Q&A: Democratic candidates for U.S. representative for District 10 discuss area concerns, immigration policy

Three candidates are running in the Democratic primary for Texas' 10th congressional district. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Three candidates are running in the Democratic primary for Texas' 10th congressional district. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Three candidates are running in the Democratic primary for Texas' 10th congressional district. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

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Shannon Hutcheson
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Mike Siegel
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Pritesh Gandhi
Three candidates have filed to run in the Democratic primary for Texas' 10th Congressional District. The winner will face Republican candidate and incumbent Michael McCaul in November.

Shannon Hutcheson

Years lived in district: 25 (in Austin)

If elected, I would change: the health care system to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, eliminate surprise billing and offer a public option.

www.shannonhutcheson.com


Why are you running to represent U.S. District 10?

I'm a fourth generation Texan who grew up in a working poor family. I’m running for Congress to fight to lower health care and prescription drug costs, protect reproductive rights, reduce student loan debt, and bring back real representation to [District 10]. And, I won’t take any corporate [political action committee] money.

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected?

I would support legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. I’ve seen my mom, a retired public-school teacher, struggle to afford medication. No one should have to choose between paying for medication and putting food on the table or running their [air conditioning] in the Texas summer.

What national issue do you believe is of greatest concern or importance for District 10, and why?

Health care. Quality, affordable health care is a human right. We need to protect access for those with preexisting conditions, end surprise billing, make prescription drugs more affordable, and create a public option to give access to the 17% of Texans without coverage. Health care should not lead to financial ruin.

What are your top priorities regarding immigration policy?

Protecting the thousands of Dreamers who were brought here as children and have become valuable contributors to our communities. Passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that secures our border and provides a path to citizenship for law-abiding taxpayers. And, as a mom, I know separating children from their parents is wrong and must stop.

Mike Siegel

Years lived in district: 8

If elected, I would change: how the representative serves this district by being open, accessible and accountable; by fighting for the needs of working people.

www.siegelfortexas.org

Why are you running to represent U.S. District 10?

I’m running for Congress to fight for the needs of working people in the Texas 10th. This district, like many, faces the challenge of massive inequality of wealth and opportunity. Tens of thousands of residents have no health coverage, and tens of thousands more face bankruptcy in the event of a medical emergency. Rural hospitals are closing. ... We have inadequate flood control infrastructure. Rural residents lack high speed internet—and the list goes on. This is a district with great needs. At the same time, in spite of these needs, we have a crisis of representation. Incumbent Rep. [Michael] McCaul...is out of touch with the needs of the people. I’m committed to running a people-first, comprehensive campaign that will engage thousands of Texas [District] 10 residents in the work of political change, and in the process supporting movements that will lift people out of poverty and enhance opportunity and justice for all.

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected?

We must reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democratic society. For too long, Texas has suppressed the vote: through gerrymandering and voter ID laws, by taking away early voting locations, by making it more difficult to register to vote. I’ve made voting rights a top issue for my campaign. In 2018, my campaign made national news fighting for the right to vote of Black students at Prairie View A&M University, who were told they could not vote on campus on Election Day. After my campaign intervened, and my staffer was arrested while delivering a complaint letter, we forced the Secretary of State to allow students to vote on campus. This past fall, on behalf of Texas College Democrats, Texas Young Democrats, and a 96-year old military veteran, I filed suit to challenge the recent ban on early voting locations, [House Bill] 1888. To stop Texas from suppressing our vote, Congress must put states like ours back into the “preclearance program” of the original Voting Rights Act, which required an analysis of whether a new election law would suppress the vote. By protecting our vote, we can ensure that our elected officials truly represent the people.

What national issue do you believe is of greatest concern or importance for District 10, and why?

We are in a climate emergency that requires immediate and major action, from every level of government, to ensure the survival of the human race. And we are in a district that is in some ways the epicenter of the crisis. We have a coal plant in Fayette County, jointly owned by the state and the city of Austin, that is polluting the ground water under dozens of Texas counties, while also causing acid rain and other contamination. We have a Houston region that has led the world in energy generation, including from oil and gas concerns, while also suffering five 500-year flood events in five years. As a region that has benefited from fossil fuel energy while also suffering some of its worst impacts, we have a tremendous opportunity to be a national leader in the fight against climate change. I believe we need to implement a Green New Deal that takes on two crises at once: the crisis of economic inequality and the climate crisis. The original New Deal also helped win two fights at once: we put millions of Americans to work after the Great Depression, building a national infrastructure that made decades of growth and prosperity possible, and we also mobilized to defeat fascism abroad. I support a similar, major national investment to create millions of good new jobs building a sustainable economy and rebuilding our infrastructure. And I also recognize that any transition from fossil fuels must protect the workers who made America’s prosperity possible, by providing guarantees for a just transition that protects families as they move from fossil fuel work to other opportunities. We can’t wait to take on the climate crisis—just [look] at the fires in Australia as we speak—and Texas should be in the lead as we build workable solutions for the generations to come.

What are your top priorities regarding immigration policy?

I believe that families belong together and that if we honor that core principle, a just immigration policy will follow. We must rebuild our broken immigration system, provide a path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the United States, honor our commitments to care for asylum seekers and refugees, and generally restore the standing of the United States in the international community by treating migrants with dignity and respect. We must also take decisive action to stem the immigration crisis. We must recommit the United States to the cause of fostering democracy and human rights abroad. Through our foreign aid programs and through international diplomacy we must address the root causes of the crisis. And we must also make sure that U.S. policies, such as the war on drugs, are not causing the type of instability that leads refugees to our border.

Pritesh Gandhi

Years lived in district: 4 1/2

If elected, I would change: the conversation. We have a moral imperative to put people above party, science above ideology.

www.gandhifortexas.com

Why are you running to represent U.S. District 10?

As the associate chief medical officer of People’s Community Clinic, I directly provide care to the region’s uninsured and underinsured families. Listening to thousands of stories from patients and their families tells me this: Texans aren’t being heard in Washington. My life’s work has been to solve problems—this is what I’ll do in D.C.

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected?

Money holds a toxic influence over politics and destroys our ability to pass common-sense, evidence-based legislation and therefore holds back progress on critical issues like climate change, gun violence and health care reform. [House Resolution] 1 would roll back Citizens United, eliminate dark money and enfranchise millions of people. This is priority [No.] 1.

What national issue do you believe is of greatest concern or importance for District 10, and why?

Affordable health care. I treat patients in the community health center that I help lead and see the absolute devastation of families that cannot afford medications. We have a moral imperative to ensure all Americans have health care. Without good health, how can our children do well in school; how can we reduce poverty?

What are your top priorities regarding immigration policy?

In 2018 I led Tornillo’s largest rally of health care clinicians at the border to fight for children being separated from their families. In Congress, I will fight to make [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] permanent, offer a pathway to citizenship, and work to stabilize the social and economic safety net of countries south of our border.

Responses may have been edited for length.
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By Anna Lotz

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.


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