Editor’s Note: The Interview took place via Zoom on 3/15/22. Patrick is a Republican candidate for Texas House District 52. He is in a runoff with Caroline Harris. Check out Patrick’s website at patmcguinness.org.
Garrit: Can you introduce yourself?
Patrick: Yeah, I’m Patrick McGuinness. I’m a high-tech engineer, father of four, and lifelong conservative. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born in Texas–I’m a Texan by choice. I grew up in New Jersey. I got a BS in electrical engineering and a Master’s in computer science from Johns Hopkins University. I worked for a few years and then got a doctorate in computer science from the University of Illinois. I met my wife there, and, in 1991, I got married to my lovely wife Celeste. I then got a job offer from Motorola to come to Austin. So, I’ve been in Central Texas for the last 30 years. For about 20 years, I was working at Motorola and Freescale in the semiconductor industry. My degree in computer science led to a career in software engineering. So, I was a developer project team manager for one period of time. In 2011, I got out of Freescale and started working in different startups; I pivoted my career over to internet software and got into machine learning as well. So, I worked as a CTO for one startup engine. I was the VP of Engineering for another startup–Cerebri AI. In 2019, I decided to go back to the big corporate world and got hired by Dell. I’ve been working as a machine learning engineer at Dell for the past three years. As I said, we have four kids; my wife and I are very proud of them. I say the best part of the campaign is bragging about my kids. We had the three eldest go through Westwood High School in the Round Rock Schools, and two went on to be Texas A&M grads. So, one is in graduate school now, and the other is working in Austin–he just graduated in December (that’s Jack). The third, Peter, is a freshman at Baylor. He’s taking computer science. My youngest (Mark) is a ninth-grader, and he goes to Gateway College Prep. I’m a lifelong conservative, and this goes back to when I was a College Republican in the Reagan era. I listened to Bill Buckley and Milton Friedman back in the day. I saw the success of Reagan versus the Jimmy Carter era. There are some shades of repetition in history, and it feels like we’re reliving some of the 70s under Biden with inflation and what’s going on with the weakness abroad. I developed my conservative philosophy early on in life, and I’ve continued to be a consistent conservative throughout my whole life. I’ve also been helping Republicans over the years. Back 30 years ago, when we moved to Texas, I started getting involved in clubs, helping, volunteering, and donating to Republican candidates. I became a precinct chair. I helped candidates from the school board all the way up to helping Ted Cruz in 2016 when he ran for president. I’ve also been the founder and president of the North Austin Republican club. One of the remarkable things I did when I was a Westwood dad, back in 2017, was blocking an effort by the Round Rock School District to pass a bond. A friend alerted me to the bond, we went to the Westwood High School presentation on the bond, and I found out they were lying about the bond. Believe it or not, they thought a $570 million bond would cost the average homeowner just a cup of coffee a month. They were literally trying to sell that. It was very dishonest. So, we founded Round Rock Parents and Taxpayers and we fought that bond. I led and built a coalition to fight that and we defeated it. My wife and I bought a home here in Georgetown a couple of years ago–we escaped from the People’s Republic of Austin–and we attend St. Helen Catholic Church. Being someone who’s active and looking at where we are, I decided to step up. I felt like there was more that could be done to defend conservative values and advance some of our principles in the Texas House.
Garrit: With not being originally from Texas, what do you think are some of the things that make Texas so great?
Patrick: That’s a great question! I think the first thing is the spirit of independence. Ted Cruz says, “Texas is America on steroids.” It’s the best state in the best country on Earth. I think all the things that make America great are the things that are really emphasized in Texas. I do like the fact that our original charter as a nation was one of limited government. It’s great to be in a state that does not have a state income tax. I have fled other states that have a state income tax. I do think that that spirit of 1836, on top of the spirit of 1776, is something that really makes Texas unique. When we go to these Republican clubs, we pledge allegiance to the flag and then we pledge allegiance to Texas–”one state under God, one and indivisible.” You don’t see that in other states. We are the one state that has been its own nation. When I talk to some of the folks in the district, I’ve been asked questions about the 10th amendment. There are a lot of things where we, as Texans, need to stand up for Texas. Understand that, if we were our own country, we’d be a country with as much economic power as Russia–that’s pretty significant. We believe in limited government, and we believe government’s best when it’s closest to the people. I think standing up for the 10th Amendment, standing up for Texas, and being Texas is something we should all embrace because it is a great state.
