After overcoming a tough challenger in the 2020 Republican primary, U.S. Rep Kay Granger is seeking re-election to her District 12 seat for the 14th time.
This year, Granger will face two Republicans in the March 1 primary, political newcomers Ryan Catala and Alysia Rieg. Her opponent in the general election is already set: Trey Hunt is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Granger defeated Lisa Welch, the 2020 Democratic nominee, by more than 100,000 votes.
The Fort Worth Report interviewed candidates to learn more about their goals if they win the primary and are elected to represent District 12, which includes parts of Tarrant and Parker counties.
Ryan Catala’s motivation to run against Granger in the Republican primary came from his opposition to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for large businesses. The administration later revoked the rule following a Supreme Court decision to block the mandate in January.
“I thought there were certain actions that Congress could take to limit the extent of what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was capable of that could provide some safety for people’s medical freedom,” Catala, 36, said.
Since moving to Fort Worth in 2015, Catala said he has been rooted in community service thanks to his role as a public educator. He now serves as principal of Fort Worth ISD’s Riverside Middle School.
The school’s attendance zone lies outside the boundaries of District 12, eliminating a conflict of interest, Catala said. His boss is aware of his candidacy with the understanding that the campaign and Catala’s job are separate, Catala added.
Catala’s campaign platform features a number of “single issue bills,” including ideas for attracting top teachers to low-performing schools and reducing homelessness. He has also committed to running a campaign for less than $5,000 to “eliminate conflicts of interests that come from fundraising.”
Early voting starts on Monday, Feb. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, March 1. To find more information about polling places and voting by mail, visit Tarrant County’s elections website.
Younger voters have become disengaged from politics in part because representatives like Granger have not been responsive enough to their constituents, he said.
“I have reached out to Kay Granger multiple times and got no response,” Catala said. “You’re going to get a response from me because it’s 2022 and there’s no excuse for not being accessible. People are entitled to that from their representative in government.”
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, 79, remains one of Tarrant County’s most prominent figures due to her long history in public office. She was elected Fort Worth’s first woman mayor in 1991, and became the first Republican woman to represent Texas in the U.S. House in 1997.
Granger, a former teacher and business owner, is one of two women in the Texas Republican delegation 24 years later. She has risen to become one of the most powerful women in Congress, according to TCU political science professor James Riddlesperger.
As minority leader of the House Appropriations Committee, Granger is poised to become chair if Republicans perform well in the midterm elections this year and retake the majority, Riddlesperger said. The committee is crucial due to its role in approving funding for budgets and projects across the federal government.
Her campaign platform centers around balancing the federal budget and lowering tax rates, pointing to her work with then President Donald Trump to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.
Granger also recently celebrated the allocation of $403 million in federal funds to the Panther Island/Central City flood control project – an infrastructure investment that Granger championed for more than a decade. Granger voted against the $1 trillion infrastructure law that sent billions of dollars toward federal infrastructure projects.
“Since my time as mayor, I’ve fought for the needs of the city,” Granger said in January. “I never gave up hope on the merits of the project.”
A Granger spokeswoman did not respond to multiple interview requests.
Alysia Rieg, 48, has held many different titles in her life: author, mother, substitute teacher, personal trainer, emergency medical technician. Now she’s hoping to add “congresswoman” to the list.
She moved to Fort Worth in early 2021, though Rieg said her family has roots in North Texas, especially Grand Prairie. In October, she felt called by God to run for the Republican nomination.
“I don’t like politics, I’m not a politician,” Rieg said. “I don’t even watch the news. I have no resources, no connections, nothing. This was definitely not my idea, so it must be a God thing.”
Rieg is a member of Mercy Culture Church, a Fort Worth congregation established in 2019 that has become increasingly active in local politics. Steve Penate, a church elder and founding pastor, ran for Fort Worth mayor in 2021. Another church leader, Nate Schatzline, is running to represent District 93 in the Texas House of Representatives.
The political involvement of other church members had little to do with Rieg’s decision to run for Congress, she said. Her central issues involve fighting human trafficking, making the adoption process easier for families and improving access to mental health resources.
While her campaign has raised less than $500 in contributions, Rieg said God is raising an “army” of followers to fight corruption in Washington and save the country. When she wins, it will be a “miracle of God,” she added.
“I’m going to Congress with my word, my character and my name, and that’s all I have,” Rieg said. “And I plan on leaving Congress with all three intact, if not better.”
As the lone Democrat challenging Granger in November, Trey Hunt, 27, believes Tarrant County is ready for a change in congressional leadership. He was inspired to run after working for Lisa Welch, the Democrat who lost to Granger in 2020.
“I provide a very unique experience in that I was born and raised in this district,” Hunt said. “I’m a more accurate representation of the ideology that the district now has.”
Hunt has also spent his higher education career in the Fort Worth area, earning a psychology degree from Texas Wesleyan University in 2017 and graduating from Texas Christian University with a master’s degree in criminal justice in 2019. He is in the process of earning a second master’s degree from the University of North Texas, this time in sociology.
He now works as a homeless outreach specialist for My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, which offers social services assistance and mental health care. While unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunt founded a nonprofit focused on alleviating food insecurity.
If elected, Hunt said he would prioritize increasing access to reliable transportation because of its role in helping people improve their economic status. While Granger has won handily in her previous re-election campaigns, Hunt said it’s possible for a Democrat to prevail in District 12.
“Most people don’t know who their representative is, and if they do know, they don’t think it’s a winnable race,” Hunt said. “I don’t think that’s true. I see potential here, that’s why I volunteered for Dr. Welch. We have policies that are popular on both sides of the aisle.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.