WFAA invited each of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senator from Texas to answer the following questions to help inform voters before Super Tuesday on March 3.
Private Equity Principal
How long have you lived in Texas?
Why are you running for U.S. Senate?
We can think of our political landscape in three distinct facets: 1) the traditional issues we face: climate, healthcare, economy, etc.; 2) the internal functioning of law-making: how the inside game of Washington is played; 3) public will: how the rest of us are selecting candidates to play the inside game to impact the issues. I think we complain a lot about 2 & 1 being broken and when we talk about 3 being broken, we like to focus on voting access or the electoral college, etc. I am running to impact all three facets of our political landscape. The difficulty of my candidacy is that impacting facet 3 is exceedingly difficult, given the polarization of our current two-party system. Facet 2 may be impacted more easily, and it requires establishing penalties for Congress not engaging in sober constructive policymaking, regardless of their specific political identity. Adopting more policy allows for data to be gathered, which moves us past theory. Most candidates and constituents want an ultimate impact to facet 1 (issues), but we need to have a clearer understanding of why making change in this area is dramatically hampered by the other facets.
Prior political experience or civic leadership involvement?
Senior Policy Advisor, Mayor City of El Paso 2003-2005
There are a lot of candidates in this race, why should voters choose you over someone else?
I truly believe that any of the “lead" candidates on the Democratic side of this race will lose in the general election, regardless of who it is and the money they have. The reason being is that these candidates are running politics by the same playbook that has failed in our state over several election cycles. Unless we start to challenge political norms and shift our communication in a way that breaks from the partisan stalemate, our party and the country will continue to lose (regardless of affiliation). The more we reinforce the divide in our primary process; the more non-thinking intuitive fear messaging will have an influence on elections. And the truth, whether we accept it or not, is that the Republican party is much stronger at that game than we are. The Austin-American Statesman recently described me as ‘marching to a different drummer’, and I think that is true. Not simply in terms of tempo but also in terms of direction. What I hope it reveals is that I am not going to go in a direction because it is easy or politically expedient. My approach is different, but I believe it is the best to actually enact meaningful legislation, which should be the ultimate goal. Marching to the same beat can be fun sometimes, but not if we’re marching off a cliff.
In your view, what are the three biggest challenges facing Texas? Specifically, how do you plan to address them?
1) Economic costs of severe weather events that may require Federal assistance.
2) Economic impacts to our energy sector should external factors impact demand.
3) Economic impacts to our agricultural sector should external factors impact production.
These issues are specific to Texas, but I believe there are other national areas that likewise have a high priority. I am very flexible when it comes to actual plans, and I want to remain that way as my job in the United States Senate will be to build broad coalitions that can pass legislation at a higher velocity than our recent history. In order to maintain openness to solution-based conversations, I think it is important to commit to the area of concern but be open to the actual plan. This would allow me to build consensus and make sure others can share in that deliberative process preferably in a bi-partisan way.
Washington is broken. Lawmakers retreat to their parties, follow orders from party bosses and rarely work across the aisle for the common good. How would you change that?
Washington largely reflects our own polarization, so if Washington is broken, well then so are we. This gets into a longer discussion of party identity via our own psychology, how we run primaries, and even the new Democratic way of campaign finance, crowdsourcing, which largely appeals to the most partisan interests. Ezra Klein’s new book Why We’re Polarized discusses much of this in greater detail. To address some of this means running campaigns that may appeal to other identities that break people away from a strict partisan identity. We will try to use some of these experimental tactics in this race, we have to start somewhere. Beyond that, there are other things structurally we can potentially do within the standing rules of the U.S. Senate, but to do them means we need public will. Some of these ideas include introducing a 20% minority rule where the Minority Party would have control over 20% of the floor agenda. I think we should also take a very serious look at the rules surrounding the filibuster which dramatically slow the governance process.
If elected, how would you address the mass shootings in Texas and across the country?
There is a laundry list of potential policy changes that one could adopt to advance gun control the challenge similar to above is getting the votes to pass any gun legislation. While I believe that policies that responsibly limit access will have an impact, I also think that any regulation that tries to actively reduce the number of guns in our society will be difficult to enforce & will be challenged aggressively in our courts. The concept of coupling is also at play, that is, I believe that activities such as suicide and homicide are more successfully carried out in circumstances where guns are involved. Thus, beyond working on some restrictions, we must look for ways to de-couple the availability of arms to circumstances where the use of firearms leads to lethal violence. This means we should evaluate & develop innovative ways to detect psychological misalignments and identify environments where coupling may take place. Taking a public-health approach to these issues, we may want to encourage the industry to work on areas like child lock safety technology similar to what we have for prescription drugs. This would help to reduce deaths related to the accidental discharge of weapons. We may also ask for the industry to adopt public service campaigns such as promoting a program to let friends hold on to weapons if they are going through a period of depression, as well as promoting resources for treatment. We can also apply some federal resources to do further analysis on the data related to gun violence. We may be able to utilize technology to develop algorithms that identify high-risk patterns of purchases that may serve as flags for potential risks. The hope is by working in this fashion, we can generate a higher level of engagement from all stakeholders and move toward policies that can be adopted sooner rather than later.