Garrit: Back in 2010, you ran for the Texas State House and lost. What are some things that you learned from that experience that has helped you now in this race?
Patrick: As I mentioned, I’ve been very active and doing all sorts of different things to help other people get elected. Back in 2009, I was part of the Travis County candidate recruitment committee. We were looking around to have candidates, and, in that particular race, I pulled a Dick Cheney. I was looking to find a good candidate to run for that state House race, and, basically, I was in that district and I stepped forward and did it. I dedicated myself to doing it even though I knew it was a very uphill battle–the Democratic incumbent had beaten the prior candidate with over 60% of the vote. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew 2010 would be a very good year. I was very motivated–just like I am now. When you see the Democrats in the White House advancing dangerous things and taking our country in a direction you don’t want it to go, it motivates you very much to step up and do something. We saw people very energized back then–it was the Tea Party era–and I feel that people are getting energized this cycle as well. This will be a very good cycle for Republicans. I think the lesson I learned from that is we put everything on the field, we worked as hard as we could, and then we’ll let the voters make the decision. We did close the gap significantly. I didn’t win, but I did learn that hard work does pay off both in that and a lot of the other efforts that I’ve had over the years. I think the other lesson is that we do see this cycle where the Democrats get into power and they actually advance what they want to do. What they want to do is dangerous and bad for this country. So, people get riled up, they want to push back, and then we get our folks in. I think the lesson, though, is once the Republicans get in, then what? What are we actually going to do? Are we going to live up to our promises? Are we going to make sure we fix those problems? And are we going to make sure that we have a good governing result from Republicans gaining office and winning elections? It’s very important that we get in there, we do the hard work, and we actually deliver on our promises.
Garrit: Moving on to the runoff. You’re in the runoff with Caroline Harris. What is your pitch as to why the voters of House District 52 should vote for you over Caroline Harris?
Patrick: So, we did have four people in the primary–it was a busy primary. We were the third candidate in the race in terms of when we entered, but we came in first in terms of the number of votes. So, we’ve been endorsed by the voters. I’ve since been endorsed by one of the other candidates–Jonathan Schober. I’ve also had a number of other endorsements: Young Conservatives of Texas, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and Texas Eagle Forum PAC. I’ve also gotten the endorsement of several local leaders: conservative school board members Dr. Mary Bone and Daniel Weston, as well as Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. We’ve presented a very strong message about who I am and what we want to do. I’m a proven, principled, problem-solving conservative leader. That was our pitch, and it’s still the pitch. When I say proven, I’m talking about the years I’ve spent doing many things for the Republican Party: running for office, a precinct chair, Vice-Chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and Founder and President of the North Austin Republican Club. I’ve been motivated my whole life by those conservative principles: making sure that we keep Texas as a beacon of limited government, individual responsibility, and freedom. We have folks who get into power and it becomes more about a career. For me, it’s a cause. Problem-solving is the other element. I’ve got a long career in the private sector. So, I don’t need politics as my career. I’ve had a very successful career being an engineer working in high technology, leading with vision, and solving difficult problems. I believe I can get in there and tackle some of these big problems that we face. That includes empowering parents in education, getting back to excellence in education, and having the schools focus on their core educational mission. It’s also about addressing the problem of property taxes. We have folks in the district who are facing huge property tax bills on homes that are over $10,000. That’s unacceptable, and we can do better. I also want to make sure that we Texans step up to secure the border and do the job the federal government’s not doing. I want to fight Biden’s mandates–like his vaccine mandates–and agenda that are going after the oil and gas industry. We need to stand up and keep Texas, Texas.
Garrit: For your efforts to fight against that bond election, you received the Texas Conservative Leader Award. With that, can the voters expect you to be a conservative leader once you get to the House?
