By Jaci Schneider, Copy Editor
Dr. Mel Hailey, chair of the Political Science Department, will run with the chance to keep a 29-year ACU political tradition alive.
Hailey, a Democrat, will campaign to fill the vacancy of Texas District 71 representative, which will be left by Republican Rep. Bob Hunter.
“I’m running to fill some awfully big shoes,” Hailey said in his announcement speech Thursday in downtown Abilene.
Hunter served as state representative for nearly 20 years and is vice president emeritus of the university.
Hailey’s campaign is a departmental affair, with Dr. David Dillman, professor of political science, serving as his campaign manager. Dr. Neal Coates, professor of political science, is acting as Hailey’s assistant treasurer. Dr. Thomas Kim, president of McMurry University, is his treasurer.
Dr. Gary Thompson, who served as representative for four terms before Hunter and is a former Political Science chair, introduced Hailey. Thompson, a Republican, said he would not cross partisan lines to support many people, but Hailey is one of those people.
“Mel Hailey, I believe, is fully prepared in every way, in terms of knowledge of government, temperament, character and integrity, to assume the responsibilities of representing the greatest people in Texas,” Thompson said.
In Hailey’s speech, he addressed the issues on which he will base his campaign.
“I am running because our children deserve better,” Hailey said. “The last legislative session was dominated by one thing – education … and nothing was done.”
Hailey also touched on the state budget; he said he does not want to be part of a budget process that begins by cutting human services.
He also said the government can be used for good.
“Government is not the answer to every problem,” Hailey said. “But it can be a partner in solving problems and enhancing our common life together without becoming our nanny.”
Hailey emphasized he is “running to win,” even though he is a Democrat running in a typically conservative district.
“We’re a conservative area out here, and Bob Hunter has served us well,” Hailey said. “This is a district where people vote conservative, but a district where people are individual thinkers.”
Dillman said Hailey’s values are traditional.
“He’s a traditional West Texas Democrat,” Dillman said. “He brings to the table a lot of leadership ability.”
Hailey is the only Democrat who has announced plans to run for the position. ACU alumnus Kevin Christian, class of 2000, announced last month he is running as a Republican for the same race.
Dillman said having two university-related candidates shows the interest that former students and faculty have in the political process.
“It indicated the diversity among ACU folks,” Dillman said. “What will emerge is a healthy debate on the issues from people who have the same religious backgrounds.”
If Hailey is elected, he will serve 140 days every other year in Austin. He said he has already spoken with university administrators to approve his absence if needed.