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Sutherland Springs Pastor Plans To Challenge Democrat For District 21 Senate Seat

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where a gunman killed more than two dozen people in 2017, announced Sunday that he planned to enter political life as a Republican in 2020.

Frank Pomeroy said after Sunday services that he would challenge Democratic State Sen. Judith Zaffirini for the District 21 seat. The district stretches south from Austin, east from San Antonio, southeast to Corpus Christi and southwest to Laredo. Zaffirini has represented the district since 1987.

Pomeroy said his full platform wasn't set yet. He explained he was running because he felt political conversations no longer contained civility and Godliness.

“I feel that much of these tragedies, we continually take it back to an ideology that’s not helping," he said. "And we need to get back to having real discourse instead of hot-button voting issues.”

Texas has seen three deadly mass shootings over the last two years: Sutherland Springs, Sante Fe High School outside Houston, and the El Paso Walmart shooting. He said he didn't believe the recent shootings were consequences of people owning guns. He believes mental health and a lack of morality were the driving factors in mass shootings.

“I don’t think firearms should be in the hands of people who are not mentally competent or capable to have those firearms," he explained. "That being said, I think we also need to empower our officers to actually be able to serve search warrants on criminals who have firearms.”

Pomeroy gave his announcement in the sanctuary of the church shortly after services concluded. Survivors of the shooting were present.

Pomeroy will be new to politics with this being his first run at office. He said he wanted to run under the Republican ticket because of its values in Texas.

“I believe the Republican Party at this point stands more firmly – at least in the state of Texas – upon my beliefs as far as integrity, morality and honesty.”

Pomeroy and his wife were not present at the November 2017 shooting, where their 14-year-old daughter and more than two dozen others were killed. Following the shooting, the town of about 600 people was under an international microscope as global press corps stationed near the church for days.

When asked how he felt about his candidacy potentially bringing back media attention, he said he wanted to keep the focus on his candidacy separate from the church.

“From day one after our tragedy, we presented that it’s not about us, it’s about looking out and up and to the community and to others and that’s my message as a candidate as others,” Pomeroy said.

Faith is front and center in Pomeroy’s life and it’s something he plans to keep with him throughout the campaign.

“Going in with my faith is very important to me, I don’t force feed it onto other people – I will share if asked – but I hope my example in my life will show integrity and civility and honesty and those are traits of my Christian faith.”

Senate District 21 has long been a Democratic stronghold. Zaffirini was elected in 1986 and took office during the 70th Texas Legislature in 1987. She is the second-longest serving member of the Texas Senate behind Houston Democrat John Whitmire.  During Zaffirni’s most recent election in 2016, she ran unopposed.  

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules