With the filing deadline to run for U.S. Senate in 2020 now passed, the Democratic field — the most diverse in Texas history– is set.
Now, it’s up to the voters to tune in and pick their favored candidate, based on the issues and who can beat take the fight to Sen. John Cornyn. Primary voting in Texas begins in less than three months.
On Tuesday night, many of the candidates gathered in Houston for a forum hosted by Indivisible activist groups in Texas. Voters put candidates on the spot with tough questions from Indivisible members about climate change, immigration, and healthcare.
Most candidates quickly fell into their familiar lanes, echoing much of the debate seen from the Democratic presidential hopefuls on those same issues.
When asked by the evening’s moderator if healthcare was a human right and if they supported Medicare for All, the Senate field’s left wing– organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, activist Sema Hernandez – all said yes.
“By allowing private health insurance companies to profit off of our pain, our suffering and illness, we’ve not only created the most expensive system in the world, we’ve [also] created one with some of the worst outcomes of any industrialized nation,” said Tzintzún Ramirez.
Replying to the same question, Dallas-area State Senator Royce West said healthcare was a basic right for all citizens, but added that he was not in favor of a healthcare system that would force people off their private insurance. West, like Amanda Edwards, have argued that a public option and improving the Affordable Care Act are preferable to Medicare for All, the healthcare policy that aims to expand Medicare coverage to all Americans, largely eliminating private health insurance companies and employers providing health insurance.
While the questions on healthcare elicited the most reactions from the audience, the first question of the evening focused on climate change and whether the candidates supported a “Green New Deal-style plan” that would set the U.S. on a path to becoming carbon neutral by 2050– the goal of the Paris Agreement that Trump withdrew the U.S. from.
Candidates from Houston, including City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, discussed their unique experience with climate change and pollution while living in Bayou City. “You don’t have to convince many people here that climate change is something that we urgently need to address,” said Edwards, noting Houston’s four 500-year floods within the past five years and criticizing the Trump administration for rolling back Obama-era efforts to address climate change.
One of the leading candidates, former Air Force pilot MJ Hegar, did not attend Tuesday night’s event.
On gun safety legislation, the candidates presented a mostly united front when it came to an assault weapons ban, with West, Edwards, and others supporting such legislation. “We made machine guns illegal when they were being snatched up by mobsters,” said former congressmen Chris Bell. “We made sawed-off shotguns illegal. Of course, we can make them illegal. How long are we going to allow this insanity to go on?”
The crowded field of candidates running for the Democratic nomination still have some work to do. A University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll last month found most of the candidates are still unknown to most Democratic voters in the state.
The challenge for the leading candidates is the same: increase name ID and build a brand. People won’t vote for you if they don’t know your name.
Photos: mjfortexas.com, cristinafortexas.com, roycewest.com, amandafortexas.com, electchrisbell.com, semafortexas.com
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com