Why are you running for Congress?
This is my home, where I was born and raised by a single mother who was a teacher in Dallas public schools. Growing up here, we struggled financially and things were never easy, but I was able to chase my dreams because of the incredible support I received from the people of this area. I went to good Dallas public schools—graduating from Hillcrest High School—spent my evenings, summers, and school breaks at great YMCA camps, and was helped by so many unsung heroes who went above and beyond the call of duty to give a kid who didn’t know his father a chance to chase his version of the American Dream. That support gave me the platform I needed to play in the NFL, to become a civil rights attorney, and to work for the President of the United States.
Stories like mine shouldn’t be unique. If you have the drive and put in the work, you should be able to chase your dreams in North Texas. Increasingly, however, that is no longer the case and Pete Sessions has for decades pursued policies that have made it harder for North Texas families to get ahead. The people of North Texas deserve better, and I’m running for Congress to be their champion and to restore the fundamental promise of the American Dream here in North Texas and across this country.
What makes you the best Democrat to challenge the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions?
The current state of our politics and the dysfunction we see in our federal government has proven that we need a new generation of leadership to come forward that are seeking public office as a form of public service. I am running to return this seat to the people of this area who have for too long been forgotten by Pete Sessions and a Congress that has lost its way.
I believe in the people of North Texas. More than any of my opponents in the Democratic Primary, I have relied on North Texans’ generosity and open-mindedness to make my way from Hillcrest High School to the NFL, to the White House. I want to serve the people of this area who have given me so much– I want to put my work ethic and determination to work for them.
That is also why I have earned the endorsements and support of Secretary Julián Castro and Wendy Davis because they have seen me work and know what I will bring to the table.
Further, in order to change North Texas and restore opportunity, we will need to do more than just put forward generic Democratic candidates and policies. Here in Texas, we are a non-voting state, ranking 49th in the country in voter turnout. In order to reach the communities that have felt left out of our politics, we as Democrats must have a candidate that these potential voters can identify with. I have the blood of slaves and the blood of a former Governor of Texas flowing in my veins, and I believe that I have a story to tell about who we are here in North Texas and what we can do when we work together—one that will allow me to appeal to a wide range of North Texans. The hundreds of volunteers who have gotten involved in our campaign look like this district, and many have never done anything in politics before. That grassroots support is what makes me the best candidate to take on Pete Sessions and the best candidate to return this seat to the people of this district.
How would you be able to get things done in a very divided Washington?
I believe that the American people are better than our politics and that they want leaders who are willing to work with members of the other party to get things done. As a product of this area who owes my accomplishments to the support I received growing up here, I am much more interested in what is good for the people of this area than I am in what is good for my party or any interest group. That means that I will look for every opportunity to work with Republicans in Washington to deliver results for the people of this area. I will not, however, sacrifice the fundamental values that I learned growing up here. So, where our values and politics collide I will stand up for what I believe in and try to lead the conversation back to what matters to the people of North Texas.
I believe we are not as divided as our politics tells us we are. Americans share a fundamental belief in opportunity, freedom, and equality for all. We may disagree on how to deliver on those promises, but throughout our history leaders of goodwill have found a way to compromise and work across even the most bitter ideological lines.
Our current leaders, like Pete Sessions, seem to have forgotten this, and that is why it is time for a new generation of leadership to come forward to find a way to address the issues of the 21st century together.
What are your top concerns for District 32?
I’m concerned that the people of this district don’t have a voice in Washington. We have many issues that we need to address, from our health care crisis with 1 in 5 people in Dallas County lacking health insurance, to desperately needed investments in our public school systems, to rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure and growing our skilled workforce, but all of these issues will require local, state, and federal leaders to work together with this community to find a solution. Currently, we have a representative in Congress who is rarely seen in the district, who has not held a town hall in over a year, and who, when he has faced his constituents, has told them that they don’t know how to listen.
Additionally, our community is rapidly changing. We have nearly 100,000 people a year moving to North Texas and every day we are becoming more diverse. This president and some of his allies have used the politics of fear and division to pit Americans against each other in order to gain political power. This appeal to the darkest parts of our collective psyche has dangerous implications for North Texas and this very diverse and vibrant district. In order to move forward together, we must be able to see each other as fellow Texans and Americans first and foremost. Growing up here, I know how good-hearted and open-minded the people of this area can be because they welcomed me. But I am deeply concerned that without a voice in Washington calling for unity and appealing to our shared ideals, we could come apart at the seams.
In this difficult time, with an unstable president and a state government led by people more interested in legislating where people can go to the bathroom than with addressing our issues, now more than ever we need a new generation of leadership to come forward and focus on what we can do together to expand opportunity and deliver on the promise of the American Dream. I grew up in this district and have worked in this district as a voting rights attorney, and I know that we as a people can find our way back into the light, but only if we do it together.
What are your legislative priorities?
We need to immediately begin the hard work of expanding opportunity to everyone in this district by providing everyone with the tools they need to get ahead. Here in North Texas, we believe that if you work hard and do the right things that you should be able to chase your dreams. For too many of our neighbors, however, that is not currently the case. That is why in Congress I will focus on the foundational issues that North Texans need to get ahead.
We have a health care crisis in North Texas. One in five Dallas County residents lack health insurance, higher than the nation’s worst statewide rate one in six for all Texans. This issue affects every single one of us, even if we have health insurance because we all share the costs when an uninsured neighbor has to go to a county hospital like Parkland for treatment that in most cases could have been addressed by access to preventative care at an earlier stage. But more than that, we all lose something when one of our neighbors is struggling because they can’t afford their medicine or because they can’t go see a doctor. That’s not who we are in this area, and I believe North Texans are ready for all of their neighbors to have access to healthcare. We can do this by strengthening the Affordable Care Act and providing Americans with the option of choosing a publicly provided insurance plan based on the Medicare provider network and services.
We must also invest in our public schools because in this global economy we can no longer afford to not provide our kids with the tools they need to compete against the best and the brightest around the world. That is why in Congress I will fight for universal Pre-K, to dramatically improve our teacher workforce by steering our most talented students into teaching and paying them a salary commensurate with their importance to our future. I will also work to expand opportunities that are providing alternative paths to learning a skill trade by investing in vocational training and apprenticeship programs.
In order to make sure that North Texas remains a beacon for business and commercial growth, we need to invest in providing businesses with the basic needs they require. That means we need to finally address our infrastructure needs so we can reduce transit times by expanding our public transportation options and by upgrading our electrical grid and high-speed internet infrastructure. We must also make sure that businesses can hire the employees they need locally, by closing our skilled labor gap through reforms to the education system. Finally, we must make it easier to start and grow a new small business by incentivizing early investment, cutting regulatory red tape, and expanding access to entrepreneurial training in our high schools and community colleges.