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Texas This Week: State Sen. Royce West running for U.S. Senate

State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) said it's time to take his experience from Austin to Washington D.C.

AUSTIN, Texas — One story dominated Texas politics this week: The release of a secretly recorded conversation between Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen and the CEO of Empower Texans, Michael Quinn Sullivan. 

Plus, State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) sat down with KVUE's Ashley Goudeau to discuss his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Three Things to Know in Texas Politics

The secret recording

Speaker Bonnen and Sullivan gave very different accounts of a meeting they had at the Texas State Capitol in June and it turns out Sullivan was the one telling the truth. 

Sullivan secretly recorded the hour-long conversation and released it to the public this week. In the recording, Speaker Bonnen asks Sullivan to campaign against members of his own Republican party in 2020 in exchange for media credentials for Sullivan's organization during the next legislative session. The Speaker also had some not so nice things to say about some members of the House. 


Speaker Bonnen in secret recording: 'Let's go after these Republicans'

At GOP caucus meeting, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen offered resolution calling for his own resignation

A small, but increasing, number of bi-partisan lawmakers are calling for Bonnen to resign and that's not his only obstacle. The Texas Rangers are investigating the conversation and will report their findings to the Brazoria County District Attorney. She will determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing. 

President Donald Trump's rally in Dallas

President Donald Trump was stumping in Texas this week. He came to Dallas to host a "Keep America Great" rally. The President appeared to be in good spirits, despite finding out on the flight that his Energy Secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is stepping down. Perry was recently subpoenaed by the House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry of the President.

Early Voting starts

It's time to Vote Texas! Early voting in the November 2019 election starts Monday, Oct. 21. Voters will weigh in on 10 state constitutional amendments and several city and county propositions and races.


Here's what's on the ballot for the City of Austin this Election Day

10 state propositions will be on the ballot this Election Day. Here’s what you need to know

Williamson County has 2 props on the ballot this Election Day. Travis County has 1. Here's what they are

State Sen. Royce West Running for U.S. Senate 

Election day is Nov. 5, but a lot of people are looking ahead to the 2020 election and the March primary. Nine Democrats are running to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, including the State Senator from Dallas, Royce West. He sat down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss his campaign.

WATCH: Texas This Week: Oct. 20, 2019

Ashley Goudeau: Tell us why you want to make the transition now and run for the U.S. Senate.

West: "I think that I have the ability to be of service to Texas at the national level. I have worked very diligently across the aisle on a multitude of issues here at the state level and I think I have a lot to offer at the national level now."

Goudeau: Other than the obvious differences between you being a Democrat and Senator John Cornyn being a Republican, what is it about his record and his performance thus far that really made you want to challenge him right now?

West: "Well, I think that if anyone, any rational person would kind of look at where we are as a country right now, this is the most divisive I've seen this country since I've been alive. I see that the checks and balances that we have in our government are no longer there. The fact of the matter is that we have a strong executive branch of government that's now co-oped the judicial branch of government and I believe that the Senate, which John is a part of has been complicit in what we see as a degradation in our constitution."

Goudeau: When we think about the issues that are on the minds of Texans I think there are two big ones and one of the big ones is health care. You know, the U.S. Census Bureau just ranked Texas again as the most uninsured state in the country. The Center for Public Policy Priorities found that 1 in 4 Texans have medical debt. How can we began to address this?

West: "I think that you've got to kind of look back – and I want you to understand what I'm saying – you've heard this saying, 'you don't throw the baby out with the bath water.' Well, I think Republicans unfortunately have attempted, as it relates to healthcare, have attempted to throw the baby out with bathwater just because of who its father is. The fact of the matter is, Barack Obama, President Obama, is the father of the Affordable Healthcare Act. And you've had Republicans who kind of resented him, and everything that he's done. They've tried to wipe from the books of Congress and of regulations and laws of this country. Don't get me wrong, there are problems with the Affordable Health Care Act. I don't know of any legislation, state legislation, city council rules and regulations that can't be looked at again. There are problems with the Affordable Healthcare Act. But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should try to fix it and it takes a bipartisan effort to know how to do it. And so, I think that as a U.S. Senator, that's exactly what we have to do. You have to also look at when the Affordable Care Act came in, Texas had the ability to get $10 billion, $10 billion per year if we had expanded Medicaid. And there were those of us that understood the issue as to whether or not the federal government would be able to pay that debt and we would have put language in the bill that basically would have clawed back Texas' obligation if the federal government didn't live up to their obligation. So, Texas wouldn't have been out of anything other than expanding Medicaid in order to make certain that we wouldn't be number one on that list as you just pointed out."

