The Signal’s editor Kevin Nix spoke to U.S. Senate candidate Royce West yesterday by phone about health care, climate change, the economy, and how he plans to beat John Cornyn. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
TS: What are you finding are the top one or two concerns of voters? Forget the media for a minute, but [concerns] of voters.
RW: It’s pretty consistent. It’s issues concerning healthcare, women’s rights, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, LGBTQ rights. Those are the issues that are in there.
TS: Well, among that laundry list is there one or two where this race might be really won in the primary or in the general?
RW: My number one issue is healthcare, women’s rights second and climate change is three.
TS: I do want to ask you about the economy and jobs. John Cornyn and other Texas Republicans think they’re hot shit when it comes to job growth and the economy in Texas. My question to you is on job growth in Texas and a progressive economic vision for the state.
RW: Well, we got to continue to ensure that we have growth and jobs. We have a $1.7 trillion economy here in the state of Texas. The fact of the matter is that I hope that we will begin to have more focus on climate change, specifically being able to use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, and create jobs in that particular sector. When you talk to economists, what they show is that in that particular sector you have persons coming out making $60-70,000 a year. So those are good jobs and they have obviously a great impact on our climate here in this country. So I’d like to see us begin to do more development of jobs in that particular area.
In the state of Texas, obviously, it’s a fossil fuel-based economy. We’ve got to be able to have a market-based approach in order to wean ourselves off fossil fuels without doing damage to the economy, because obviously we need to make sure we continue to grow jobs. We have to do it responsibly. I think we can do that.
I think we should be investing more money into our healthcare system in Texas. We had the ability, once President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act to get $10 billion per year over 10 years into our healthcare system. Rick Perry decided to turn that down. So you can see the great ramifications and implications in terms of job growth, and our medical care.
TS: Well continuing on health care, what’s your take on Senator Cornyn’s healthcare inaction? There’s been a lot of press releases, but I’ve seen no real legislative action over the past five years [and longer] from him.
RW: So I think you need to get Cornyn to talk to you.
TS: Oh he won’t.
RW: I want to remind you of something. When Mitch Mcconnell stood on the floor and said he’s gonna make sure Barack Obama is a one term president. Where was John Cornyn? Right there with him. But that’s kind of been what’s been happening with health care. All of us know that we can deal with the health care issue. I have not seen any substantive recommendations or action by Cornyn as it relates to healthcare. I think that many of them are sitting on the sidelines trying to see what happens there, as opposed to trying to fix whatever the problems are and make certain that we have health care for all persons in this country. It will be a fundamental right as far as I’m concerned and that’s what I will work for.
TS: In this campaign so far, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve come across?
RW: The biggest challenge is also the biggest prize: travelling across the state of Texas and meeting people. And it’s great to sit down and meet with people. For example, this past weekend, I started off in Dallas, drove to San Antonio, drove over to Huntsville, came back to Fort Worth, stayed in Dallas. And then I got on the road Sunday morning to go down to Hays County/San Marcos. Left San Marcos went over to Seguin, left seguin and went to New Braunfels. That’s a lot of travel. But the good thing about it is that it’s difficult, but it’s also rewarding because you meet a lot of people in Texas that you would not normally meet. And that gives me a better sense of the direction that I want to go in as U.S. Senator in representing the interest of those persons.
TS: There’s a number of issues that progresses are caring about these days. And, you know, we stress here that, yes, the issues matter, but this idea of electability — whatever that means to people– really is paramount. Tell me why you’re the best person to beat Cornyn.
RW: I’ve demonstrated the ability, number one. I’ve worked on all the issues that we talked about here in Texas. I’ve been able to take leadership roles in criminal justice issues, health care issues, women’s issues, immigrant issues, I’ve been there. Number two, when you begin to think about all of the members of the state legislature, the majority of them are supporting me for the United States Senate. And I think most important, I’ve been able to be a minority in a minority party in the state legislature and get things done. I have been able to reach across the aisle and bring Republicans over to my side in order to pass legislation. Whether it’s legislation dealing with body cameras, dash cameras, racial profiling, hate crimes. So the important thing is that I’ve had the experience, I’ve been able to establish coalition’s based on interests to get things done. I think that’s the kind of candidate that we’re going to need and people will believe based on my support and experience that I’m that candidate.
TS: How does your record that you just laid out help you defeat Cornyn?
RW: I think that this is what’s gonna happen. In order to make certain that Cornyn is defeated there has to be political symmetry. What do you mean by that, senator? We’re gonna have to have some good Democrats in the fall working together. There’s a stark difference between Democrats and Republicans as it relates to education and you have a secretary of education right now that’s pro-voucher. So we’re gonna have to have a pro-public school president that will appoint a pro-public school secretary of education. Same thing as it relates to the EPA. You’ve got to have a pro-environment president that will appoint a pro-environment EPA administrator. So if you get that type of person at the top of our ticket in this nation, we’ll be able to put together a coordinated effort across this country and more particularly in the State of Texas that will have that political symmetry in order to elect Democrats throughout this state. Texas is about to turn blue.
Photo: Royce West for U.S. Senate