Patrick: Yes. As I said, it’s very important for us to not just win elections but to do something with that. So, one of the things that have motivated me to run is seeing the areas where the Texas House has not fully stepped up. I did win that Texas Conservative Leader Award because I defeated that bond. When you step up and do things, you obviously create friends but you also create enemies. I wasn’t necessarily liked by some of the folks who wanted that bond passed. At the same time, I stood up for the parents and the taxpayers. In the end, it was the right thing. That bond failed ultimately because it deserved to fail–it had a lot of flaws. The school district then went back, revamped things, lowered the tax rate–even though they said that wasn’t going to happen–and had a revised bond that they proposed. When we think about what’s going on today, there have been a lot of great conservative bills passed in the past session. Those are things I would have voted for. The current incumbent in the Texas House District 52–the Liberal Democrat James Talarico–voted against the Heartbeat Bill, constitutional carry, and the election integrity bill. There’s still more left to do. The election integrity bill, for example, reduced from a felony down to a misdemeanor for vote fraud actions. Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying has been a real RPT (Republican Party of Texas) priority for session after session. Session after session we’ve seen the Texas House fail to pass that. That’s one of the first bills I want to sponsor, co-author, and make sure we get passed and signed by the Governor. So, I definitely want to lead and make sure that we get those things done.
Garrit: If you could pick one member of the Texas House that most aligns with you politically, who would you pick?
Patrick: You know, there are several that are out there. I look at someone like Matt Schaefer. There are a few others out there that I’ve been pleased with. There have been some great state representatives like James White and some others, but I think Matt Schaefer is someone I think I would align with. One of my partners here in Williamson County is Terry Wilson. He’s someone I hope to be working closely with as well–both on Williamson County issues as well as on the Texas issues.
Garrit: As you have block-walked around your district, what have you found to be some of the common top priorities for your district?
Patrick: When I talk to voters, I find there are three or four things that have cropped up. One has been a lot of concern about securing the border. People have seen a lot of the bad things the Biden administration has done. They’ve been a disaster on many levels, but one of the worst things they’ve done is how they’ve both neglected the border and engaged in this active neglect of disallowing the Border Patrol from doing their job. Texans have borne the brunt of that. We’re seeing problems here in Williamson County in terms of the drugs coming in. We’ve got the cartels controlling parts of the border. We’ve seen a response from the Texas Legislature and the Governor, but it’s still not there. We’ve had 2 million people cross the border since Biden was inaugurated. They have allowed most of those to stay in this country. We have not had any real border security at all. Enough is enough. So, there’s a lot of frustration among the voters about that issue. I would say the response to that is we’ve got to have Texas step up and do what the federal government won’t do. I think the other issue that I’ve seen is property taxes. People are paying much higher property taxes than they should. We have had the boon of housing valuations in Williamson County. Central Texas has seen prices go up. It’s great if you’re trying to sell your home. You can sell your home and you get more money, but we are getting people priced out of their own homes. As their valuations go up, their property tax bill is going up. They’re not getting a reduction in the property tax rate that’s commensurated with that increase in value. So, there’s a lot of concern and a lot of desire to do something to fix the property tax situation. I would also say that we’ve had parents and others concerned about what’s going on in our schools. So, we’ve had situations where inappropriate materials are in the Leander School District. In some other school districts, we’ve had parents show up in school board meetings to protest this and to try to get it corrected. We have a situation in the Round Rock School District where they’ve had this superintendent under investigation for some of the actions he took. We’ve got other issues with respect to concerns about what’s going on in the schools. We’ve had a lot of learning losses due to COVID. We’ve had school districts that had controversies over masks and other things. At the end of the day, the job of the schools is to help educate our children, and we’re seeing test results that are really pathetic. So, we have a lot of concerns about the schools from parents as well. The last issue that I’ll mention is that I’ve talked to a number of people who are concerned with the Biden administration trying to mandate that people either take vaccines or they lose their job. I have talked to a number of people who either were in the process of losing their job or simply just quit because they didn’t agree with what they were being mandated to do. I’ve said that our constitution is our vaccine passport. We should keep it that way.
Garrit: There are some in the Party that has advocated for the total abolishment of property taxes. Do you think that’s a wise course of action regarding property taxes? If not, how do you suppose we lower property taxes?
