AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott is being sued by top members of his own party over his decision to extend early voting, and U.S. Rep. Roger Williams sat down with KVUE Political Anchor Ashley Goudeau to discuss the race to represent U.S. House District 25.
Three things to know in Texas politics
Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on Texas lawmakers to create new laws to punish violent protestors. The governor was joined by Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) at a campaign event in Dallas on Thursday, where he said he wants lawmakers to increase penalties for people who destroy property, hurt others and injure or target police officers during protests.
Some key members of the governor's own political party aren't happy with his decision to extend early voting in the November election and are suing to overturn his decision.
Back in July, Abbott issued a proclamation that added six days to the early voting period for the November election because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the Chair of the Texas Republican Party, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, state senators, representatives and other elected leaders filed a lawsuit with the Texas Supreme Court stating the governor's move violates election law, which states early voting has to start 17 days before the election.
Texas is one of only 10 states that doesn't allow online voter registration – but now that is changing for some Texans. Due to a federal court order, Texans can now register online when updating their driver's licenses. The action comes after a years-long court battle.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin) discusses reelection campaign
Since 2013, Republican Roger Williams has represented the people of District 25, which includes parts of Hays, Travis and Burnet counties and stretches north to just south of Dallas.
In 2018, Rep. Williams defeated Democrat Julie Oliver – but she's back to challenge him again.
Williams joined Ashley Goudeau to discuss his campaign.
Ashley Goudeau: First, tell us why it is that you're running for another term.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R): "Well, I'm running because [what] I think – as I did when I first ran –is that I think we need more business people in Washington. We don't have business people in Washington. People who have run a business that actually create laws that you'd have to live in. I can do that. But we need more business people. We need business, business acumen, and I just bring it. That's what I am. I'm a business person. That's all I have to go back on is what would I do in my business when I make a decision."
Goudeau: In 2018, you defeated Democrat Julie Oliver by nearly 10%. But she's pretty confident that she can make up that difference this election. In fact, she points to a poll that has her two points behind you. Are you at all concerned?
Williams: "Well, any time you run for political office, you got – you better be concerned or you're not going to have a good result. We take everything very seriously. We're focused on our message and getting our message out to the voters. And I think at the end of the day, on Nov. 3, we'll be successful.
Goudeau: You know, Oliver has been very critical of you this election. She says that you haven't much done while you've been in office. She points out that you voted against the health care bills and that you came under an ethics violation for an amendment to a bill that she says would have benefited your car dealership. How do you respond to all of these attacks?
Williams: "Well, first of all, we've done quite a bit. When I go back, I think that we've done a lot. First of all, when I ran in 2012, you know, we had – we had the highest tax rates in the world and I talked about, 'We need to bring tax rates down.' We came out with a program called Jumpstart America. In 2016, President Trump got elected. He followed through on the same thing we'd been talking about. So, I think cutting taxes was one of the biggest things I've helped do and, primarily, make an interest deductible for small businesses and big businesses and having 100% expensing, which is not a lot to create the greatest economy in the world. So, that – it was a big deal.
The other thing is Fort Hood. We've done a lot to help Fort Hood. You go down, look [at] the barracks, you go look the runways, you look at the motor pools, you look at all that with which we've been able to lead on getting Fort Hood and getting that facility improved to where it really is, the great place. And, of course, passing, passing pay increases for our soldiers. So, that's a big deal. And then being in Congress, you get a chance to talk to the best and the brightest, these young people that want to go to the military schools. You get to – you get to have a committee to interview them. You get to talk to them. That's a big deal. So, I think we've done a lot.
And, you know, and also just most recently, you look at what we've done for our rural hospitals in our district. I mean, we brought $217 million in for, to help with PPE [personal protective equipment] equipment and that sort of thing. Saving local communities so their hospital did not go out of business. So, we've done a lot to help small business, to help Main Street America, to help our soldiers and our airbases and our military bases. So, we've done a lot and there's a lot more to do too."
