FLOWER MOUND — Four Democrats vying for Texas' 26th Congressional District in 2018 answered a series of questions Saturday in a town hall at Flower Mound Police Department.
In doing so — with the 11.9 million voters of the 20.8 million registered in Texas who didn’t cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election in mind — their shared message was clear: Texas voters need to convene to shake up Congress.
“We live in a non-voting state,” said Kim Olson, a Democrat from Mineral Wells running for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2018. Olson joined the Congressional candidate forum as a guest speaker. “To not vote is a vote.”
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, serves in Congressional District seat. Candidates Michael Callaway, D-Roanoke; Linsey Fagan, D-Keller; Will Fisher, D-Flower Mound; and John Wannamaker, D-The Colony, discussed their stances on health care, immigrant rights, bipartisan cooperation and other topics.
All candidates chastised Burgess for his role in devising what they called an inhumane replacement for the Affordable Care Act, a repeal of Obamacare that would leave an estimated 23 million Americans uninsured.
Ironically, Callaway said he originally trusted Burgess for a better fix to the ACA when he voted for Burgess in the most recent election for the seat he currently seeks. Echoed by his fellow compatriots, he supports crafting a system that is universal, protects essential medical coverage and is reasonable in price.
"We have to have a government solution that addresses pre-existing conditions. We have to have some form of government that deals with catastrophic illnesses," Callaway said. "Insurance isn't an evil business, but it is a business, so we've got to have some form of government sanity that reels it in."
Fagan expressed the importance of tending to caregivers of those in need. Mentioning her experience in caring for her dying grandmother, Fagan advocated for immediate support of those with pressing issues, then moving down to tend to everybody else.
Tending to those in need was a pervasive theme as the candidates worked their way through answering the crowd's questions.
Each candidate also underscored their belief immigrants are an integral part of American values.
"If you talk to anybody who is intelligent and fiscally conservative, you can see our economy is reliant on undocumented workers," Fagan said. "I think that removing everybody who is undocumented would be very dangerous to our economy."
Instead of working to dismantle sanctuary cities, which openly oppose proactive deportation of undocumented immigrants, the nation needs to cease funding of exorbitant ICE workers to remove productive citizens, Wannamaker said. Each candidate expressed their intention to work toward building a faster, more efficient path to legal citizenship.
The Democrats wistfully resigned they believe with the current Trump administration, picking a side is necessary to advancing bills and legislation, making bipartisan cooperation difficult to achieve.
With strict adherence to facts, rather than fierce and emotional accusations they asserted is the wont of many Republicans, this eventually will result in hands uniting across the aisle.
"We're divided by wealth disparity and the information we consume," Fisher said. "Because Americans are divided, Congress is divided. We need to focus on issues that create wealth disparity and health care, as well as jobs that support the middle class."
Fisher lamented the "drivel" that stems from cable news and other outlets tending to lean toward a particular political stance. He wants to see a resurgence of the Fairness Doctrine, which was an FCC policy introduced in 1949 that required discussion of controversial issues to be "honest, equitable and balanced."
Wannamaker discussed his struggle with getting in touch with Congressmen. Because of this, he wants to see an open-door policy wherein politicians provide more transparency to whom they represent.
"We only take the narrative of what we're told, and not many people form their own narrative. The problem with Congress is that so many in people with Congress are disconnected with their constituents," Wannamaker said. "We need to give power back to the constituents ... it'll be like going into a room that's dark, and once you turn on the light, a bunch of roaches will all of a sudden go away."
Party primaries will be March 6. The first day candidates may apply for the ballot — making their candidacy official — is Nov. 11.
MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.