Frisco businesswoman Veronica Birkenstock looks to use her lobbying experience in Washington to take on U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Pilot Point for Congressional District 26.
Birkenstock, a former fundraiser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, owns Practical Employee Solutions, a Frisco-based staffing agency that helps employ domestic workers and qualified foreign laborers. Birkenstock also served on Trump’s transition team when he was first elected in 2016.
She hopes her management skills, coupled with her previous experience working to modify immigration and employment legislation at the U.S. Capitol, will be enough to beat Burgess in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Meanwhile, Burgess, a doctor who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, said he isn’t slowing down since he was first elected in 2002 to represent District 26, which covers much of Denton County and a portion of Tarrant County.
He touts his influence in Congress as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He also serves on the Rules Committee.
While Burgess’ strengths have been tied to health care, he’s also focusing on infrastructure growth as one of the primary issues of 2018.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will take on the winner of the Democratic primary between Will Fisher of Flower Mound or Linsey Fagan of Keller in the Nov. 6 general election.
Michael C. Burgess, who is running to keep his seat as U.S. Representative, District 26.
Born in: Rochester, Minnesota
Education: Undergraduate and master’s degree from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas); master’s degree in medical management from the University of Texas at Dallas; Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
Experience: Intern, medical resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, 1977-1981; medical doctor specializing in OB/GYN, 1981-2003; U.S. representative for Congressional District 26, 2003-present.
Current gun laws have people stirring in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. What are some fundamental changes that you think could help prevent guns from ending up in the wrong hands? Or, do you think gun laws should be unchanged?
Well, I have spent some time looking at what I call notorious crimes and there is no single answer that can be universally applied. This most recent one that had a sequence of failures is so profound and affects every level of government — federal government, local government, state agencies that visited this kid I don’t know how many times, welfare checks that were requested of the county sheriff I don’t know how many times.
I mean, this was one where the entire system was blinking red and no one responded. I honestly don’t know how to construct public policy that is going to prevent that if you’re going to miss every opportunity to correct it along the way. I just honestly don’t know how you do that.
Congressional Republicans have been eyeing infrastructure reform as one of the first things to tackle in 2018. The way the GOP has characterized it, a bill wouldn’t focus on the physical building process as much as halt regulations that make it difficult to build. As a longtime incumbent in a district with considerable infrastructure growth, where do you stand on an infrastructure plan?
I will admit there is some wariness on my part. When I hear [Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao] talk about the infrastructure needs — rebuilding urban infrastructure and rural infrastructure — I say don’t forget about us who are in between because we’re in a transitional area. Everything that was cotton fields and peanut fields when I was a kid is now housing developments. So that is part of my focus, too. It’s that those of us who are on the periphery of the urban areas — sort of existing in that never-never land between urban and rural — that we don’t get forgotten because our needs are actually pretty substantial.
Republicans and Democrats had been trying to work out a deal on immigration that would give so-called “Dreamers” a path to citizenship while funding multimillion-dollar border security measures. What kind of compromises would you be willing to make across the aisle on immigration?
Right now, the United States takes in 1.1 million people a year legally — more than every other country on the face of the earth combined. So I’m willing to have the discussion as to what that number should be if people don’t think it is high enough. But I also understand the president when he says, ‘You know, if we’re going to increase the numbers, let’s make sure we’re doing it with bringing skills in that the country actually requires,’ so I get that, too. …
If you’re asking me if I would support giving [immigrants] some additional pathway to citizenship that other people are denied, I don’t think so. I think everyone presents their credentials and is treated equally. I think that’s a better way to approach it.
Veronica Birkenstock, GOP candidate for Texas Congressional District 26
Born in: Mullins, South Carolina
Education: Undergraduate degree in literature from University of South Carolina; master’s degree in human resources and development from Webster University in Missouri.
Experience: Human resource director for two hotel corporations, 1985-96; owner of Practical Employee Solutions, 1996-present.
Current gun laws have people stirring in the wake of Parkland shooting. What are some fundamental changes to existing gun laws that you think could help prevent guns from ending up in the wrong hands? Or, do you think fun laws should be unchanged?
I think we need to strengthen the background checks. I think 36 states report less than 8 percent of felony convictions. We need to hold law enforcement accountable. … I think that was the biggest disappointment through [the Parkland shooting], that there were so many missed opportunities at all levels.
I am a lifetime member of the NRA (National Rifle Association), so I do support responsible gun ownership. I do believe it shouldn’t be infringed upon, but … these states need to get better at reporting criminal convictions. Whatever database we’re using, it needs to work.
Congressional Republicans have been eyeing infrastructure reform as one of the first things to tackle in 2018. The way the GOP has characterized it, a bill wouldn’t focus on the physical building process as much as halt regulations that make it difficult to build. As a candidate in a district with considerable infrastructure growth, where do you stand on an infrastructure plan?
I’m obviously for the free market to be able to invest and to move forward. It shouldn’t take 20 years to get EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approval, but the problem is it takes so long. …
For investors, when they’ve got money invested in a project, they want to get it done. I understand there has to be common sense around any development, but you can’t have barriers that discourage private enterprise. …
One of the things that’s also disappointing to me, if you look at the tollway in North Dallas near the Frisco area, Denton County was not aggressive in getting off-ramps off the tollway. Most of the off-ramps are in Collin County. We should be more aggressive going forward making sure the off-ramps are coming into Denton County.
Republicans and Democrats had been trying to work out an immigration deal that would give so-called “Dreamers” a path to citizenship while funding multimillion-dollar border security measures. What kind of compromises would you be willing to make across the aisle on immigration?
I’m not opposed to finding a legal way for them to work and for them to stay. The H-2B platform is a tried and proven program you can use to solve that issue, but I am totally opposed to any path to citizenship for anyone who has broken the law. …
People have not been held accountable for hiring illegals. What I do is facilitate a [legal] process for employees, and by the way District 26 is the second largest user of the H-2B visa. It shows that employers in this district are hiring the legal way. …
But you have an illegal immigration problem in the country where we have allowed illegals to work here and the employers who have hired them are not being held accountable.
JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Veronica Birkenstock’s company, Practical Employee Solutions, employs foreign workers. Her business helps employ both domestic workers and qualified foreign laborers.