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Texas This Week: Michael Cooper, candidate for U.S. Senate

Pastor and psychologist Michael Cooper said he's running for the U.S. Senate to have an impact on education in America

AUSTIN, Texas — The filing deadline to be on the Texas March primary ballot has come and gone and now the races are revving up. Plus, Ashley Goudeau sat down with U.S. Senate candidate Michael Cooper to discuss his campaign.

Three things to know in Texas politics

The filing deadline to be on the Texas March Primary ballot was Monday, Dec. 9. Now that we know who's running, we can see that the race for Congress should be interesting. There are Republicans and Democrats filed to run for every seat in Texas as Democrats try to flip the state blue and Republicans fight to keep it red.

RELATED: Last day candidates can file for Texas Primary ballot is Monday

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden was in Texas on Friday. He attended a community event in San Antonio, followed by a fundraiser. 

Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families released a new report this week that found the number of American children younger than six who don't have health insurance significantly increased from 2016 to 2018. And the rate of young children without health insurance in Texas is significantly higher than the rest of the country. Texas has the second-highest rate, falling behind Alaska.

Michael Cooper, candidate for U.S. Senate

Now that the political candidate filing deadline has passed, we know there are 12 Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Senator John Cornyn in 2020. Among them is Michael Cooper, a former candidate for lieutenant governor, a pastor and the manager of a car dealership in Beaumont

He sat down with Ashley Goudeau to discuss his campaign. 

Ashley Goudeau: For our viewers who aren't familiar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you're running for the U.S. Senate.

Michael Cooper: "Well, it's amazing. Some of the viewers, they probably know who I am cause I ran for lieutenant governor and I had almost half a million votes when I ran in 2018 and we had a great turnout. But one reason why I ran for office is because of education. I find our education system in the State of Texas is not exactly what it should be. We teach to our standardized testing, and we need to start teaching and re-teach. So that's one of the reasons why I became a politician. I'm an outsider, somebody that actually cares about our youth and our kids and this is one way to get the attention.

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Goudeau: As it relates to Senator John Cornyn, besides the obvious differences between the fact that he's a Republican and you're a Democrat, what is it about him that makes you want to challenge him for this seat?

Cooper: "Well, first of all, I like to think we're all human and not Republican or Democrats because we all care about the same thing and that's people. One thing I know about John Cornyn is he's been doing this about 30 years and a lot of people don't know who he is. He's been in three different offices, three different pensions and we're seeing things about becoming the FBI director. So, what that means is he doesn't quite have the State of Texas on his mind. Maybe another time, I'm not sure. But a lot of people when I go around and I say, 'Who's your senator? Who's John Cornyn?' They say, 'Who?' They've heard of Ted Cruz because of the infamous race with Beto O'Rourke, but no one knows who John Cornyn is. So I want them to know who Michael Cooper is. And Mike Cooper is a candidate who cares about all people – not just Republicans, not just Democrats, but represent the State of Texas."

Goudeau: Why do you feel like running for U.S. Senate is the way to go?

Cooper: "Well, there was this senator out in California and she just stopped running for president of the United States, Senator [Kamala] Harris. And when she first came out, she was talking about education and giving teachers a $13,000 a year pay raise or using $300 billion of the federal money that's out there. But, see, a lot of people, that's on a federal level, they're not thinking about the State. She challenged Vice President Joe Biden and said, you know, sometimes when State gets it wrong, the federal government needs to step in. And that's what I think needs to happen right now. I think the State is getting it wrong. There are some folks, I know, that's from Houston, Texas – I think you said earlier you're from Houston – and the State of Texas just took over the school district out there in Houston. They did the same thing in Beaumont, Texas. And instead of getting better, it got worse. So we have failing schools, F-rated schools. Lieutenant Dan Patrick decided to come up with this program called F rating. And guess what, they're getting an F because they're closing down schools. In North Dallas, they have the same issues, but they fought it and challenged it and pushed back. The State cannot run schools. 

So, I think that the federal government needs to come in and that's why I've decided to run for the United States Senate. Because there's some power on the federal level that no one's utilizing for the states."

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Goudeau: You talk a lot about education. What are some policies you want to specifically change? 

Cooper: "Well, one of the things I want to do is grow our own. There are a lot of students that's graduating at 18 years of age and they're brilliant. Imagine, we have cosmetologists that's out there and that's a $40 billion a year industry. And what's happening is that those kids are graduating 18 years of age, certified. My sister teaches cosmetology at Cy-Fair in Houston, Texas. And her kids are making $80,000 to $90,000 a year. Well, why can't we start teaching teachers in the 9th and 10th grade and when they graduate, they have a two-year Associate's Degree and then they go on to teach K through 6th and then we hold them for five years and then we give them loan forgiveness after they finish their education and then keep them for four more years and pay for their education. Now we have certified teachers that's teaching on a certified level, K through 12th. So now we're ready for our future."

