest privilege to serve District 6 in the Texas House of Representatives for the past 14 years,” he said.
Berman said he would serve the remainder of his term and thanked the District 6 voters for supporting him for more than a decade.
During the campaign, Schaefer challenged Berman’s record often and cited the representative’s 1998 term–limit promise. Berman defended his record touted a conservative anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-business voting record and endorsements from groups supporting those causes.
Schaefer’s political curiosity began in East Texas, working for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm in 1999. In 2002, while in law school at Texas Tech University, Schaefer painted then-businessman Randy Neugebauer’s house.
After Neugebauer learned of his experience as Gramm’s regional liaison, he enlisted him as communication director for a successful U.S. Congress campaign to unseat a Democrat incumbent.
During the 81st Texas legislative session, Schaefer got “hands-on experience” as counsel to GOP state Rep. Carl Isett, who was Sunset Commission chairman, as it reviewed state agencies including the Texas Department of Transportation and Department of Insurance.
“The district voters expect me to be their voice,” he said. “They expect me to listen and that’s what I am going to do.”