Patrick: I think we’ve got to start from the perspective that our taxes are based on our spending. Whether we talk about trying to reduce or eliminate, I’m in the camp of doing a practical thing to reduce our property taxes. The root issue is the spending. All taxation is derived from the desire to pay for the spending that we’re doing. So, if we want to have tax relief, we’re going to have to control spending. We need to view every spending bill for what it is–a tax bill. If we want to get tax relief, we need to have spending control. I want us to cap state spending. I want to keep spending at the level of population plus inflation and keep it at that level. If we do that, we will have a Texas revenue surplus which we can then dedicate towards property tax relief. If we don’t do that, we won’t have the means to help affect any kind of tax relief. Now, there are some who do propose shifting over to the consumption tax, but I go back to the point of spending. If you still spend more money, you’re just going to end up with more taxation. I do think there’s a practical limit in terms of what we can do on property tax with respect to local governments and the services they provide– local fire and police. There are certain counties and towns that don’t have the sales tax base to support those services. So, for that reason, I want to focus on making sure we try to reduce and hopefully eliminate the school district part of our property tax–which is more than half the tax bill for many Texas taxpayers. I think if we focus on that, we can significantly reduce the burden of property tax on Texans.
Garrit: Moving on to the issue of education. What do you think is the extent of indoctrination going on in our public schools in Texas?
Patrick: It’s interesting because Texas did enact a “CRT ban” that bans some of the most egregious activities, but it’s one without real enforcement. Progressives or those in the education lobby will tell you that they are not teaching CRT in the schools. What we do see is that there are different labels on things, and if you look inside the box, you’ll see some of those critical race theory concepts. Where do these things come from? It comes from higher education. You see a lot of these concepts–where we basically define one race as oppressor and another race as victims–infused into the curriculum. There’s an example recently where a San Antonio elementary school had an exercise where they decided to literally divide fifth-graders into different groups. One group was treated as the oppressed, and one group was treated as the privileged. It was a form of psychological trauma. They divided the kids by their hair color and decided to take away elements of a game from one kid and try to teach them what it’s like to live under this–in effect, treating them in a very traumatic way. That’s not real education. We’ve seen where DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) officers are now in school districts trying to incorporate various elements of this ideological perspective into teacher training and the classroom. We’ve had teacher training for Leander ISD where teachers were told that both Western science and the Christian church were elements of “white supremacy.” There are teachers that go through these sessions and they’re being told they need to call out their “white privilege.” So, the idea that we don’t have CRT in the classroom–because there’s not a label on it–is a bit dishonest. We do have social and emotional learning that’s being introduced under the guise of “trying to help with respect to the mental health or the well being of kids.” But what happens is you have folks with a certain ideological perspective who are writing this curriculum and infusing their ideology into the curriculum. We’ve seen examples where a social and emotional learning unit is telling kids in elementary school to focus on their racial identity and bring that to the fore. This obsession over racial identity–or other kinds of identities–is in effect training children to think in the way that those who are the promoters of CRT want to. Critical Race Theory has been used as a framework for some of recent works. The term anti-racism is one of those terms used by these promoters. You’ll find that there’s this book Anti-Racism for Kids that’s on the bookshelves of some of these schools. Most of us who grew up in prior generations were taught–since the time of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Era–that the right way to approach this is equal opportunity. We need to be a land of equal opportunity where each and every one of us is deserving of that equal opportunity to pursue our happiness and enjoy the prosperity of this land. We need to get back to that mindset because the CRT/anti-racism mindset has basically said that that’s not good enough. If you express what Martin Luther King Jr. said about judging people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, that’s actually enabling “white supremacy culture.” That is very bizarre, toxic, and divisive. The whole point of what Martin Luther King Jr. was doing back in the 1960s was he was challenging America to live up to its best ideals. I would say we have achieved that, but what we have now is a different perspective that’s basically saying that “no, we haven’t lived up to our ideals and, by the way, even that ideal is not the right ideal.” They argue that we actually have to start obsessing over race and go back to dividing people. I think this doesn’t take us forward; I think it takes us backward. It’s more subtle and pervasive than what could be handled with some kind of CRT ban. We’re gonna have to get back to looking at challenging the education system to focus on learning. We also have to challenge the education system to get back to more patriotic civics that understands these issues and that America is indeed a land where we aspire to liberty and justice for all.
