After nearly six years in the Texas House of Representatives, Fredericksburg Rep. Kyle Biedermann on Wednesday announced he would not seek a fourth term representing District 73.
His statement, posted on his Facebook page just after 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, hinted at another run for public office closer to home. Meanwhile, former New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel announced he’ll seek the GOP nod in District 73, with social worker Justin Calhoun saying he’ll seek the Democratic nomination.
Biedermann’s decision was a reversal from earlier this month, when the first map redistricting Texas House seats split District 73, which encompasses Comal, Gillespie and Kendall counties in the eastern portion of the Hill Country, leaving out the latter two counties and adding the rural portion of Hays County.
“One of the reasons Barbi and I purchased a home in New Braunfels (during) our first year in office was because Comal County has always been so central to this district,” he said Oct. 1.
“It’s good to see that the newly released suggested maps for District 73 would make our district more conservative than already exists.”
The final redistricting map approved last week and awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature, solidified GOP strength in the House and eased reelection paths for most incumbents. Not so for Biedermann, 62, who owns the ACE hardware store in Fredericksburg.
He’s now in District 19, where he hinted at the possibility of facing incumbent Rep. Terry Wilson, R-Marble Falls, or perhaps another county or state office in the March 1, 2022 GOP primary. Biedermann did not return emails and phone messages Wednesday afternoon.
“We wish Rep. Kyle Biedermann the best in his future endeavors,” said Sue Piner, Comal County GOP chair. “His work as a member of the Freedom Caucus highlighted our mutual concern to pass conservative legislation in the Texas House.
“We appreciate (his) efforts to preserve and protect our historical monuments in Texas, including our much-loved Alamo, and to safeguard our beautiful Hill Country in the battle to stop another quarry in Comal County.”
Four possible successors in wide-open race
Piner said Carrie Issac of Dripping Springs, whose husband Jason came in third in the GOP race to succeed outgoing U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith in 2018, confided she would seek the District 73 seat when the month-long primary filing period opens Nov. 13. On Sept. 3, former New Braunfels City Council Member George Green announced he’d challenge Biedermann for the GOP nomination.
“I will miss him,” Green said of Biedermann’s departure in an email on Wednesday.
Casteel served two terms as New Braunfels mayor from 2014-20, guiding the city through implementations of 2013 bond measures, passage of the city’s 2019 bond, and through the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he discussed his candidacy with wife Michele and sons Hudson and Jace, then with Biedermann himself late last week.
“I knew there was a possibility he wasn’t going to run,” he said. “I intended to announce after making the decision last Thursday but I wanted to give the special session time to end and allow him to make his comments on not running.
“I told him I appreciated that he loves his community in Fredericksburg and wants to stay there, every bit as much as I love Comal County. I wasn’t looking for an endorsement but only friendly advice on issues that are important.
“I want to be the voice in Austin for the local conservative values we have here. It’s a unique opportunity because our state is known nationwide for low taxes, personal freedom and strong conservative ideals — and that’s what I’m going to do if given the chance.”
Calhoun, a 32-year-old U.S. Army veteran and now a social worker, had planned to announce for the D73 Democratic nomination this weekend. Calhoun, who grew up in Marion and now lives in New Braunfels, said he’s “in it to win it,” and has dedicated himself full time to his campaign.
“Representatives are elected to represent all of their constituents, not just the ones they agree with or the ones that voted or donated to them,” he said, adding he has seen the Texas Legislature pass bills he believe do little for people other than restrict personal freedoms. “Someone needs to stand up for all constituents — not just the small few who scream the loudest.”
Calhoun said he embraces challenges posed by the new-look District 73.
“This redistricting has brought together our brothers and sisters in Hays and Comal counties in a way that I think will make for a much stronger bond between our communities,” he said. “I wish representative Biedermann luck as he continues his journey but I think the people of this district have a different vision.
“From New Braunfels to Dripping Springs, we have a voice and that voice deserves to be heard clearly. I can’t wait to get to work addressing the concerns and representing the will of the amazing people of the new District 73.”
Piner said the three Republican candidates make for an intriguing race.
“I think it will be a lively race, and I think we’re going to get a good candidate out of it,” she said.
Biedermann won the District 73 seat in 2016, defeating three-term New Braunfels incumbent Doug Miller in the GOP primary and captured the seat without Democratic opposition in the November general election.
Known for his staunch, unwavering conservatism and support for border protection, anti-abortion, property tax reform and pro-business legislation, Biedermann easily won reelection bids against Canyon Lake Democrat Stephanie Phillips in 2018 and 2020.
Biedermann, however, drew criticism from both parties after authoring legislation calling for the secession of Texas from the Union. He filed the Texas Independence Referendum Act, or House Bill 1359, which would have allowed a state referendum on secession but failed to meet a House vote.
In January, just before the 86th Texas Legislature met in Austin, a video showed Biedermann near the U.S. Capitol before rioters breached the building on Jan. 6. He told the Herald-Zeitung he was among the thousands who rallied that day in support of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.
“On Jan. 6, I, along with thousands of Americans, peacefully marched on our nation’s Capitol to make our voices heard,” he said in an email in mid January. “It was unfortunate that some used this gathering to sow discord and promote violence.”
While no videos or photos surfaced that showed Biedermann inside the Capitol or participating in illegal activities, he avoided directly answering Herald-Zeitung queries about where he was and what was doing as the violence unfolded.
“That’s old news — why don’t you ask about the legislature?” he said. “That’s a shame — you guys are a shame … if you want to know about old news, then just go to the TV where you can watch all the old stuff you want. It’s just unfortunate — it’s old news.”
Biedermann recently submitted a column for the Herald-Zeitung that praised fellow House and Senate members for passing “strong pro-life and pro-family legislation while increasing funding to secure the border,” and Senate Bill 1, which he said strengthened election integrity laws throughout the state.
“These are the priorities District 73 sent me to accomplish in the State House, and I was proud to co-author this legislation to keep Texas strong. Though not perfect, we are moving in the right direction.”
Biedermann thanked his constituents for their support through the years.
“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people and interests of District 73 for almost six years,” he added in the statement. “Barbi and I will always love and cherish the experiences we have had along the way. Thank you to the people I have represented for the chance to serve and the opportunity to make Texas stronger than we found it.”