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January 1st, 2018:

Thoughts going into primary season

So primary season is officially open, with candidates pretty much everywhere. I’ve been busy doing interviews and will cover as many Democratic races as I can, but won’t get to them all. I may double back in the runoffs, we’ll see. In the meantime, here are my thoughts as we begin.

1. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the depth and breadth of the candidate pool. It’s not just that there are so many people running and that so many offices have candidates competing for them, it’s that so many of these candidates reflect a diverse array of backgrounds, talents, and experiences. In every way, we’ve never seen anything like this before.

2. That said, there are a few duds out there – Lloyd Oliver in HD134 is the most prominent local loser. The good news is that unlike 2014, there are no Jim Hogans or Grady Yarbroughs running in the statewide races where a low profile can enable them to sneak through. Hogan is running for Ag Commissioner in the Republican primary this year (LOL), and Yarbrough is buried in the gubernatorial race. Some candidates are better than others in the downballot primaries, but as far as I can tell none of them look like embarrassments.

3. Still, it’s on all of us to ensure that the best candidates make it through. That starts with the candidates themselves, all of whom need to take the primary seriously, but we’re the ones that get to choose. We need to do our homework.

4. Let’s talk about that diversity for a minute. Having looked at the web and Facebook pages of all the State Senate and most of the Congressional candidates, I’ve seen:

– Quite a few LGBT candidates – Mark Phariss and Fran Watson for State Senate; Lorie Burch and John Duncan and Mary Wilson and Gina Ortiz Jones for Congress. I’m sure I have missed some, and that’s before considering State House contenders.

– Doctors, scientists, software engineers, teachers, the non-profit sector, at least one locksmith. Basically, a lot more than just your usual lawyers, businessfolk, and political types.

– Military veterans, from all four branches of service.

– People of color running in districts that were not specifically drawn to elect a person of color. Not too surprising, given that we’re talking about people running in Republican districts, but still at a higher rate than in past years. With Sylvia Garcia running in CD29, we are very likely to elect our first ever Latina member of Congress, and if Veronica Escobar wins in CD16, we’ll elect our second as well. Gina Ortiz Jones, whose family is from the Philippines, has a decent chance of being our first ever Asian-American member of Congress. On the flip side of that, if Democrats make gains in the suburbs that could well increase the legislative presence of Anglo Democrats, of which there are currently (I think) six all together.

– Lots of younger candidates. Everyone in CD07 is younger than I am. I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on this lest I fall into a “What have I done with my life?” rabbit hole, but there’s a lot of youthful energy out there.

5. The more I think about it, the more I believe that strong turnout in the primary will be important going forward. First and foremost, a big showing in the primary will ensure that the narrativeis about Democrats being engaged and involved, and that this year really is unlike previous years. As we know, Dems topped one million primary voters in 2002, and haven’t come close to it in a non-Presidential year since then. Reaching one million in 2018 would be a positive sign. Reaching 1.5 million, which would be higher than the 2010 and 2014 Republican primaries, would really open some eyes. My hope is that all those Ylocal and legislative races will draw people out, but it wouldn’t hurt for the Beto O’Rourkes and Lupe Valdezes and Andrew Whites to do their part and spend some money getting people to the polls.

6. As much as we celebrate the vast number of candidates running this year, we also need to come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of them will lose. Most of them, in fact, won’t make it to November at all – this is the obvious consequence of having so many multi-candidate primaries. Given the talents and experiences of these candidates, it would be a shame if most of them wind up being one-and-done with elected office. Most people don’t win their first race, and sometimes losing a race just means that the time wasn’t right for that candidate. It’s very much my hope that a decent number of the people who fall short come back to try again. That can mean a second try at the same office in 2020, and it can mean some other office. Again, many elected officials got there on their second or third or even fourth attempt. Learn from the experience, keep building relationships, and find another opportunity in the future.

7. Of course, there are other ways to contribute beyond another run for office. Organize, advocate, fundraise, network, mentor – the list goes on. 2016 was a wakeup call for a lot of people. We don’t get to go back to sleep regardless of whether things go as we’d like in 2018.

