By Gilda Morales
I had the honor of interviewing the two candidates for one the most hotly contested congressional races, the Texas 23rd, pitting incumbent Will Hurd against Pete Gallego, who lost to Hurd in the previous congressional race. Mr. Hurd was interviewed on August 8 and Mr. Gallego was interviewed on August 22. The entire interviews were transcribed and are available on the Advocate website in their entirety, for those that wish to read them. Both candidates were asked the same questions, dealing with local, state and federal issues, with follow up questions as necessary. The following is a list of the questions that were asked
1. Locally, many counties are wondering what can be done to help with the widespread destruction of county roads by the pipeline and oil industries.
2. What is your opinion of the decision by the courts to overturn voter ID laws in Texas and several other states?
3. What are your views on campus carry and open carry?
4. What are your views on the gun show loopholes?
5. We hear of Congress voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times. What are you going to replace it with and what do you tell the millions of people who have health insurance for the first time in their lives?
6. Are you supporting Trump?
7. What are your thoughts on the “wall?”
Mr. Hurd’s response to the first question, which dealt with funding for repairing county roads, was to look to TxDot and inform them which roads had been destroyed. approaching companies and saying, “hey, can you help the local community?” So, that is…the devil’s in the details, in knowing which roads they are.”
Mr. Hurd is apparently unaware that county roads are not the responsibility of TxDot, which is responsible for state roads and the Interstate system, and as such could not be in a position to help affected counties with their county roads. The editor is not sure how effective a plea for help to “companies” would result in enough money to repair our roads.
On the recent decision by the courts to overturn the voter ID requirement, Mr. Hurd stated that he believes that the more people that can vote, the better, but mentioned that voter fraud is a problem in his district, specifically in Val Verde county, where two precincts were “double counted” by more than 2400 votes. When pressed about the burden that had been placed on the elderly who did not possess drivers’ licenses or on college students who were barred from using their college IDs, Mr. Hurd disputed that this was the case.
At the time of this interview, the Texas Voter ID law was overturned as being discriminatory and up until July when according to pbs.org, “Elections experts widely agree that the Texas law, which accepted concealed handgun licenses but not college IDs, was the toughest in the nation.” An extensive search into Mr. Hurd’s report of double counting in Val Verde County failed to find any evidence or mention of this incident.
When asked his opinion on campus carry and open carry, Mr. Hurd believes “That’s a, that’s a state issue that has to be decided by the states and those local entities. I know that universities are making different decisions, but I believe that decision should be left up to them.” The follow up question asked Mr. Hurd about Congress’ failure to pass any legislation to bolster background checks for even those on no-fly zones, Mr. Hurd defended the idea that ID mix-ups could prevent a person with the same name as one on the no-fly list, from obtaining a firearm, which is not acceptable. Mr. Hurd also stated that anyone that applies for a firearm automatically gets checked by the FBI, but admitted he was unsure of what the actual procedure entailed.
Mr. Hurd also stated that the background checks extended to firearm sales at gun shows.
Currently, there is a three-day window from applying for the purchase of a firearm, but the only information provided to the licensed arms dealer is “proceed or do not proceed.” Private sales, like those at gun shows do not require a background check.
Mr. Hurd then questioned the number of people that actually slip by the loophole and was not convinced that it was as much of a problem as ISIS and the radicalization by ISIS and Muslims.
Mr. Hurd was unable to respond to a follow up question about how most mass shootings have NOT been carried out by terrorist. However, he correctly pointed to mental illness as a large problem in this country with many of the mass shootings involving mental illness, and touted a bill, H.R 6 as being passed by congress to address mental illness. He also named another bill, the Clay Hunt Act, which allows veterans to get timely access to mental health sources. H.R. 6 was widely amended by the Senate and deals with shortening the time for research and production of drugs for unusual diseases as well as an increase for the National Institutes of Health.
Mr. Hurd’s answers to replacement plans for the Affordable Care Act consisted of pointing the editor to go to the website, better.gop for the answer. When pressed to give an answer “in a nutshell,” Mr. Hurd stated that it consisted mainly of “give(ing) the decision to individuals” about what kind of insurance to buy. According to Mr. Hurd, “We shouldn’t have folks in Washington, D.C. deciding what kind of insurance we need.” Mr. Hurd continued that he was against the “mandate” requiring people to buy health insurance, but was unsure of how to implement a system that would insure everyone. He stated, “ And I think the opportunity is…. you know…Medicaid…that’s a state issue and how to implement that…that’s giving healthcare providers some tax breaks when they are providing care to the indigent that they have an ability to recoup some of those benefits…we can do that with some tweaks in the tax code??? Cause guess what? You’re a doctor…you got into this because you want to help people, and you’re never going to turn anybody away, and you probably see more people that couldn’t afford it if there was ability for you to realize some of that, some of that savings. So you know, there’s a whole host of issues on how we can make sure that you’re not going broke so that you can continue to provide care to folks within the community…. We gotta get to Alpine…”
Before Mr. Hurd hurried off, he was asked if he supported Trump.
