AUSTIN, Texas — A state representative was arrested this week, charged with felony drug possession – and Amanda Edwards (D), candidate for U.S. Senate, sits down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss her campaign.
Three things to know in Texas politics
State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) turned himself in to police Thursday for charges of felony drug possession and is currently out on bond. According to his arrest warrant, back in September, two Texas Department of Transportation employees found an envelope containing four small bags of cocaine outside the Austin airport entrance that's used by state officials. The envelope was an official state envelope with Nevarez's letterhead. Surveillance video shows he dropped the envelope while getting into a vehicle. Nevarez took many by surprise earlier this month when he announced he will not seek re-election. Nevarez holds powerful positions in the state House, he chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety and he is vice-chair of the newly formed Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety Committee. He reportedly said this incident is why he's not seeking re-election and that he is seeking treatment.
The State agriculture commissioner – known for making controversial statements – made headlines again this week. Sid Miller responded to a post on Facebook stating a Confederate group wouldn't be allowed to march in a Veteran's Day parade in his hometown of Stephenville. He commented, "Who told them to leave? Get a rope." After getting called out for the comment, Miller added, "Good grief people, it's a joke, an old saying from a Pace Picante commercial. Lighten up."
It looks like Texas won't implement online voter registration, at least for now. This week the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling of a federal judge that ordered the State to allow voters to register online. Three men sued the State, claiming it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. They each moved, updated their driver's licenses online and thought that by selecting "yes" in response to the voter registration question, they were registered to vote. But when they went to vote in the next election, they weren't registered because Texas doesn't have online voter registration. The men argued people who update their driver's licenses online after moving are treated differently than people who go to a Department of Public Safety office and can register on the spot. A federal judge agreed – but the state appealed. The panel of judges ruled since the men have been able to register to vote since this initially happened, they have no standing to pursue their claims.
Amanda Edwards (D), candidate for U.S. Senate
The 2020 election season is in full swing and in Texas, 10 Democrats are running to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Ashley Goudeau: Tell our viewers a little bit about yourself and why you're running for the U.S. Senate.
Amanda Edwards: "Absolutely. So currently, I serve 2.3 million Texans as an at-large Houston City Councilmember. I've been serving in that role for the past four years. And I'm now a U.S. Senate candidate for the State of Texas and couldn't be more thrilled to do so because I believe that this is the time where we deserve real results in Texas. All Texans deserve results, and I think this is the time to achieve that."
Goudeau: Some might say it's a little ambitious to go from a City office to, not just a statewide office, but the U.S. Senate. Is it a little ambitious or is this do-able?
Edwards: "I think it's not only do-able, I think this is exactly the type of leap we need people to make. Being on the ground with the residents, understanding what is happening in the communities, where policy breaks down, where it actually flourishes, but most importantly, being able to carry their stories with you; carry the issues with you and have a better appreciation of what happens on the ground. I think it's really, really important if you're going to carry out the function of making policy that impacts people."
Goudeau: Other than the obvious difference between the fact that you are a Democrat and Sen. John Cornyn is a Republican, why challenge him? What about him made you see this is the time to run against him?
Edwards: "Yes, great question. This is a very unique time in American politics, as you probably are already aware. One of the things that we learned in the 2018 election cycle is we saw a guy named Beto do pretty well in Texas and came within about two and a half percent of actually almost winning the U.S. senator seat against Cruz. But, looking at those results, what we found is that he did remarkably well in terms of growing a base of support from the middle. People who were independents, people who were in suburbs that didn't traditionally vote Democratic – but we also saw that there were votes that were left on the table. People under the age of 35 registered in high numbers but didn't come back out in such high numbers. Same thing happened with communities of color – registered in high numbers, didn't come back out in high numbers.
