Matt Schaefer, a Republican who lives in Tyler, is seeking his fourth term representing District 6 in the Texas House of Representatives.
Schaefer, 42, started his political career in 2012, when he ousted longtime incumbent Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, in the Republican primary. He went on to defeat local businessman Skip Ogle in the 2014 Republican primary, and ran unopposed in the 2016 primary before defeating a Libertarian candidate in the general election.
In 2017, at the beginning of the legislative session, Schaefer became the chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, a coalition of conservative Republicans in the Texas Legislature. During that legislative session, he was a key player in opposing the work of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who announced later that year he would retire from politics.
Schaefer declined an October 2018 interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s editorial board in preparation for the Nov. 6 election. However, prior to this year’s March primary, he sat down for an interview with the editorial board and he laid out his priorities for the 2019 session.
“If I could attach one word to the upcoming session for the Texas House of Representatives, it would be ‘leadership,’” Schaefer said. “We’re gonna have an open race for speaker for the first time since 1993. It just doesn’t happen very often at all.”
The full House will choose the speaker on the first day of the 2019 session, and Schaefer said he would support the Republicans’ nominee. He called the speaker election “a chance for a fresh start” and said whoever is elected “will be someone I have a relationship with and I can work with.”
“I am going to shake that man or woman’s hand, vote for them when we get to the House floor on the first day of session, and say, ‘Let’s get to work,’” Schaefer said. “And I think that we have a chance to really calm down some of the noise in the House.”
In 2017, Schaefer supported the so-called bathroom bill that would have required people in government buildings, including public schools, to use the bathroom that corresponds to the person’s biological sex, as opposed to the gender with which they identify.
“You talk about who this is going to hurt — it’s going to hurt women,” Schaefer said of allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. “If you can say that I am a girl, but I am biologically a male, I will win every track meet against the women. That’s already happening in some places.”
He added: “I think people who have a special situation should be handled in a special way, but that doesn’t mean if you throw women’s competition out the window. It doesn’t mean that you throw privacy out the window in our public schools.”
Schaefer opposed legislation in 2017 that was designed to help Tyler hospitals get more federal Medicaid money. Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, supported the bill, and the bill passed without Schaefer’s support. The Smith County Commissioners Court approved setting up the program in March.
“I didn’t go to Austin to raise taxes or increase the national debt, and there were a significant number of owners, (Texas) Spine and Joint, who didn’t want it, were afraid of it, didn’t think it was in their long-term interest or the long-term interest of the state,” Schaefer said of the bill in March.
“The other entities were on board,” Schaefer said of local hospitals. “I didn’t speak to all their leadership, but it was — one, I didn’t think it was good policy, and two, there were a significant number of people that were against it.”
Schaefer pointed to his work helping to pass SB 4, which he calls a strong bill to end sanctuary cities but critics call a “show me your papers” bill; his work on pro-life legislation; his work on statewide gun legislation; and legislation related to career and technical education.
Schaefer said the number of abortions in Texas have gone down since he entered office. He said he helped Texas regulate doctors who perform abortions more tightly, such as requiring them to use electronic means instead of paper records to report the procedures.
Schaefer said he wants to make it easier for plumbers to get certified. He said plumbers currently have to practice for too long before they are allowed to own their own plumbing business, and that a person with a master plumber's license in another state is currently required to go through a certification process.
During the primary campaign, Schaefer declined to discuss the differences voters can expect from him versus his opponent, Ted Kamel, saying his opponent had “peculiarities” that made debate unproductive. Schaefer won that primary with 73.3 percent of the vote. He did not attend a League of Women Voters forum this month with opponent Neal Katz.
Schaefer said in March his favorite part of being a lawmaker is the policy aspect, including reading bills and understanding the minutiae of laws. He said he did not know which committees he wanted to sit on during the 2019 legislative session if re-elected.
Schaefer has endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former Texas Sen. Kevin Eltife, Sen. Brian Hughes, R-Mineola, and Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mt. Pleasant. He has been named the second-most conservative lawmaker by the Young Conservatives of Texas and Rice University professor Mark Jones.
Outside of politics, Schaefer is married to Jasilyn Schaefer, and the couple has two toddlers. He works in real estate and law, and serves as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He attends the Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler.
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