Mr. Hurd waffled and stated that he had stated his position millions of time, but liked the fact that Mr. Trump had a strong, national security plan. However, when pressed what that plan was, Mr. Hurd said, “That’s why I’m, that’s why I haven’t endorsed him…”
Running along Mr. Hurd on his way to his car, he was asked his opinion on the “wall”
Mr. Hurd responded that the wall was the most inefficient and costly way to implement border security and that it would significantly impact international commerce.
Mr. Gallego was interviewed on August 22 and was asked the same questions as Mr. Hurd.
Mr. Gallego’s response to the question on finding funding for repairs to county roads devastated by the oilfield and pipeline industries was to divert tax revenues derived from these companies back to the counties where the taxes were paid, along with using grant programs from the federal government.
Mr. Gallego’s responded to the question about the courts overturning Texas’ voter ID law, by saying that he had never voted for any voter ID laws and that reports of voter fraud have been exaggerated, with only a handful of actual cases of voter fraud documented.
According to the Washington Post, only 31 credible cases of voter fraud have been documented out of one billion votes cast, and as found on npr.org, “A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so.”
On the question about open carry and campus carry, Mr. Gallego responded that as a student at the University of Texas during the time of the Charles Whitman sniper shooting helped form his current views on campus carry as a potentially dangerous idea where the “bad guys” can’t be differentiated from the “good guys.” He also stated that he has educated his son, Nicolas on gun safety, but doesn’t see the need for open carry. His opinion that many of the mass shootings were perpetrated by people with mental illness, was along the same lines as Mr. Hurd, but Mr. Gallego stated that there is not enough funding to address increasing numbers of mentally ill patients. Mr. Gallego believes that current background checks are not sophisticated enough to prevent the mentally ill or others who should not to, to purchase firearms. He believes that DPS and sheriff’s departments have better technology when checking information during traffic stops than is available for firearm purchases.
When asked about his views on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Gallego agreed that there are changes that need to take place to make the plan more affordable. He mentioned the fact that currently, the federal government is not allowed to negotiate drug prices like Wal-Mart can, and he believes that incentives to expand Medicaid could also help lower prices. He also stated that he was frustrated that Congress wasted so much time attempting to repeal the ACA that could have been spent finding ways of improving it. Mr. Gallego said that two of the greatest aspects of the ACA are the provisions that prohibit insurance companies from exempting clients for pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to insure their children to age 26.
Mr. Gallego was then asked if he endorsed Hillary Clinton, and he enthusiastically replied that he had endorsed her a long time ago. He stated that he was initially introduced to Bill Clinton by Ann Richards and that while both candidates have their faults, Trump scared him.
When asked about his opinion about the “wall,”, Mr. Gallego replied that it was the dumbest idea he had every heard, especially for many of the people living along the border who have family on both sides of the border. He sees it as a historical relationship with roots going back many generations.
After both interviews, transcribing and writing this article, the differences in these candidates are a microcosm of the vast differences in the electorate throughout the country. However, what was revealed in the interviews was more than the usual political differences found between democrats and republicans. There was a concerning lack of basic knowledge of how government works, misinformation about current events and a lack of personal opinion by instead towing the party line and spewing tired sound bites by Mr. Hurd. He was unable to articulate or defend positions touted by his party and when asked about supporting the standard bearer for his party, Mr. Hurd hid under his website for answers. There was no warmth or sharing of common experiences of growing up in little towns like Alpine, Marfa, Presidio, a comfort level that this editor found in Mr. Gallego and his mother. But it was more than that. Mr. Gallego was knowledgeable and passionate about his candidacy and what drives him to seek his previous office. He was articulate in his desire to find common ground with the opposing party, to stop the gridlock and actually pass legislation for the good of his constituents. Mr. Gallego never once resorted to using sound bites or referred us to his website to answer difficult questions. As such, the Van Horn Advocate is wholeheartedly endorsing Pete Gallego for Representative of the 23rd Congressional District.
The following is links for the transcripts of both interviews with our representatives.