On Jan. 29, we spoke to Democratic Senate candidate Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez about immigration, labor unions, and defeating Sen. John Cornyn. The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
TS: Why are you embarking on this journey to replace John Cornyn?
CTR: Well, you know, as Democrats, we have a real shot in 2020 to defeat John Cornyn, and with him the politics of hate, and deliver 38 electoral votes to the Democratic presidential nominee. You know, I was asked a few months back to run by some of our state’s most important progressive leaders and also some folks that helped run Beto O’Rourke’s Senate race. And the reason they asked me to run is I know how to bring ordinary people together and make government work for them and have helped pass policies that changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Texans. And as someone that founded and led some of our state’s largest voting and civil rights organizations, I also know how to get out the exact coalition of voters we need to win. In this state, we need a broad, multiracial coalition to defeat John Cornyn. Everybody knows you don’t win unless you drive up voter turnout among young people and Latinos and no one in the field knows how to do that better than myself. I’m the founder of Jolt, the co-founder of Workers Defense Project that ushered in a new generation of people into the political process, and I also authored Beto O’Rourke’s campaign plan to get out the Latino vote in 2018 which helped lead to the 250% increase in the Latino vote. And lastly, I would say that people in Texas, I think they are yearning for someone that’s going to be a champion on the issues that matter to them, that’s going to fight for them, that truly knows what they go through. Someone with my record and ability to do that, I think, as a real shot at defeating John Cornyn.
TS: Yeah, and on Wednesday, labor unions Unite Here Local 23 and Communications Workers of America endorsed you so together they represent 44,000 Texans who are working in communications and hospitality. Why is this particular endorsement important?
CTR: Well, as someone that’s worked alongside the labor movement and worked to defend the interests of working people, when I go to Washington the people that I want to represent are the middle class and working class families that make our economy and country strong. So receiving the endorsement of CWA and Unite Here, two of our state’s most important labor unions, CWA is the second largest labor union in Texas, is a substantial investment in my vision and my leadership and what we can do together when I go to Washington. While John Cornyn says he cares about American workers, all I see is he cares about his big corporate donors because while he was accepting millions of dollars in the construction industry, I was making $43,000 a year leading Workers Defense Project, representing thousands of construction workers across our state that lost their limbs and lives building our state’s economy. I think to defeat John Cornyn you need someone that understands just how hard Texas families work and what they’re up against and knows how to change that reality. And as someone that spent over a decade working alongside working people and working families. I know just how to do that.
TS: In terms of the field, how do you see the Democratic primary field shaping up? Why should someone vote for you over, say, MJ Hegar or Royce West?
CTR: There’s some new polls out, including one for data for progress. It shows that there is likely to be a runoff. If I’m in a run off with MJ, that I will beat MJ. A lot of people believe that you win in Texas by driving up turnout. It is no mystery that a candidate that knows how to rally the diverse state the Texas is today together with the Democratic base, is how we defeat John Cornyn. It’s how we flip Texas. I spent many years traveling the state, talking to voters of all different kinds of background, but also getting out voters, like young voters in Texas. I helped lead and co-found the Texas Youth Power Alliance, Move Texas, the Texas Freedom Network and Jolt that helped register one in five voters in Texas in 2018, nearly all young voters, and got 68% of them out to vote. We saw a 500% increase in the youth vote in our state in 2018. If someone’s looking for a candidate that’s going to be a champion on the issues of climate change, a champion on the issues that working people face, a champion on changing our healthcare system and making our democracy work for everyone, I believe I have a real track record of getting things done for ordinary people and also having the ability to stand up to powerful special interests and not back down to win the people that I represent. The last thing I’ll say is, look, I know that in this race I may be underestimated. You can just ask any construction company or politician who ever went up against me if they regretted underestimating me and the people that I represent, I think this race will prove to be no different.
TS: Taking partisanship out of it for a minute, John Cornyn has been a pretty weak senator for a while now, and impeachment seems to have only magnified his sheepishness. So what’s your take on Cornyn? Has he delivered for the state?
CTR: When I look at John Cornyn and the fact that he’s been our senator, but almost two full decades, and I look at the fact that Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the country. Or I look at the fact that John Cornyn has stood by and supported a president who has decided to attack, demonize and target communities of color, immigrants, and their children. That’s the majority of the Texas population at this point. In my mind, he is an absolutely failed senator and has no business being our senator anymore. That we need someone that’s truly going to fight for us, that has had their feet on the ground here in Texas long enough to know what Texas families actually face and what they’re going through and what kind of change they need. Someone that’s not just going to be a follower of their party or another politician but will be a leader. A leader is willing to buck their own party. A leader is willing to call out wrong when they see it and do what’s right and in the interest of the American people. The impeachment trial has proven once again that John Cornyn has no interest in serving the people of Texas.
TS: Earlier this week, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration on what’s called public charge. So the high court is now allowing Trump to deny green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid. or food stamps. It’s been reported that this policy was pushed by Trump aide Stephen Miller. What’s your reaction to this news?
CTR: Once again, the Trump administration is playing politics with the lives of millions of people. He’s targeting and scapegoating immigrants, issues particularly important for Texas I mentioned we have one of the highest childhood poverty rates, we also have one and three Texans that are like me, immigrants or children of immigrants. We have an immigration system that we could fix, that we could make it work in the interests of immigrants, immigrant families, and American workers. But the Trump administration is continuing to push immigrants underground to create divisions in our communities. I know of an immigrant family just a couple weeks ago that needed medical care, and they were afraid that if they went to the hospital that could hurt their legal status.
Photo by Cristina for Texas