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other House members, including 32 Democrats, on a pledge list that Craddick released in November. It was a show of strength for an embattled speaker fending off rumors that he may be indicted before the legislative session’s end. If Gonzales’ pledge stirred any fears among Democrats that she would follow the political path of her predecessor, Roberto Gutierrez \(one of Craddick’s not worry. Gonzales bested Gutierrez in the Democratic primary last spring partly because of a perception that the incumbent had become too close to the House leadership, at the expense of his district. “When you’re going into office, you don’t have to upset the leadership unnecessarily;” Gonzales said, explaining her pledge to Craddick. Talk to Gonzales for a few minutes, and it quickly becomes clear she won’t hesitate to upset the leadership, if need be, to speak out forcefully on the issues she cares about. Among the areas Gonzales wants to focus on are creating transportation infrastructure in the Rio Grande Valley and expanding access to education and health care. To Gonzales, education and health care issues are deeply personal. Her mother died when she was a teenager. She spent some of her formative years in a single-parent home in San Marcos without much money. Gonzales understands, she says, why many children don’t make it. “I could have very easily not gone to college,” she says. “I was definitely one of the kids who should have failed?’ What prodded her forward, she explains, was family support, and “my mother’s voice in my head telling me to go to college?’ Gonzales says education has propelled her to where she is and she believes that access to a quality education, and especially the chance to attend college, is what kids desperately need. Gonzales, 40, later earned her law degree from the University of Texas and went to work for a law firm in the Valley. Not long after, her father was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis. It’s a chronic muscle ailment that has since confined him to a wheelchair. Gonzales and her entire family have pitched in to help care for her father. Before he became ill, Gonzales’ father had worked in the insurance industry and secured what he thought was a foolproof disability policy. After his diagnosis, however, the insurance company refused his claim, arguing that his ailment was a pre-existing condition. Having witnessed her father’s experience, Gonzales feels especially passionate about access to health care and health insurance for low-income families, not to mention heavier regulation of the insurance industry. “I’m not against insurance companies making a profit?’ she says. “But to make a profit at the expense of the people you’re serving isn’t acceptable in any business. Changes need to be made so consumers are treated fairly. It’s a two-way street.” Gonzales plans to devote herself full-time to the legislature this session. She isn’t married. She has no children. Her law firm will place minimal demands on her time in the coming year. That freedom, along with a possible choice committee assignment \(thanks in part to her joining Craddick’s pledge freshmen. Vouching to the Voters Marc Veasey has lived almost his entire life in and around Fort Worth’s House District 95. In a matter of minutes, he can treat you to a detailed discourse on his seat’s political history over the past 25 years. First, there was Reby Cary, a well-liked politician whose popularity withered in 1982 and 1983 because he backed Republican Gov. Bill Clements. Then came Garfield Thompson, another popular figure, who ended his 10-year stint in the House in 1995, and was replaced by Glenn Lewis. Lewis himself lasted 10 years, until his closeness to Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick last session, and his strong pro-school voucher stance, caused voters to sour on him. Veasey took advantage. Calling himself a “real Democrat?’ and promising to oppose vouchers, Veasey bounced Lewis in last spring’s party primary. “As you can see, the people in my district expect you to be a good Democrat,” Veasey says, concluding his timeline. He intends to do just that. His legislative agenda includes trying to foster more economic development in his district, which includes some of 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .1/21/05