And so, what if we could get a candidate who could galvanize that middle just like Beto did, but then at the same time galvanize more of the base, more of those communities of color, more of those folks under the age of 35? And oftentimes when you see people not vote when they have registered to vote, there's a question of, 'Is there a nexus to my life?' Is this vote really going to make a difference for me?' And we've got to have a compelling enough of a candidate who not only speaks that as a part of their message but actually lives and delivers on that, which is me. I've been effective on a local level in terms of the things that we've done in the Houston community, and you've got to be able to demonstrate to people that you are going to see a difference in your life if you cast this vote. So not to get disconnected in just, you know, sometimes people get turned off by the campaign speech and they want to see the results rather than just the rhetoric. And we want people to know that this is what this campaign is about. It's a movement about empowering people and delivering the results that they need in their lives."
Goudeau: When we think about issues that are important to Texans, I think one of the top issues that come to mind is health care. Where do you stand?
Edwards: "I think the best way to go about delivering results on the things that we're talking about is to focus on fixing the Affordable Care Act by doing a few things. One, we've got to drive those costs of premiums down. That was one of the chief complaints that people had was that their premiums on their insurance were going up. That was problematic. We've got to fix that. We can do that through more transparency through billing. There are a lot of hidden costs associated with what comes out from, you know, your stay or your visits to a physician. And so figuring out how to drive those premium costs down is important.
The other thing we can do is also make sure that we have an affordable public option. So, with Medicare for all, that's basically putting everyone on Medicare and having that big umbrella, single-payer system as it's called, be available. In this case, you wouldn't see everybody's on Medicare, what you would do is have one public option that's affordable if people wanted it. So they don't have to get off of their employer-based insurance if they don't want to. But if they wanted or preferred, or if it was optimal for them, they would be able to access this public option."'
Goudeau: Texas, unfortunately, and tragically, has seen mass shootings recently that have happened within our state. We've got Midland-Odessa, you have the El Paso situation, you have the Greenville situation now that happened. How do you think this state can go about – or the country – can go about preventing these types of attacks? What type of action needs to be done in your eyes?
Edwards: "Yes, great question. Unfortunately, we've been talking about the same issue since I can remember. I was in high school when Columbine happened. And we're still not at a stage where we have comfortably passed universal background checks, despite the fact that almost 90% of Americans believe that it is an appropriate course of action to take. The challenge here is that we've got to have leaders that are willing to lead with courage rather than fear. The current incumbent in this role has maintained an A+ rating with the NRA and has been more concerned about doing that than protecting our families and protecting our kids and to protect our communities and that's wrong, you know? We have to be willing to say we are going to pass sensible gun policies, those that make sense, red flag policies. I mean, there are a litany of things that can be done where there's actual, pretty good consensus on in terms of the American public. They're asking us to keep them safe, and we have to do our jobs and follow through with that.”
Goudeau: Before you can take on Sen. John Cornyn in 2020, you would have to beat out a crowded field of Democrats who are running for this position. Tell me why our viewers, why they should select you over the other Democrats in the race.
Edwards: "Two things. One, we want to make sure you can elect someone who can actually obtain results. The results piece is key. If you – this is what this is all about, it's not about us just being folks on TV to be political commentators or to have opinions. We've got to come and bring home some of the reforms and changes that we talk about on the campaign trail. So, that's number one. It's an empowerment of people to achieve that.
The second piece is you've got to get out of the primary, the candidate that can actually beat John Cornyn – and I'm that candidate. Not only am I able to get people in the middle to come on board with me, similar to what Beto was able to do with suburbs and independent voters and others, but then I'll also be able to galvanize more of the base. Those folks in communities of color that stayed at home because I've been working in their communities, this is not a touchpoint on my campaign, this is actually work I've been doing and been effective at doing. Also, [the] same holds true for communities under the age of 35. I'm going to be taking on student debt. I know many people in that cohort who really feel passionately about the issue and we haven't done enough to say to our public and our private schools, 'You're taking grant dollars from the federal government, but I see the rates of tuition spiking up too high, we need you to cut that back. We need to dial that back and constrain some of those tuition cost increases.' That's what we need to do right now and have a person who has that type of message and can galvanize those communities so you can draw that nexus to your life. But most importantly, then, of course, be an effective leader and see those results.
I think because of my ability to build those unique coalitions, I'm uniquely positioned to unseat John Cornyn."
The Texas primary is Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020.
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