A retired U.S. Army officer who lives in Cedar Park is the latest candidate to officially announce plans to try to unseat longtime Republican Rep. John Rice Carter, who has held the 31st District congressional seat for 14 years.
Kent Lester, a West Point graduate and former educator, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the District 31 seat in announcements last week in Belton and Round Rock. The Democratic nominee who will face Carter will be decided in a March 6, 2018 primary.
Lester, who was stationed at Ft. Hood during part of his Army service, said at his announcements that he was concerned about Congressman Carter's history of voting for expensive weapons systems.
"John Carter will vote for every weapons system," said Lester, who attained the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army. "He never met a weapons system he didn't like. To increase military spending, they are going to slash other programs.”
Lester said he thinks the federal government needs some balance in the budget.
"I am not going to Washington to vote to spend money on programs that just benefit defense contractors but do nothing to further our nation's defense," Carter told supporters gathered for his announcements.
“If you do not know Kent Lester, you need to get to know him," said Meg Pitrucha of Belton, who said she taught with Lester in Belton and has known him for 17 years. "He believes in talking to people instead of talking about them."
Also supporting Lester's quest for Congress was gay activist Bobby Brooks, the first openly gay student body president at Texas A&M and a former Belton student of Lester's.
"He believes it is the right of everyone to seek their dreams in Texas," Brooks told the crowd at the Mesa Rosa Restaurant in Round Rock Thursday. "Why can't we work for someone, like Kent Lester, who believes in equality? He wants to work with everyone."
Also seeking the 31st District Democratic nomination in the March 6, 2018 primary are former Air Force Major Mary Jennings Hegar of Round Rock; Christine Eady Mann, a Cedar Park family physician; and Mike Clark, a geospatial engineer from Georgetown, who, as the Democratic nominee in 2016, lost to Carter by 24,000 votes.
"This is an election cycle where we have to do something," Lester told the crowd in Round Rock. "That message is starting to resonate across Central Texas for sure. We feel like we are going to make a difference."
Lester and his wife, Bridget, also a West Point graduate, have five grown children including a daughter who is serving in the U.S. Army. He said his campaign will be based on respect, integrity and service.
Congressman Carter, a resident of Round Rock, is a conservative Republican who first won election in 2004. Carter, 75, is a former four-term Williamson County judge. He is chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.