Texans often struggle to name their representatives, but House District 148 voters have an excuse. Counting primaries and runoffs, this is their fifth election in a year to replace longtime state Rep. Jessica Farrar.
Penny Morales Shaw finally emerged from a crowded field of Democrats after Farrar endorsed her over Anna Eastman, who was elected briefly in January in a special election runoff to finish out Farrar’s term.
Republican Luis LaRotta ran unopposed in the primary.
One thing voters can be clear about is whoever wins has worked long and hard to represent them.
We believe Morales Shaw’s work as a private practice attorney, life experience, deep ties to the area and history of advocacy make her the best fit for this diverse north and northwest Houston district that could sure use a champion in Austin.
The kind of multi-tasking involved in legislative service, from responding to constituent needs to shepherding legislation through the process, is something Shaw came by honestly, and tragically.
She went to law school intending to go into international human rights law and public policy. But her husband died the year she took the bar exam in 2000, leaving her a single mom raising four kids. She built a bread-and-butter practice that allowed her to balance career and family.
She says she still made time for advocacy, volunteering in the NAACP’s free legal clinics and working with the international not-for-profit organization CARE to improve maternal health, access to microloans and necessities such as clean water in countries across South America and Africa. She also advocated for the International Violence Against Women Act.
“People can say anything about what they will do and what they care about,” says Morales Shaw, “but I think it’s important to see what someone’s life story is, what they’ve endured, what their fortitude is and what their work has been.”
Refreshingly, both candidates seem less bound by partisan identities and willing to work across the aisle.
“We’re so far cornered in our tribe,” says LaRotta, a 40-year-old Navy veteran and real estate investor. “We’re afraid to evaluate our positions and challenge our biases.”
But LaRotta isn’t. He says he began opposing the death penalty after looking at evidence showing a likelihood that Texas has executed innocent people. He favors police accountability, decriminalizing cannabis but also repealing the franchise tax.
We admire his independence, but some stances, such as opposing Medicaid expansion, are at odds with the needs of the district. Voters should send Morales Shaw to Austin.