Garrit: We’ve talked about CRT, education, border security, property taxes, and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying. These are all Republican Party Legislative Priorities. How confident are you that we’re going to be able to pass these priorities come this next session?
Patrick: Obviously, if I’m elected, I think we’ll have a greater chance of doing that. I would say that part of the reason why I’m confident is that we will have a very good cycle this year. I believe we’re going to have more Republicans–new Republicans–in the Texas House. I think when folks like myself get elected…we got elected by listening to the voters, talking to the voters, and desiring to carry what they want into the Texas House. So, I think there’s a good chance that we’ll be more responsive to a lot of these priorities and the needs that have been coming from the grassroots.
Garrit: Do you support giving Democrats chairmanships?
Patrick: I believe if we are a Republican majority, we should act like a Republican majority and not give too much power to the Democrats–including chairmanships of these major committees. We’ve had this tradition in the past where they have allowed Democrats to chair committees, but we also saw, this past session, that the Democrats fled to Washington, DC rather than work with Republicans and allow a vote on the election integrity bill. We chewed up an entire special session because of their actions and their antics. I’m running to replace James Talarico: he’s the one who ran off. I don’t see why we would want to reward a liberal Democrat, like James Tallarico, with more power than we need to–especially if we have a significant Republican majority. So, I think there might be a change. There are going to be a lot of new faces in the Texas House on the Republican side. A lot of new people are coming in to replace other state representatives, and I think a lot of those folks may start looking at the fact that we’re facing a Democrat Party that’s not our parents’ or grandparents’ Democrat Party. House Democrats fled and went to the arms of Nancy Pelosi–that’s the party that they are today. They are a left-wing party, they have a strong ideological bent, and they will not work with Republicans on certain issues. If we give them power, we’re basically preventing ourselves from passing some of the priorities that we would want to pass. So, I do think we’re going to have to be very focused on that. I’m encouraged that in our race, all the candidates in the race, we’re on the same page on this. We do not want Democrats chairing committees, and I think that we might need the Texas House to review this.
Garrit: Do you plan on supporting Dade Phelan for speaker?
Patrick: Well, I had thoughts on this whole question back in 2017. I was one of the folks who were very frustrated with what was going on with Speaker Straus at the time. I had advocated that we change up our process because what we saw was that Straus was relying on support from Democrats. I thought we needed to change our process and make sure that the Texas Republican Caucus picked our nominee for Speaker. So, I advocated for that, and members of the Texas Freedom Caucus in the legislature started advocating for that. Then, the GOP caucus put a committee together, and they finally did work something out. Lo and behold, Speaker Straus decided to retire at that time–which is a good thing. We’ve had different Speakers since, and I do want to make sure we continue to adhere to that process. I do want our Texas Republican majority to act like a Texas Republican majority. I want to see us respect that process where we vote for the Speaker in the caucus. I’ll support whoever that nominee is.
Garrit: Do you have anything else you’d like to say as we conclude the interview?
Patrick: Well, I want to thank you for your time, and I do want to express appreciation to you Garrit. I want to summarize…we’ve talked about a lot of different issues. When I go around and talk about myself, I’m a proven, principled, problem-solving conservative leader is how I present myself. I think it goes back to my experience. I’ve got a lot of private sector experience that I think I can bring to the table. We’ve talked a lot about some of the different conservative issues, but I think something that’s important about House District 52, in particular, is the influence of high technology in both the growth and where we’re going in this area. We have Samsung coming in with a $17 billion semiconductor plant in Taylor. That’s going to change that part of Williamson County significantly. It’s going to change a lot of what’s going on in Williamson County. It’s going to continue to add to the growth that we’ve already seen in terms of jobs and population. This is all driven by the fact that Texas is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Texas is a business-friendly place, and it’s a place where we have a lot of highly skilled folks in the technology sector. All of that is attracting a lot of technology, growth, jobs, and opportunities in Central Texas. So, I think my background in technology makes me a great representative for this district. In addition, I am a proven conservative who’s going to take our conservative values to the Texas House. So with that, I want to thank you for your time.