8. But we do think 2018 will go our way, and if that’s the case we should act like it. What I mean by that is that the organizations that back candidates in competitive districts need to expand their vision, and their supporting capabilities, beyond that horizon. Set some stretch goals, and work to meet them. Find candidates running against the really bad actors, even in “unwinnable” districts, and support them, too. Annie’s List, labor, Equality Texas, the DLCC and more, I’m talking to you. Examples of such candidates: Kendall Scudder, running (most likely) against Sen. Bob Hall; Lisa Seger, running against Rep. Cecil Bell; Yolanda Prince, running against Rep. Matt Schaefer. If we want good people to run in these districts, the least we can do is not leave them hanging.

Dallas Observer Q&A with CD32 candidate Lillian Salerno

Once more to the Dallas Observer’s Q&A machine.

Lillian Salerno

Earlier this month, you spoke at an anti-monopoly conference in Washington about your experiences in the health care industry. Why is it so hard for innovative products to get into the health care market, and how does that harm health care workers and Americans seeking health care?

I was on a panel discussing what we call corporate concentration, which is why, in so many sectors of the economy, we only have one or two players. In telecom, we have Comcast and Verizon, and there’s no one. In platform technology, it’s Google, Facebook, and they own the information highway. What happens is, when you’re innovating, if you go to sell your device or idea or app, you can only go one place because there’s only one or two players. That’s very unhealthy for an economy, and it’s very unhealthy for a democracy.

We’re a country based on small business and entrepreneurship. I worry — and it’s the issue I want to work on when I’m elected — I worry that we created an economy that has never been this consolidated, and we’ve got to start unpacking that, and we do that by enforcing the laws. Both Republicans and Democrats have failed us on this issue, and they haven’t really funded the Federal Trade Commission or funded the Department of Justice and given investigators and lawyers the tools so they can start going after companies that are violating competition laws.

So if it’s not just an unsolvable systemic problem, what do you do to fix it? Is it just through enforcement of existing laws, or is it creating new regulations and new laws?

We have laws on the books which were passed because of stuff like the railroads. Railroads, yes, good idea. Bad idea, one guy running all the railroads. So we had laws put on the books that would make it so if you own a certain percentage of the market, you, by definition, are under a different obligation than the small company that only has a certain percentage. If you own a certain percentage, then you can’t lock up all the markets so the new guy or gal can’t get into the market. But those laws have not been enforced, so up until the ’80s, companies used to look over their shoulder and even call regulators and say, “Hey, we’re thinking about merging” or “We’re thinking about buying this company — give us an opinion.” Look how many mergers and acquisitions we have every single day.

That’s because we’ve had the Department of Justice and the FTC asleep at the wheel. The Obama administration did a horrible job. By the time we started getting our head around it right at the end of the administration, it was too late. We keep putting the wolf guarding the henhouse, so the head of the anti-trust commission then goes and works on the biggest company in telecom, and in a different administration, they come back and they’re head of the FTC. We can’t have that anymore. We can’t have people that go and regulate and enforce and then they go work for the very companies that they cut a deal with. We gotta stop that. I saw that — we’ve seen that since the Clintons, since Bill Clinton all the way through Obama and then all Republicans between those.

It’s not a Democrat or a Republican problem; it’s a we gotta clean up our politics kind of problem. Everybody’s finally waking up to what I’ve experienced as a small business person. We’ve allowed too much consolidation in this country. It’s not about we need to go and regulate. When people violate, laws we need to find them, and sometimes you have to put people in jail.

As always, read the whole thing, and then go read the Q&A with Colin Allred and the Q&A with Ed Meier, too. I really appreciate the Observer doing this, because as we well know there are a crapload of candidates and only so much time before actual voting starts. I’m going to do what I can to interview candidates here, but I’m one person and again, there’s only so much time. The more outfits out there talking to candidates and getting them on the record about things, the better. At the very least, it can help separate the people who know what they’re talking about from those that don’t.