By Jessa McClure
As Brent Graves sat in a local coffee shop near his Stephenville home last spring talking with friends and neighbors about the decline of conservative values in the country, he began to believe that he had something to offer in this fight. As a self-confessed Constitutional Conservative and political arm chair quarterback, he has seen representatives come and go. But, in recent years, he’s seen a dangerous trend that candidates talk tough and conservative while in district, but become mush and begin to compromise on the very issues they campaigned on once they are surrounded by the pink granite of the Texas Capital.
Graves grew up on a wheat farm in Chillicothe, TX, and attended Texas Tech University where he majored in agricultural education. He spent his youth living the traditional Texas boy life, immersing himself in FFA, football, church youth activities and Saturday night cruising. “If you watch Hollywood movies about the lives of Texas high school boys from small towns, that was us. We had the kind of good clean fun that would require bail money these days,” Graves said.
FFA competitions and judging contests brought him to Stephenville many times during his high school years. “I have always loved the area. To me, this area has just the right amount of hills, trees and rivers.” His wife of 18 years, Ashley, serves as the Executive Director for Choices Life Resource Center and Clinic, the pro-life ministry in Stephenville. “When people meet my wife, they instantly know I am a great salesman. To this day I don’t know how I closed that deal.” Born and raised in Lubbock, Ashley’s first visit to Stephenville was all it took. “I was born a city girl with a country girl heart, and I fell in love with the Cowboy Capital of the World somewhere between Bruner’s and Pastafina. I knew this was going to be home for our family,” said Ashley.
After college Brent spent several years in the corporate world, until he eventually followed his childhood dream to become a professional auctioneer. He was crowned the Texas State Champion Auctioneer in 2004 and led the Texas Auctioneers Association as their president in 2012 and their Legislative Chairman from 2013 until his resignation in 2015 upon filing as a candidate for State Representative.
“Being down in Austin working on legislation as Legislative Chair, I saw that our district was not being represented in a manner that reflects our traditions and values,” he said.
After talking with friends and colleagues about the troubling trend, he was approached about running for political office.
“I took a look at it and I felt that somebody needed to go down there and represent our conservative values and not their own business or industry, or be swayed by lobbyists and special interest groups,” he said.
Although the father of two had a successful, fulfilling career as a land broker and world-ranked auctioneer, he felt like getting involved might just help return District 59, which encompasses Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell Counties, to the representation they deserve.
Graves chose the House of Representatives because he saw that as a weak point in conservative values and votes.
“If you look at a map of Texas and how we are represented by a House district, you’ll see some of our border counties are blue – Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston are blue, and so is District 59,” he said. “I don’t believe that our constituency leans to the left.”
In the upcoming election he hopes to return representation to the conservative side of the aisle and offer his friends, family and neighbors true leadership.
“We’re going to deal with life issues and liberty issues, and be fiscally responsible,” he said.
Graves wants to not only represent rural Texas communities’ values, but also help grow their economies. He believes that the success of these small towns isn’t just important to the people who live there, but to the country as a whole.
“When you think about classic Americana, you think of District 59,” he said. “You’ve got towns like Stephenville, Brady and Hamilton. These are towns that people just drive through and are in awe of. They say, this must be a relaxed place to live.”
While Graves believes that a slower paced life is part of what is appealing about the district he calls home, he knows these communities have much more to offer.
“We’ve got a labor force, values, cheaper land prices, and energy, railroads and highways that you need to produce and deliver a product,” he said. “But we also have that community feel. These rural communities reach out and people get involved.”
“I can see people walking down the street and I know who they are, I know where they go to church, and I know what they do and how they are an asset to the community,” he said. “This is important when you’re talking to corporations who are moving from a non-tax-friendly state or a non-industry-friendly state. They need to know who these key folks are and how they can be successful in this area.”
With the availability of technology in smaller communities and remote areas of the state, Graves said it isn’t necessary for businesses to settle in major metropolitan areas anymore.
“If [corporations] look at land prices, cost of living for employees, education, and happiness levels related to productivity and they’re going to see that Central Texas has something to offer.”
Showing those in government and big business the best of District 59 is part of Graves’ mission. “Who better to sell industry leaders on investing in our communities than a professional salesman?”
“We want to go down [to Austin] and be a cheerleader and a salesman for the rural communities in the district,” he said. “We want to bring jobs and industry to these communities. I believe we have a rich and storied history in rural Texas, but our future success is our responsibility.”
The House of Representatives candidate said he would like to increase highway access and pull transportation funding away from some of the larger cities.
“There are a couple of plans we have that would alleviate stress on 35 and bring folks through District 59,” he said. “Those people would buy gas, meals, and hotel rooms, and drive the local economy.”
Other than helping to promote these small communities and give them the representation they need, Graves has three other issues he is passionate about. He wants to seal the border, protect life from fertilization to natural death, and protect second amendment rights.
“Those things are very important to me, and those things are very important to my friends, my family, and my colleagues,” he said. “You are who you run around with. We all have those same values.”
Graves’ close-knit community has rallied around the candidate, and hopes to see him representing them in Austin. The only person who isn’t sure about Graves following his political aspirations is his mother.
“My mother doesn’t want me to get into politics, she’s always been overprotective of her favorite child,” he says laughingly.
Because Graves believes so strongly in representing his family, friends and neighbors, he has come up with a list of 10 vows that he will present to the people of District 59.
“If we break one of these, we want to be fired because we’re not doing what we said we were going to do,” Graves said. “I think every candidate should have to put that out there, and put it in writing.”
If he is fortunate enough to win, he plans to enlarge the list and hang it in his office so that his staff and everyone who comes in will be able to see what he’s there to do.
“Everything else is background chatter compared to the things we’re there to do,” he said.
Photography by Grace Macias