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Candy Noble, from Volunteer to Texas Legislature, Passing Bills with the Help of the 3Ts

Candy Noble wasn’t sure what to expect after she won her election in 2018 and headed to Austin as a state representative for the 89th district seat in eastern Collin County.
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Candy Noble wasn’t sure what to expect after she won her election in 2018 and headed to Austin as a state representative for the 89th district seat in eastern Collin County. A long time volunteer, Noble ran on a platform of low taxes, local community representation, and support for law enforcement. She beat her Democrat challenger, Ray Ash, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, and defeated him again in 2020 by a similar margin.

But she didn’t have much political experience. She was a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed volunteering. However, she did know what it meant to serve her community. She had spent most of her life serving others at church and school. As the volunteer over the food pantry closet at her church for 17 years, she had seen firsthand the struggles that people face and felt more than prepared to tackle those needs in Austin. “I like to say that I have a compassionate heart, which I do for those that are in need,” she said in a recent interview with Let’s Talk Texas. “But I also have a really attuned baloney meter as a result of that. And I tell you what, that comes in handy here in Austin.” 

Noble is one of only seven Republican female members in the Texas House, and when she arrived for 86th legislative session in early 2019, she quickly realized that the work and the back channels to pass legislation had just begun. Not only did she need to network as a freshman congressman, but she also had to learn the 3 T’s of the Texas House lifestyle — “Traffic,” “Takeout,” and “Territory” — if she wanted to pass any bills and achieve her constituents’ long-term goals. 

Now in the midst of her second 140-day legislative session for the 87th legislature, Noble is utilizing those 3 T’s and her “baloney meter” during the biannual Texas House of Representatives. At 59, she is a newly appointed member of the Texas House Human Services Committee and is spearheading hot-button bills to strengthen election integrity, close loopholes for abortion providers, and keep cities from defunding police departments. Her causes include education, the pro-life movement, and property tax relief.

“We only do this part time,” Noble said in a recent interview with Local Profile. “Home is home (Eastern Collin County); Austin is just a place to visit and work. I want my visitors and constituents to feel welcome here because it’s their office and their space. Not mine. I’m here doing their work. We serve at a cost.”

State Rep. Candy Noble enjoying good conversation | Courtesy of Candy Noble

Volunteer to Candidate

Noble has enjoyed the political process since she was a child in the late ’60s. She was attending college at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene in the ’70s when she first came to the Texas Capitol and lobbied for a cause that she felt was important. She claims that it was a great foundation for her when she finally decided to run for office years later.  

For the past 27 years, she has been living in Collin County with her husband Robert and raising three daughters in a family that now includes three son-in-laws and eight grandchildren. She spent the past 20 years as a volunteer at her children’s school in Plano and in various Collin County charities and on state committees. As a PTA mom, she was also a member of Moms in Touch organization for her three daughters, who all graduated from Plano East High School.

Then she became a member of the Collin County CPS Board and a volunteer of the State Juvenile Justice Committee.

But she attributes her time serving with women at the Republican Women’s Club for helping to give her the confidence she needed to seek office. “I had a lot of very savvy tutoring and mentoring through that organization,” she said in her recent Let’s Talk Texas interview. “So if young women are interested in getting into politics, I encourage them to get involved with a Republican women’s club and have women who have laid that foundation to be there for them and teach them kind of the ins and outs of politics.

“Sometimes we come into this having such grand ideas and someone has to tell you that’s a federal issue or that’s against the Constitution,” she added. “So those are things that it is nice to have some background in before you run for public office no matter what public office you run for.”

Having never run for elected office — other than when she was elected room mom — Noble says that she felt called to run for the Texas House of Representative seat after the retirement of longtime State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker. “I am proud to be an American and especially a Texan,” Noble told Community Impact in March 2018 shortly after announcing her run for the District 89 seat. “I want to leave Texas an even better place for my kids and my grandkids. In order to do that, we must be prudent in our spending and wise in our governing. We must protect the innocent from those that would do them harm.

“As a volunteer, I have encouraged good government for years, and I am ready to step up and serve at the state level,” she continued. “I have a servant’s heart, and I want to make a difference for good in every arena in which I am called to serve, whether that be my family, my neighborhood or in the Texas House of Representatives serving District 89.”

While she had never sought elective office before, her two decades of volunteer work in the area gave her the experience she felt she needed to seek it. She also knew the people and the issues in the area, and had a personal connection with many of the voters from her years of volunteer service.

After raising more than $100,000, she defeated former Plano Justice of the Peace John Payton in the 2018 Republican primary and Democrat Ray Ash in the general election.

 “I went from [local] volunteer to the Texas house; not many people have done that,” she said.

State Rep. Noble with Gov. Abbott | Courtesy of Candy Noble

Candidate to the House

While the notion of elected politics may seem glamorous or enriching, Noble can tell you that it is neither, at least not in the Texas House of Representatives. 

Texas only pays House members a grand total of $600 a month, plus $221 daily per diem when the legislature is in session, all of which is taxable. It doesn’t go far at all in Austin, one of the most expensive places to live in the state.

That’s where Noble said the three T’s come into play. 

The first T is for “Traffic,” Noble explained, which in Austin is not very good at all. The State Capitol is located in downtown Austin where it competes for space with the fast growing number of downtown businesses and the state university. It’s the kind of traffic that is known to make legislators late if they are not prepared.

