Many of the Democrats running for U.S. Senate in Texas didn’t hold back on Thursday in their vocal opposition to President Trump and Sen. John Cornyn.
“Message to Donald Trump and John Cornyn and their supporters: if you want to cling to the past you can have it, but the future belongs to us,” said organizer and civil rights leader Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez.
Amanda Edwards, a Houston City Council Member, took a swipe at Cornyn’s unwavering support from the National Rifle Association. “I’ve gotten good grades most of my life but what I don’t want is an A+ from the NRA like John Cornyn.”
The event, sponsored by the Frisco Democratic Club at Collin College, was the first public event to showcase the diverse Democratic field together on one stage. Six out of the seven candidates running for the Senate seat attended, with the exception of MJ Hegar; the Air Force helicopter pilot was unable to attend.
When the moderator asked each candidate what their one defining issue was, State Sen. Royce West said health insurance. During Governor Rick Perry’s tenure, he said he fought for Medicaid expansion, which Texas’ Republican leadership continues to reject.
Sema Hernandez, a self-described Democratic socialist, noted her key issue is environmental justice, recounting, “As a young child I witnessed the oppressive conditions in which my parents and grandparents were picking tomatoes in the fields and a plane flew over us and dropped chemicals on us.”
Edwards claimed health care— the issue is “deeply personal” to her. “When I was 10 years old my father was diagnosed with cancer, and although he passed away when I was about 17 years old, I remember as a young child asking my dad ‘who was gonna pay for this experimental treatment’ he was getting,” she said.
A poll by the Dallas Morning News over the summer showed a wide-open Democratic primary. Cornyn’s support, the poll showed, is soft.
With the two mass shootings a month apart in Texas still fresh, gun violence dominated the discussion. Former congressman Chris Bell from Houston was not optimistic anything new would get done on gun safety measures, given the GOP’s deep and longtime opposition to even universal background checks.
On Thursday a new poll showed immigration as the top issue Texans care about the most. When the forum moderator, Jason Whitley, asked if anyone on the stage supported “open borders,” no one raised their hand. The premise of the reporter’s question was a Republican talking point; no candidate has supported or suggested an open borders approach to immigration. Most of the candidates derided the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration, however.
Bell made a viscerally compelling case on climate change.
“The Republican Party can pretend climate change is not real, but when your home floods three times in three years like ours did, you know climate change is very very real and it becomes very very personal. Texas can lead the way, [given our] vast resources of renewable energy.”
This story has been updated.
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