By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — It has been a busy several months for Texas House of Representatives candidate Dan Morenoff.
Over the course of his campaign to unseat incumbent Jason Villalba for the House District 114 seat in the March 1 Republican primary, Morenoff estimates he has knocked on the doors of at least 4,000 potential voters.
Morenoff, 41 — a business attorney and member of Congregation Shearith Israel — keeps a quite full schedule during the workweek: He arises from bed, takes his children to school, travels to the polling place and speaks with prospective voters there for most of the day.
“Right now early voting is underway so I’m out there greeting voters,” Morenoff said during a recent interview with the Texas Jewish Post.
After a workday at the polls, Morenoff said, it’s time to go home, have dinner with his family, get his children to bed and then start working on his day job as a business lawyer at the Morenoff firm, his own company.
“As a self-employed lawyer, if I don’t work I don’t eat,” Morenoff said. “So I have to find time for that. I run a nonprofit as well, so I have a lot of different directions things need to go. I have a lot of volunteers … a lot of support.”
The nonprofit of which he spoke is the Equal Voting Rights Institute, where he is executive director. This is a public interest law firm working to assure that the voting rights of all Americans are protected equally.
In addition to his day job, Morenoff volunteers as an officer of the Cardozo Society of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, is a member of the Federation’s Planning and Allocation Committee, and is a member of the JCRC’s Advisory Council.
The candidate bases his campaign around various core issues: consistent rules and tax rates for the economy; consistency in the budget, which includes a meaningful cap on government growth; better and more responsible management of education; strong controls over border security; effective gun rights; and stronger culture of life for everyone, including the elderly.
Many of Morenoff’s friends and colleagues in the Jewish community are excited about his candidacy.
Bill Finkelstein, an attorney who has known Morenoff ever since he first moved to Dallas, agrees his friend is a man of principle who cares deeply for family and community.
“Dan’s the kind of guy who appreciates what we have as citizens — most especially, the freedoms Jewish Americans have in this country,” Finkelstein said. “He has always been interested in making sure the American Dream is there for everyone else.”
This primary race between Morenoff and Villalba is to represent North Dallas and Lake Highlands in the Texas House of Representatives. The winner of the Republican primary goes on to face Democrat Jim Burke in November’s general election.
Morenoff told the TJP his campaign slogan revolves around Texas as an idea as much as a place: “Make Texas more Texas.”
Growing up in the DC suburbs of Rockville, Maryland, Morenoff has lived in Dallas since 2001. He and wife Erica are raising three daughters — Eva, 12; Abbie, 10; and Maggie, 8. During that time the candidate has led chapters of both the Federalist Society and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
He is a graduate of Columbia University in New York with a degree in economics and political science.
Morenoff worked on entitlement reform after college in the office of Republican Texas Senator Phil Gramm for several years before attending law school at the University of Chicago.
Rob Ackermann, an attorney and fellow Shearith Israel member, said he has the inside scoop on how the mind of this candidate — his friend — works.
“He has a rigorous intellect and a really broad knowledge and understanding of political issues … the forces that tie things together,” Ackermann said. “He’s a very unusual person in that regard. It’s what drew us together. … He believes what he believes and his convictions are strong.”
David Goldberg, another longtime friend who has known Morenoff from Shearith Israel for over a decade, said he is proud to support the candidate.
“I had this discussion last week with a friend of mine who is a Democrat and he told me, ‘I don’t think I can vote for Dan’ and I said, ‘No. 1, he is a good man.’ I am more concerned about a person’s character. Most politicians will flip-flop but Dan will stay the same guy in office. He doesn’t waffle. He is a man of conviction and character who will proudly represent his district.”
Goldberg said it is possible for an elected public official to be a man of conviction and character while also doing the right thing.
“I can tell you Dan cares about what he speaks,” Goldberg said. “He is a really intellectual guy, an old-school guy who lives to debate ideas and share what people think, which leads me to conclude he would really care about his constituents. He leans in to listen to you. He is an active listener. He’s a great dad and a really patient guy. That really gives you insight into his character.”
Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, a friend of Morenoff’s who was speaking as an individual and not from his rabbinical perspective, said Morenoff has the stuff to be elected.
“I got to know Dan when we were lobbying for school choice in Austin,” the rabbi said. “I have had a chance to see the person he is — a high-character guy, someone who really cares. When I heard he was running for office I was really excited. I think he is a person who has a lot of conviction, a lot of character and a lot of determination and consistency. You look for all of these things in a candidate. I feel like the issues that are important to us are important to him as well.”