AUSTIN — U.S. Congressional District 35 includes parts of East and Downtown Austin, stretching to San Marcos, New Braunfels and south all the way to San Antonio. The district's lines and numbers have changed over the years due to gerrymandering, but since these lines were drawn in 2013 and for nearly 20 years before that, Democrat Lloyd Doggett has represented the area in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Electrical Inspector David Smalling won the Republican primary and is challenging Doggett in the 2018 midterm. He sat down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss his campaign.
Ashley Goudeau: Let's begin by telling our viewers a little bit about yourself and why you're running for Congress.
David Smalling: "A little bit about myself, well, I've been a working man all my life. I worked as a blue-collar worker. I ran a business of my own, that I had, until the SNL fallout and one day I'm looking at a half million dollars worth of work and the next day I'm looking at zero dollars worth of work. That's how quick it went out. And a lot of regulations and stuff that made it where it wasn't worth it anymore. So I did that. I got into oil and gas. I'm doing inspections in the oil and gas industry because I have a good level of electrical knowledge and electrical's very important because if it's not done right, things have a tendency to go 'boom.' We don't want that. I was in Iraq, 2010, 2011 supporting our troops over there. And although they wouldn't allow me to get off of base we took incoming into the base. And I saw people that had actually gotten killed inside the base and offices next door to mine that were blown up and things like that. So that and the oil and gas industry's helped me out a lot because, and because I was in business for, I made executive decisions all the time, controlled budgets and all that kind of stuff. And quite frankly, I'm tired of professional politicians. That's why I'm running. I'm not a professional politician. I'm just a guy out here who wants to do some civil service, get in, make things a little bit better and get out."
Goudeau: Correct me if I'm wrong, you've never held political office before correct?
Smalling: "That is correct."
Goudeau: And so, why run for Congress? Do you feel like that's a little ambitious?
Smalling: "No I don't feel like it's ambitious. This particular office has been held for 24 years. It was gerrymandered Democratic district, and the person that's sitting in it has been in politics for 40 years and had two years of private practice. So, Thomas Jefferson once said, 'a politician looks forward to the next election. A statesman looks forward to the next generation.' I'm looking forward to the next generation."
Goudeau: And so is there anything in particular about Congressman Lloyd Doggett's performance that concerns you, while he's been in Congress?
Smalling: "Well, I don't know. What's he done, you know, what's he accomplished other than like many congressmen, they go in one way and they come out as multimillionaires."
Goudeau: Let's talk a little bit about District 35. What do you feel are the most, the three most pressing issues for the folks living in the district?
Smalling: "A lot of the folks down there are telling me that they want some representation and they're not seeing their representative. I spoke to some retired teachers the other day in San Antonio. They are on the TRS and taking their retirement from the Teacher Retirement Fund and they had to pay Social Security when they taught in the San Antonio Independent School District. They're only getting 40 percent of their Social Security. Now that's their money, they put it in there, it belongs to them, all 100 percent of it. Why is it that they're only getting 40 percent? You know, Vice President Joseph Biden drew $29,000 while he was Vice President, of Social Security. Why does he get his full percentage and teachers get 40 percent?"
Goudeau: What are your thoughts on how we can address immigration in the United States?
Smalling: "It's interesting you ask me that because I just met with three Filipinos who came in here correctly. They're all retired now but they told me, said, 'It took me 10 years to get my citizenship. Do you think we need to build the wall?' And I said, 'Yeah, probably, so because we were promised that under Reagan, that Congress would build a wall., And they said, 'You're right, we need to build the wall 'cause it's not fair for them to come up in here and we had to go through 10 years to get our citizenship.' I think there are some things that we can do on immigration. We need to get some work visas so that people don't come over here as illegal aliens and automatically break our laws. But if they come over here under a work visa where they're here legally, then that helps a whole bunch of people that are in this country illegally now."
Goudeau: Let's also talk a little bit about guns. After we saw the shootings at Sutherland Springs, the shooting at Santa Fe High School, those two in Texas, we heard renewed calls for changes to gun laws. Do you feel as though there needs to be some changes made, and if so, what?
Smaling: "I'm an NRA member. I'm a life member. I was raised around guns. I was taught how to use guns. So anyone that buys a gun now has to go through a background check. And I hear people talk about, oh we gotta get this universal background check. It's already here. We already have it. We don't need another universal background check. They say, wel,l let's get rid of Saturday Night Specials. Well, what's the definition of a Saturday Night Special? You know, let's get rid of a military-type weapon. What's the definition of a military-type weapon? They say these things but then they won't give us a definition so we can see what they're actually talking about. Now, as far as the shootings at the schools and stuff, I think part of it is that those students that do that probably need some help. Now, you know, under the Republican Reagan, they did away with a lot of the healthcare money. And that's why we have a lot of street people, I believe, 'cause people who were in healthcare facilities getting their medication are now on the street, can't get their medication."
Goudeau: So I just want to push back a little bit because both Republicans and Democrats have noted that there are some cracks with the universal background check system. And you have people who go to gun shows and they aren't subject to those checks.
Smalling: "Well, in some states, if you sell from a private individual to a private individual you have to go through a background check. So that may be what they're talking about because if I ... if you're a private individual and I want to buy a gun from you, I can buy that gun without a background check."
Goudeau: Right, so when you say we already have background checks, we don't in those instances.
Smalling: "In those instances we don't and it's not only in Texas, it's in other states as well. So maybe that's something we need to look at."
Goudeau: "When we look at healthcare, Texas has the highest rate of people who are uninsured in the country. How would you address healthcare?
Smalling: "I think we need to make healthcare where insurance companies can sell it across state lines, put a little competition in there and lower the rate. My wife was self-employed and our insurance after ACA went into effect jumped from like $700 apiece to like $1,900 apiece for us to keep the same deductions that we had. So I think ACA kind of helped increase some of the insurance rates as well."
Goudeau: What things would you like to see the federal government do, if you are elected, to spur more job growth?
Smalling: "Well, I think we're on the right path now. We're cutting some regulations, we're cutting some taxes for corporations. There are some other things that we could do and I kind of get mixed between is it the federal government's job to tell a business how to run or is it that business's job to run competitively. Now I see some issues where some of these CEOs are making millions of dollars a year for their packages. If I were a shareholder, I'd be saying you need to take less pay and put more of that money into the business. But that's up to the shareholders I think."
Goudeau: With the new tax cuts that were pushed by the Republican Party, the national debt is expected to increase by about $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. What are your thoughts, if you're elected, on how you're going to work to address the debt?
Smalling: "Well, some of that increase is the interest we're having to pay on that debt. That's some of the increase. But we need our federal government to learn how to spend less money. You know, they don't have to have all these port barrel projects for their districts and what have you. They just need to provide the necessities I think."
Goudeau: Do you have any final thoughts for our viewers on why they should elect you opposed to Congressman Lloyd Doggett on Nov. 6?
Smalling: "Yes, because I'm a working representative and I want to work for working people. And the bulk of CD35 is people that get up like you and I do every day and go to work every day. They need representation, not someone who's worried about his next election, but they need someone who'll look out for their future."