Goudeau: When we think about health insurance, that is an issue that impacts a lot of Texans. Our state continues to rank as having the highest rates of folks who are uninsured, both adults and children. Where do you want to begin to address this issue?

Cooper: "I want to begin in my own home 'cause I have three kids that's in college. I have one that's 26 years of age and he can't afford health insurance. I can no longer provide insurance for him. So, these are issues and loopholes that we need to go back and address and deal with. Although there's a Bernie Sanders idea out there, Medicaid for all, that's expensive cause they challenged Elizabeth Warren and said, 'Hey, who's going to pay for that?' The middle class is going to pay for that. There's going to be a tax raise. So, we need to make sure we understand that it's going to hurt to make a difference, but we do need affordable, accessible health care for our babies, for our youth, all the way up to our 65, 70, 80-year-old folks. So no one needs to be left behind when it comes to health care. And the shame of matter is that, in the State of Texas, African American woman have the worst health care in the world cause after giving birth, the mortality rating for them to die increases – highest in Texas and highest in the United States."

Goudeau: You mentioned Medicare for all and it sounds like you're not necessarily a fan of that cause of the cost?

Cooper: "Well, I'm a fan of it, but the problem is you have to come up with a way to pay for it. So, how do we get there? So, brighter minds than myself haven't come up with a idea yet of how to fix it, how to pay for it, so while we work on that, we need to start looking at the Affordable Care Act, where they left behind. The Republicans said, 'Let's repeal and replace it.' Well, I say, let's rebuild it and fix it. So that's what we need to do. We need to work on what we already have and work towards the Medicare for all. So, we need to figure it out."

Goudeau: When we look at some of the recent tragedies that happened in Texas with gun violence, we had the mass shooting in El Paso, what happened in Midland, Odessa. What are your thoughts on what we can do to start to reduce these types of acts of violence?

Cooper: "Well, we need to get rid of the loopholes, we need to make sure we have criminal background checks. One of the things I keep bringing up, a lot of people like to say, I think about this. I sleep three-and-a-half hours a night and one of the things I thought about is most of these people are young. They're 18, 19, 25 years of age. So, what I want to do is do a background check, even in high school. I want to look at conduct. A lot of these people were kicked out of school. Nobody's talking about that. I'm a pastor, I'm a psychologist. So, I'm looking at these things, trying to figure these things out. Anger unmanaged becomes mental illness. And a lot of people don't realize that those crimes, hate crimes – not just hate, it's vengeance. They're trying to pay back evil, how they were treated in school. You hear those young people, 'Well, they talked about me' or 'they bullied me' and they go back and they want to kill someone. 

One of the last episodes I saw, this security officer took the gun, the rifle away from the person that's about to commit this crime and he just hugged him for 20 minutes. A lot of people are just looking for love, affirmation. So, we need to look at these things and I challenge everybody that's in social work, psychologists, to work with us with mental illness. It is real. But we need to look at the loopholes, the gun laws and make a firmer and work on those."

Goudeau: So I just want to push back a little bit about this idea. We're talking about juveniles. And you think that we should look at a juvenile's school record to see as to whether or not someone should be able to get a gun?

Cooper: "If they're under 18, yeah, 18 years of age, from 9th grade to 12th grade, I'm recommending that we look at their conduct and if they're expelled from school. And we need to look at their background, they're 19, 20 years of age and they're applying for gun, you need to look at their conduct record, absolutely."

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Goudeau: You are running in a very crowded field of Democrats. There are 12 candidates that filed to run in this race, trying to challenge John Cornyn. Why should our viewers vote for you?

Cooper: "Every kid doesn't have everything that they need to get ahead in life. So I decided, I can't decide for anybody else. It can be another 40 people in this race, I'm still going to run my race and my race is to make sure that our kids get the quality education. And on the United States Senate level, the federal level, there's money that's not been marked, that's money that's not been utilized, to reinforce the infrastructure of our schools and to better educate our kids in the State of Texas. I am a fighter for the State of Texas. Now, watch this, I can chew gum and walk at the same time. I can work on health care, I can work on the needs for our African American women that are dying after childbirth, I can work on the issues when it comes to criminal justice reform, bail reform, I can work on all those issues. But the main thing I'm pushing is education."

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