Goudeau: I want to give you a moment to address some of the attacks coming from Democrats, not just Oliver, but other Democrats as well who have criticized you, saying that you got a PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan for your car dealership. You mentioned being a business owner and how hard and challenging that can be. What do you say to people who say you should not have benefited from that program?
Williams: "Well, I don't know why they say that. And the Democrats, of course, you're right, have attacked me on it. But you don't hear that Nancy Pelosi's husband got $15 million, and you don't hear about all the Democrats who got the PPP. First of all, I'm glad I did. I would not be a good CEO if I hadn't taken it. We saved about 122 jobs at my business. Grandpas, grandmas, veterans, young people, people just getting started. We saved their – we saved, in many cases, their jobs. Just in our district alone, 58,000 jobs we can go back to were saved because of PPP through about 6,000 businesses. And you take that 58,000 times families, you're talking a lot more than that. So, the PPP program worked and I absolutely did the right thing in taking it for my business. And those people that did take it also did the right thing. And we still have money left in the program that expired on Aug. 8, and that's one of the things I want to do is come up with a way that we can inject that money, almost $130 billion, to inject it back into the system so small businesses and other businesses can take it, take advantage of it.
But PPP was – everybody took advantage of it. Democrats, Republicans. When it was written, there was nothing that said in there that members of Congress could not take advantage of it. And I did. And we saved 122 jobs and in our district, as I said, 58,000 jobs were saved. So, it's a great program. I'm glad I did it."
Goudeau: If you are reelected into Congress, what would be your top priority for 2021?
Williams: "Well, I think we may need to make tax cuts permanent. The tax cuts we had in 2016 are not permanent. And the problem is, if you're a business person like I am, you begin to play defense several years before they expire. And it cuts down expansion, hiring people, creating more jobs. So, we need to make the tax cuts permanent. That was one of the things that we weren't able to, or President Bush wasn't able to do, when his tax cuts expired in 2011. So, let's make the tax cuts permanent.
Let's continue to strengthen our military, take care of the best and brightest. And also, I think too, we need to begin to think of best supporting law enforcement – not defunding, but defending. And that's, that's part of what I think we need to address as we move into this next cycle.
But I want to create the economy, bring the economy back. See, the economy is ready to go. I mean, there's a – we're beginning to get people off unemployment. We see the lowest tax rates in the world. We see cash, cash in the system, cash in the banks. So, the economy is ready to explode. And I think we could see, actually, I really believe we could see growth in the first quarter of next year."
Goudeau: Congressman, share some final thoughts with our viewers about why you think they should elect you this November.
Williams: "Well, I think we offer, you know, somebody that's got a huge business background that understands Main Street America, that understands how to create a job. I've signed the fronts of checks more than the backs of checks. And I think that we've had, these past years since 2012, have been good. We've shown we're accessible. We had over 100 – I mean, we've had over 17 town halls during this Zoom environment we're in. We're very accessible, and we have a smile on our face. This is not a job for me. It's public service. I try to make a decision not for my political future, but for America's future and the district's future. We'll continue to have the same platform we've had in 2012, which is lower taxes, less government, cut spending, defend borders, listen to your general, stay with Israel. And of course, as I said earlier, defend the police, not defund the police. And that's works out pretty good for us.
And I would say one of the media said I've made over, almost 7,000 votes since I've been in Congress, and I thought about that and, you know, we base our votes based on our district, what our district says, the Constitution, our conscience and the Bible. And with that, I thought to myself, of all those votes, I haven't made a vote yet I regret. So, we will always err on the side of our district, err on the side of our folks' jobs. And I think that's basically the reason that we deserve another, another two years is because we always have unfinished business to be done. And I believe in the people rather than the federal government, and that's a good formula."
Texans have until Oct. 5 to register to vote. Early voting runs from Tuesday, Oct. 13 through Friday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.
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