What federal cuts would you support to help achieve a balanced budget?
My response here may cause some cognitive dissonance. In other words, you will feel that my response does not conform to your long-held beliefs about federal budgets and so it will make you feel uncomfortable. I believe balanced budgets at the federal level (and only at the federal level) are potentially dangerous for our economy. I have a podcast on my website called the “Press for Money” where I explain this in more detail. But consider that M1 Money supply in 1980 was about $385 billion, and as of August 2019 that figure had grown to $3.8 trillion. We don’t have money trees we have fiat currency, meaning we print it. We need money to drive our economy, and one of the ways money gets into our system without the creation of debt is by running a budget deficit. Sorry for the discomfort.
Do you support or oppose open borders?
First, I like the vagueness of the language here, it is open to interpretation and thus opportunities for response. Look, migration is a complex issue, and it isn’t as simple as the humanness of our treatment of immigrants or conversely viewing it as a threat to our security and economic vitality. There are many external factors that have an impact to migration patterns, some we have influence over and many that we do not. International borders should be a topic of high priority on our international agenda, and I don’t simply mean the border between the United States and Mexico. International borders across the world will see heightened pressure given population growth, climate disruptions, and the geopolitical ramifications of those climate disruptions. These stressors will cause dramatic shifts in migration patterns. People generally do not aspire to move from their native soil, but circumstances will increase the incidence of migration, so we need to have a balanced approach to international borders, and we need to build an international model that can be utilized with our allies around the world.
Do you support universal healthcare? If so, how would you pay for it?
I would have to study the true viability of the term “Universal” as it relates to healthcare. Let me quickly address the pay aspect which will clarify my prior statement. The implication of my response above to the balanced budget question is that money is not the constraint. So, if money is not the constraint, what would be potential constraints. Well just to list a couple, potentially the current supply of healthcare professionals and the geographic proximity of those professionals to some populations. Again, some of the data suggests that we should anticipate some shortages in healthcare workers, so then a subsequent concern might be, do our health education programs have the capacity to produce additional healthcare professionals? Again, some analysis suggests that capacity is limited. Compounding factors are the deteriorating healthiness of Americans and the trend by many health professionals to conduct more medical evaluations to limit misdiagnosis, which further increases the demand for healthcare and heightens the shortages of healthcare professionals. The bottom line is that healthcare is not easy to solve. I don’t like to over-promise and under-deliver, so let me just say my priority is to expand coverage and make healthcare more affordable. One final note, I do think there is general consensus in the private sector that healthcare continues to be an increasing cost to their business models and that the free-market is not working to regulate pricing.
If elected, what’s your priority on Day One in office?
My “Day One” priority in office is to meet as many of my fellow Senators as possible. This also happens to be my day 2, 3, 4, etc. priorities until I meet all 99. Remember, my job is to get votes, so I need to build relationships.
On what issue or issues could you work with the White House? Or U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell?
On what issue, would you not compromise?
I would not compromise on any legislation where my intended outcome was not addressed, either by that particular legislation or the higher priority legislation that I may have swapped a vote for (if that unwanted legislation poses no significant harm). Meaning if the legislation is not something I want or doesn’t work in any capacity for something I want, I will not compromise. Similarly, I may support some legislation that has nothing that I want, if it gets me a vote on something else I do want (and me supporting that unwanted legislation, poses no significant harm). If you're dizzy by now, so am I.
Have you ever been arrested, charged with a crime or faced criminal proceedings in a court? If yes, please explain:
Have you ever been involved in any lawsuits or declared bankruptcy? If yes, please explain:
Favorite restaurant – or night out in Texas?
Burrito House, El Paso, Texas
Do you ever ride public transportation such as city buses or light rail?
Tell us something about yourself – unrelated to politics or this race – that voters probably don’t know.
I love honey-dos. Refrigerator not working, let me take a look. Washing machine latch not working, let me take a look. Dishwasher not draining, let me take a look. Trees need pruning, too hot, but let me take a look. Son needs a desk, let me see what I can find at Home Depot.
I attribute this to seeing my parents demonstrate creativity and determination in completing home projects from everything to dropping an engine in my 1973 VW Super Beetle, to making a desk out of an old door, to cutting patterns and sewing some clothes, to crocheting, to macramé-ing plant hangers, and more.
Completing honey-dos is a way to relax my brain and still feel like I am accomplishing something. But please do me one favor, keep this between you and me, and don’t tell my wife.