Goudeau: Immigration and securing the border is another big issue for folks here in Texas, particularly when we look at all of the detention centers and what's happening with these detention centers in Texas. There is not a one size fits all fix for this, but where can we start on addressing immigration and securing our border?

West: "Well, I mean the fact of the matter is we have to secure the border and securing the border to me means making certain we have the judicial system in place in order to make certain as persons are coming in, they can be adjudicated as expeditiously as possible. I think we've got to continue to work with other countries, Mexico and some of the other Southern American countries in order to keep people in those countries that we can, under reasonable circumstances waving their entry into this country or adjudication at least for purposes on coming into this country." 

Goudeau: The wall is always a big conversation. President Donald Trump still –

West: "Look, let me say this: Donald Trump has lied to you about the wall. First of all, he sat up and said Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Mexico is not paying for this wall. And yes, he's lied to you about it. And so the fact is is that, that is not happening. Americans shouldn't have to be paying for something that this President has said that Mexico was going to be paying for. He's trying to sell us another bill of goods. Period. End of conversation."

Goudeau: The Texas Tribune recently published a report earlier this month about your campaign disclosures they wrote in it that quote "you raked in millions of legal fees representing governmental entities." Some see this as a conflict of interest given the fact that you are a State Senator. What's your response to this?

West: "Well, first of all, someone needs to tell my wife where all those millions are first of all.  Let me say this, in Texas, we have a part-time Legislature. In terms of the kind of practice I have, I'm an attorney, I've been an attorney for 40 years. I was practicing public finance law before I became a state senator. So the very law that they're talking about that I practice is something I did before I became a State Senator and this is not a new story. It seems like every other year it becomes a story, which it's not. And the reality is, is that I have about eight to ten lawyers. Many of them are excellent in terms of the work that they do and they practice school law and they practice public finance law and that's what we do." 

Goudeau: Do you see this as being a conflict of interest?

West: "Not at all, not at all. I mean because the reality is is that you have got to make certain that you separate your duties and responsibilities as a State Senator and those as a lawyer. Now if people want to change the way legislators work then we need to have a full time legislature and legislators need to be paid more than $600 a month."

Goudeau: When we look at your race against Senator John Cornyn, he's already launching attack ads at you, what are your thoughts at you know, he's attacking your record.

RELATED: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn starts campaign attack against State Sen. Royce West during Democratic debate

West: "Well I mean, you know here's the deal, I want Central Texas to understand this, that John Cornyn used to be the attorney general in the State of Texas. I'm the same person that he's calling liberal, is he calling me liberal, something like that? I'm the same person that he came to carry his part of his legislative initiatives when he was the attorney general. He didn't think I was too liberal then, I don't know what's changed now." 

Goudeau: Before you can even face Senator Cornyn in an election, you have to win the Democratic primary. You are in a crowded field of Democrats. A lot of people want to take him on. What makes you different, why should Democratic voters elect you?

West: "Well, I just want Central Texas to know that I've been fortunate, blessed to have the endorsement of several of the leaders here in central Texas. Kurt Watson who's been a State Senator here for a {inaudiable} period of time but Gonzalo Barrientos, former State Senator. Celia Israel a State Representative here. Jeff Travillion, a county commissioner here. I can go on and on, Sheryl Cole another State Representative here and other elected officials here in Central Texas. Persons that you have elected to be your representative and you trust. If you trust their judgment concerning the things that you elected them for, hopefully you will trust their judgment about their endorsement of me as the next U.S. Senator. In addition, not only have they endorsed me but of the 12 Democratic State Senators, as an example, in the State of Texas, 10 have endorsed me for the U.S. Senate race. Of the 67 House members, Democratic House members, 48 have endorsed me. And so, the point is this, those persons aren't just endorsing me just to be endorsing me because they're accountable for their constituents. They think that I'm the best choice for the Democrats to run for United States Senate. And the reason that it is because you can kind of judge what a person's going to do in the future if you look at what they've done in the past. And if you look at what I've done in the past, in the area of criminal justice, in the area of health care, in the area of women's rights, in the area of education, etcetera, etcetera, you see that I'm the best qualified to serve as a nominee for the Democratic party."

Read more about Sen. Royce West and his campaign for the U.S. Senate


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