“There are no tricks to Austin traffic,” she said. “It’s just bad everywhere and you just have to wait.” 

The second T is for “Takeout,” the ultimate winner of every recent legislative session with the growing number of food delivery services. As the legislature rolls to the end of the session, the days get longer and longer as people try adding more bills or getting their pet projects passed. While the early days of the 140-day session might end between 5-7 p.m., the later days push closer to midnight. Takeout food is essential for surviving those long hours. 

“The delivery companies are doing a booming business here,” Noble said. “ I try not to do a lot of that, but a couple of times the mac-and-cheese in my office has saved me after coming off the floor at 11 p.m. and (kept me from) starving to death.”

The third T stands for “Territory.” It comes into play both inside the state capitol building and outside the working space.

Since Noble is one of the newest House members, she had to wait to pick her office space and ended up with a small work HQ in the Capitol Annex, far away from the main action of the House Floor and major offices.

“If I know people are coming to see me, I just tell them to get on the same level as the cafeteria, walk past the gift shop and keep going. Eventually you’ll run into where we are,” she said. “The good thing is we don’t have many people stop by and ask where the governor’s office is. If you’re coming this distance, you really want to see us.”

The distance and the global pandemic have not been kind to the fancy visitors’ book which sits lonely at the front desk of the office. “It’s so sad. I think it has six names in it and four are from the first day.”

Territory is also important for off-Capitol lodging for female representatives with a high need for privacy, security and proximity to the Capitol. Since the sessions last for 140 days, it was far easier for Noble to rent a small 345-square-foot efficiency apartment close to the Capitol. 

But it isn’t cheaper.

“My rent for that is more than we pay for our mortgage back home,” she said. “The laundromat is not on the same floor as my apartment, either.”

State Rep. Noble preparing for battle | Courtesy of Candy Noble

The House to the Battlefield

In 2019, when it came time for her signature piece of legislation in the 86th legislature, Noble relied not only on the 3 T’s, which she has used multiple times in her first two terms, but also her “baloney meter” to get it passed, as well as offer property tax relief to the thousands of constituents who reached out to complain about Texas’ high property tax. 

She left her Austin condo early in the morning, for example, to avoid the notorious Austin traffic and brought her trusty mac and cheese for a late night snack because she had a feeling that passing her signature piece of legislation would be an all day/evening event, especially with all the opposition that her bill had drawn.

HB 22 was a pro-life bill that cut funding to abortion providers and their affilates. The problem for many critics of the bill was that it also cut services for sex health education and pregnancy prevention initiatives. A bipartisan group of state legislators, medical professionals and abortion right activists opposed Noble’s bill and spent seven hours highlighting why they felt it was dangerous.  

The point, Noble said, was to ensure taxpayer dollars never fund abortions. But critics of the bill point out that ending funding for all services was overtly punitive.

State legislators disagreed and passed Noble’s bill by an 81 to 65 margin.

Noble, however, wasn’t surprised by the opposition she faced. “I was surprised by how people I’ve never met, and will never know feel free to attack, which was especially true of Twitter," she said.

Yes, that's a rattlesnake State Rep. Noble is holding. | Courtesy of Candy Noble

The Battlefield to Back Home

In early March when Local Profile spoke with her, Noble was in the midst of the 87th legislative session utilizing the 3 T’s — along with a fourth one “Teamwork — to pass bills beneficial to her Republican constituents. The 2021 Texas House has been concentrated on the fallout from the massive cold wave and power outages that hit Texas in February. But Noble has “quite a laundry list” of bills that she is championing this session, about 22 of them compared to the seven from the 2019 session, six of which were passed. 

Noble’s new bills include strengthening election integrity, defunding cities that defund the police, and closing a loophole in her 2019 pro-life “clean-up” bill that keeps funding from going to healthcare clinics if they’re somehow connected to abortions. For example, her previous bill affected a crisis rape center in Plano, which due to a misunderstanding, had to fight to keep critical funding. Noble told Let’s Talk Texas that she had discovered Austin had found a loophole to continue to provide what she called “abortion services.” 

“Taxpayers should not have their money going to abortion providers and their affilates,” Noble said. “It is just common sense. That isn’t a core thing the government should be doing with tax dollars.”

Noble’s time in the legislature is not all dull work, though. There is a steady stream of celebrities who come through for various honors; or, at least they did in the pre-Covid era. They’re also known to cause quite a stir when they arrive. The biggest commotion, she says, was probably when Texas actor Matthew McConaughey showed up to accept a state honor. He’s still causing quite a stir in the Lone Star State with his talk of running for governor. 

But Noble’s personal favorite was retired Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki. “That’s the only one I ever got an autograph from because I had watched so many of his games,” she said.

She has gotten an assortment of unique gifts, including a signed volleyball and a yellow football helmet from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. Since then, she has also added a helmet from each of the public high schools she represents in her district: from parts of Eastern Plano to Lovejoy, Allen, Wylie, and Community.

She also received a giant bowie knife from an organization, but needs a special showcase for the Texas-sized weapon. “If that slipped off of one of my shelves, it could do a lot of damage,” she said and laughed.

Yet, it’s the lessons she learned over two decades as a volunteer that still pay dividends for her and the thousands of local Republicans she serves every day.

“Constituents have brought me bills or ideas I had no knowledge about,” she said. “I love it when I get ideas from others. Texas’ founders didn’t want this to be a full-time job, but to go and serve and come back.”