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UNT senior faces uphill battle for Texas House

UNT senior faces uphill battle for Texas House

Denton, Texas 02/16/2016Democratic candidate for the Texas House District 64, Connor Flanagan, debates his opponent, Paul Greco, at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton Tuesday night, February 16, 2016. Ranjani Groth/DRC

UNT senior faces uphill battle for Texas House
June 10
16:47 2016

Matthew Reyna | Staff Writer


At the Nov. 8 general election, a 58-year-old Sanger veterinarian will face off against a 22-year-old UNT student for the Texas House District 64 representative chair.

Connor Flanagan, a media arts and political science senior, narrowly won the Democratic primary in March over 55-year-old retired firefighter Paul Greco, who was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News.

But Flanagan’s inexperience has yet to become a road block for his campaign to Austin.

“What I lack in experience I have in my passion for what this is,” Flanagan said. “That shines through in me getting out and doing this. I care so much about what happens in this district and statewide.”

Every candidate who ran for the District 64 seat has expressed admiration for Flanagan’s gutsiness. The respect for Flanagan ventures across the political spectrum, from Greco to his November opponent, Lynn Stucky.

“He’s a positive young man and he has the guts to step out there and do it as a 22-year-old,” Stucky said.

Although Flanagan’s confidence isn’t waning despite his young age, nagging questions about his campaign remain, particularly in the bankroll.

Flanagan has been outspent, outflanked and out-advertised in the lead-up to his much-tougher race against the more experienced Stucky. His most recent financial report shows he received $0 in campaign contributions and had the same amount of cash in hand during the last period.

The financial report Stucky posted before he won his run-off against Read King shows $131,313.75 in campaign contributions and revealed he had $32,005.69 cash in hand at the time. 

“During the primary, I wasn’t worried about money or trying to get money,” Flanagan said. “I definitely wanted to get out as much as I could rather than spend money on things like mailers. We’re definitely trying to ramp up campaign contributions so we can spend money on a larger scale.”

Making matters more difficult for Flanagan, the District 64 seat has been traditionally held by Republicans, including the last 16 years by outgoing representative Myra Crownover, who has endorsed Stucky.

Crownover’s endorsement also carries weight, considering her popularity with District 64 voters. She won all of her general election campaigns uncontested or by dominant majorities.

Flanagan also faces an uphill battle in regards to voter turnout. According to the Denton County Elections Administration, only 7,858 voters participated in the Democratic primary, while 20,769 voters participated in the Republican primary on the same day.

Additionally, Stucky’s campaign sign can been seen all across District 64. Flanagan does not have widely distributed campaign paraphernalia.

Stucky has the advantage on social media, boasting 1,885 likes on his regularly updated Facebook page, which is listed as “very responsive.” Flanagan’s Facebook page shows only 50 likes and has not been updated in 2016.

“My team is trying to ramp up on social media,” Flanagan said. “Money is going to be hard to get, but social media is free and you can get to thousands and thousands of people without spending any money.”

As a UNT student, Flanagan’s most natural constituency is students interested in casting a ballot for one of their own. Possibly knowing his best path to victory revolves around college students, Flanagan lists higher education as the top priority on his campaign website.

“I believe that no matter a person’s economic background, if they work hard and are successful in school, it should be tuition-free,” the policy reads. “An educated workforce is what separates strong economies from weak ones.”

But Stucky is no stranger to educational policy himself. He served on the Sanger ISD school board for 15 years and has been noticed by his peers for his contributions.

Denton County commissioner Hugh Coleman, Precinct 1, endorsed Stucky during the Republican primary because of Stucky’s experience in the schools.

“In Denton, we have three big state institutions: UNT, TWU, and the State School,” Coleman said. “We need someone who is going to work actively to support these organizations. I feel Dr. Stucky is the best man for the job.”

Although Stucky continues to maintain his momentum, he isn’t taking Flanagan lightly. He said he respects how Flanagan has made it as far as he has, considering his lack of resources.

“People are tired of the personal attacks,” Stucky said. “He beat [Greco], and he [will graduate] from UNT. He’s got that going for him. I consider him a legitimate candidate.”

Flanagan reciprocated the admiration for his opponent and said he’s enjoyed getting to know him – a change of pace from the common narrative in national politics.

But Flanagan still has his eyes set on the prize, despite how lopsided the table may seem on the surface, and said he believes he can win in November.

“I would say he’s beatable,” Flanagan said. “There hasn’t been an open seat here for over 16 years, and I think the people are ready for new blood.”

Featured Image: Denton, Texas 02/16/2016 – Democratic candidate for the Texas House District 64, Connor Flanagan, debates his opponent, Paul Greco, at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton Tuesday night, February 16, 2016. Ranjani Groth | Courtesy DRC

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