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East Texas college stump tour: Senate, House candidates hit on education, student loans, global warming

College students should not have to pay for the first two years of college, should have loans with 0% interest rates and should not have to start paying those loans back until three years after college.

That was a U.S. House candidate’s plan for helping with student loan debt during his stump speech Thursday at Kilgore College.

Kilgore was one of five East Texas college campuses visited Thursday by seven political candidates. Build East Texas, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that connects East Texas with candidates, sponsored the tour that also stopped at Angelina College, Stephen F. Austin State University, Wiley College and the University of Texas at Tyler.

Hank Gilbert is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District post currently held by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler.

He said he was a high school agriculture teacher and saw too many students not attend college because they could not afford it and did not want to go into debt.

“I believe the first two years of your college career should be free,” Gilbert said.

He said that would include trade school, because after it’s completed, those students could contribute to the economy.

Six candidates who accompanied Gilbert are seeking their parties’ nominations for the post currently held by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Those Senate candidates on the tour Thursday were Republican Mark Yancey and Democrats Chris Bell, Michael Cooper, Jack Foster, Sema Hernandez and Adrian Ocegueda.

During the Kilgore College stop, many of the candidates focused on issues they believe young people care about. The candidates mingled with about 30 students, gave short speeches and spoke one-on-one with students.

Trying to engage the young voters, candidates used their speaking time to focus on issues that concern college students.

Foster said property and homeowners are frustrated at this time of year when taxes are due. He said a real investment program should be available for them, such as the ability to invest in colleges.

“Kilgore won’t have to worry about financial aid anymore,” he said. “Let homeowners invest in them.”

Cooper said he pushes for education in his campaign, and a good education system can help the economy.

“I’m here to fight for your future,” he said. “We are a country that’s rich in almost every area. We should also be rich with having the proper educators.”

Climate change also was a topic of discussion for more than one candidate.

Bell said Texas is in a position to lead on reversing climate change.

“We have an abundance of renewable resources,” he said. “We can continue to be an energy capital if we have someone who will lead in that direction.”

Candidates also discussed health care and how it could improve. Hernandez said her campaign focuses on the issue and that she supports the Medicare for All plan.

“I am a person who addresses the health care inequalities as well as ratifying the (Equal Rights Amendment) ... to ensure that women are protected, not just in the workplace but in health care,” she said. “I do believe that every woman who needs an abortion, for whatever reason — because not everyone wants to get an abortion, it’s a decision that is made because of whatever circumstances that a woman is facing, that a family is facing — that they are able to have the ability to do that in a safe place that is no longer putting women and their bodies at risk of getting an infection and dying from that.”

Yancey and Ocegueda talked about the economy with the students.

Specifically, Yancey cited a waste in government spending. He said he would cut irresponsible spending and some departments, such as the Department of Education.

“I will tell you this, John Cornyn has been on a federal government income for 30 years, and it’s time for him to go,” he said. “No one should sit in the Senate for as long as John Cornyn has. There should be term limits in the Senate.”

Ocegueda spoke about monetary theory. He said more people need to understand how money and the economy works.

“If you think we’re going to solve environmental problems … we need money,” he said. “Where our party gets beat is on the simple question, ‘How will you pay for that?’”

Kilgore College student DeLancey Torres, president of the Diversity Alliance, helped organize and run the event.

“We really want it to be an event where students can have a voice and have a chance to be heard, because their voices matter. Our voices matter,” she said. “Some of the most important things young students are interested in — of course, student debt, that’s huge; everyone is in debt — but looking forward in the future, we’re worried about jobs. We’re worried about employment. We’re worried about equality when we enter the workforce. There’s so much.”


Local
Carmela’s Magical Santa Land gives guests with special needs a special night

Guests with special needs were the stars Thursday night at Carmela’s Magical Santa Land in Longview.

The nearly mile-long drive-through Christmas light display that features almost 2 million lights, with dancing trees, Nativity scenes, Disney characters and patriotic scenes, offered a night for people with special needs — whether they are physically or mentally challenged children or adults — to experience the Yuletide festivities without the traffic and noises of most nights.

The light show is located at 6085 U.S. 259 N., north of Judson Road’s intersection with U.S. 259.

Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. For information, go to Carmela’s Magical Santa Land on Facebook or call (903) 753-3329.


Police
Gregg County Sheriff's Office confirms body found in Sabine River as missing man

The Gregg County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning confirmed the body recovered Wednesday afternoon in the Sabine River was that of missing Mansfield man Loyd Thrasher.

“It’s going to be from information that investigators have gathered,” sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Josh Tubb said.

Tubb said the cause of death for Thrasher, 77, and how long he had been dead remained to be determined, and the investigation is continuing.

He said investigators also found a dog in the rental car that Thrasher had parked off FM 2087 near a popular area for fishing along the river.

“We made sure that the dog was taken care of,” Tubb said.

Thrasher had another dog, and it was found in Lakeport, Assistant Chief Johnathan Gage of the Kilgore Police Department said.

Gage said Kilgore police first made contact with Thrasher after receiving a call at 8 a.m. Sunday at a nursing home.

“He was involved in some kind of dispute,” Gage said. He said Thrasher was not staying at the nursing home.

He said family members reported Thrasher missing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, a day after a sheriff’s deputy spotted a rental car off FM 2087. The car’s door and trunk were ajar.

The deputy began searching for the driver at 8:55 a.m. Monday and resumed a search three hours later after noticing the car was still at the location, Tubb said.

The search continued Tuesday after Thrasher’s family reported him missing. With assistance from Gregg County Game Warden Todd Long, investigators found the body at 2:24 p.m. Wednesday in the river, Tubb said.

Long said he found the body with help from the K-9 handler from the Harleton Volunteer Fire Department.

“They were on board in the boat with me with when I spotted (Thrasher)” in the river, Long said.

Long estimated the body was recovered 200 to 300 yards from where Thrasher parked the rental car.


Local
Leader of Eastman in Longview to become chief of Tennessee operations

The leader of Eastman Chemical Co.-Texas Operations in Longview will lead the company’s Tennessee operations in Kingsport beginning in April, the business announced Thursday.

Mark Bogle, vice president and Texas site leader, will be moving to Tennessee for the position of vice president and Tennessee Operations site leader.

Andrew Coggins, director of Eastman’s Fibers Division in Kingsport, is to succeed Bogle and will relocate to Longview in coming months.

“We are proud of Mark’s leadership and many accomplishments at the Longview site during his time there and would like to congratulate him on this next chapter in his career,” said Mark Cox, senior vice president and chief manufacturing officer. “Mark is a familiar face at our Tennessee site and has led many teams and large projects there.”

Coggins began his career with Eastman in 2002 at a plant in South Carolina where he served in various maintenance and project engineering leadership roles before moving to a position in Irvine, California. He has spent time in a variety of operations, maintenance and engineering leadership roles.

Coggins joined Eastman with 10 years of experience including manufacturing leadership positions in the pulp and paper and textiles industries with previous employers, Westvaco and Milliken & Co.

Before his current role in Fibers, Coggins was located at the Longview site as director of Plant Services Division. He is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina. He has an master of business administration degree from The Citadel and a professional engineer license in the state of South Carolina.

“We’re confident that Andrew will continue the strong leadership in Longview,” Cox said. “We look forward to the great things he and the team will accomplish going forward.”