Candidate's goals: Become Texas treasurer, graduate

NATIONAL CLOSEUP

December 31, 1993|By Cox News Service

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Wolfe's campaign for Texas state treasurer is more than a little unusual.

The Houston Republican lists his experience as band president, student council parliamentarian and small-business owner. He paid his $3,000 filing fee with proceeds from his small business -- selling autographs of famous politicians -- and plans to finance his campaign the same way.

He believes in term limits -- at least for himself. He says he would serve only one four-year term so that he can go to college.

His press secretary is a teacher at his school, Northwest Academy in Houston.

The 17-year-old high school junior is the youngest candidate to file so far in Texas for statewide office. State treasurers must be ,, at least 18, but Mr. Wolfe will have had a birthday by the time the winner takes the oath of office in January 1995.

Mr. Wolfe, whose father is a Houston lawyer who maintains an office in Austin, says it hasn't been easy persuading people to take his candidacy seriously.

"Most adults don't take us seriously," he said. "Well, we are the future of this country."

He admits that juggling school and a political campaign will be difficult. Winning office may be even more challenging. But then he has braved difficult odds before.

Mr. Wolfe was born with a rare breathing disorder that caused paralysis of the lungs. He had a tracheotomy when he was two days old, and he breathes through a tube in his neck. When he was 7, he underwent brain surgery to remove a calcified deposit. Those experiences have taught him to seize his future, he said.

"To achieve your goal, you have to go for it," he said. "I am an overcomer. I will be there for the good of the people."

The way he sees it, that means improving education, nixing any attempts to enact a state personal income tax and teaching seasoned politicians a few things about good government.

For starters, Mr. Wolfe plans to fight any proposal to abolish the state Treasury Department and merge its functions with the state comptroller's office.

"Giving it to the comptroller would be giving one person too much power, and it would bypass the democratic process," Mr. Wolfe said.

The idea was suggested by Democratic Treasurer Martha Whitehead, who was appointed this summer by Texas Gov. Ann Richards and is seeking election to the office. Democrat Grady Yarborough, an East Texas teacher, and Republicans Teresa Doggett, an Austin businesswoman, and David Hartman, an Austin banker, also are vying for the seat.

Mr. Wolfe wants to see more state lottery revenue diverted to public education, which he calls an investment in the state's future. He opposes a state income tax because he says it would stifle Texas' economic rebound.

The teen-who-would-be-treasurer also wants to put public officeholders on notice: Communicate better with the public, including young people.

"A statesman or politician should know how to interact with others," Mr. Wolfe said. "That's one reason why there's so much chaos. They don't communicate with their constituents like they should."

Mr. Wolfe has some firsthand experience being a constituent. When he was 15, he visited former President Ronald Reagan in Mr. Reagan's Beverly Hills, Calif., office. It was his second meeting with the fellow Republican. In 1992, Mr. Wolfe met Mr. Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award presentation.

At school, Mr. Wolfe is band president and parliamentarian for the student council. He also is a member of the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, a national fund-raising group for GOP officeholders.

If he wins election, Mr. Wolfe says he will finish his final semester by home schooling. He said he would delay college to complete his first term but wouldn't seek a second term immediately. Instead, he would go to college.

Mr. Wolfe's spokeswoman, Northwest Academy teacher Julie Strother, said her candidate offers something that other candidates are sometimes lacking.

"Mike is a young Republican who will bring common sense to state politics in Texas," Ms. Strother said.

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