Monday Night Politics: Meet the candidates focuses on state representative and railroad commissioner candidates

MNP MTC
Lorraine Birabil, Felicia Crockett, Chyrsta Castaneda and Roberto Alonzo – Official photos

 

By DIANE XAVIER

The Dallas Examiner

 

Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates presents a focus on candidates running Texas State Representative District 100 and Texas Railroad Commissioner in the Democratic Primary Runoff Election, July 14.

 

Texas State Representative District 100

 

The office of covers portions of Mesquite, East Dallas off of Garland Road, the Buckner Terrace neighborhood, portions of Pleasant Grove, South Dallas, Oak Cliff and West Dallas. The job is responsible for lawmaking at the state level and to introduce laws for the good of the community.

 

Lorraine Birabil

 

Q: What is your political and/or business background?

I have been active in our community for many years. HD100 has been my home for 20 years, and it’s where my husband and I are raising our daughter Natalia. In my own neighborhood, I have served as a precinct chair for over a decade and have worked to help elect strong Democratic leaders in Dallas and across the State, including County Judge Clay Jenkins, Congressman Marc Veasey, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and many others. Additionally, I have served locally as senior staff for the U.S. House of Representatives. In this role, I was tasked with setting up a district presence focused on constituent services for a newly drawn congressional district. I put together district-wide job fairs, small business workshops, and grant writing workshops that provided needed services to residents of the district. I have the experience necessary to get to work on day one and be the leader our community needs. Since being sworn in to represent our community in February, we have hosted several town halls, worked with constituents one on one to resolve issues with the state (including securing unemployment benefits and jail release), and introduced legislation to address needed criminal justice reform and many other efforts.

 

Q: What is your platform?

My campaign is focused on four key issues – education, health care, criminal justice reform and voting rights. As a product of public schools, I know how important it is for each child to have the opportunity to attend good public schools. We must do our part and properly fund our public schools. Education should be a pathway to realizing potential, not a pipeline to poverty or prison. Second, it is long past due for the State to expand Medicaid. If we were to expand Medicaid today, over one million Texans would immediately gain the health care coverage they need and deserve. My daughter never had the chance to meet her grandmother but had Texas expanded Medicaid, her grandmother would have had the critical health care coverage she needed as she fought cancer, and my daughter may have had that chance.  I am committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system allows for rehabilitation, not revenge. I have seen firsthand the impact of an overly punitive criminal justice system, and I have witnessed punishments that have been meted out for non-violent crimes and know these punishments have created a generation or more of absent fathers, dysfunctional families and broken communities. We need a system that attacks the root of the problem, rather than incarcerating its victims. That is why my first piece of legislation focuses on justice reform. The See Something Say Something Act would implement a statutory requirement for police to report if they witness police misconduct or brutality. If they fail to report the act would impose legal consequences ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony charge.  And finally, we must ensure that every eligible voter has the right to vote and that their vote counts. At all levels, our voting rights are under attack, and I will continue fighting discrimination and voter suppression. The ability to vote is central to addressing all issues of importance in our community and our State.

 

Q: Why is she the best candidate for this position?

First of all, I am honored to represent my neighbors in the legislature, and I have actually lived in the district for over 20 years. It’s my home and it’s an area I know. It’s where my husband and I are raising our daughter. The reason why so many of my neighbors have repeatedly put their trust in me is because I worked at the federal, state and local level for over a decade on the issues that matter including education, health care, justice reform and economic job creation and workforce development. Outside that work I also have done work on voting rights. It’s that type of experience that people appreciate. We’ve gotten endorsements from former Congressman Beto O’ Rourke, Congressman Marc Veasey, County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and many others. They are supporting me because of that experience.

 

Jasmine Felicia Crockett

 

Q: What is your political and/or business background?

I have always been a volunteer. I did serve as chair of the Democratic Party out in East Texas in Bowie County. To date, I may have been the youngest African American ever to have served as chair of the Democratic Party in the state of Texas. I also served as a volunteer on the Obama campaign. Once I ended up in Dallas, I started assisting judicial candidates I believed in that I thought would be really good for the support system in the community overall. I also worked on one constable race as well as the mayor’s race as well just going out and poll greeting, making calls, and sending text messages. My background has been one of more so volunteerism, I never have been a paid staffer on any political campaign. As far as my business experience, I am a small business owner. I owned my own law firm in 2010.

 

Q: What is your platform?

With state rep., we have to do so much. There are a lot of issues that are big for me. What I will say is that there were certain things that drove me to run. Those issues are more grounded in criminal justice and civil rights, mental health. Mental health is interwoven into the criminal justice and civil rights along with poverty issues. Those four things play off one another. Those are my four top priorities. We need more funds for mental health here in the state of Texas. Working as a criminal defense attorney, it was becoming very frustrating. So many people talk about the criminal justice system being broken. We know that Texas is one of the leading states when it comes to massive incarceration. Especially of Black and Brown bodies. At some point, we have someone to stand up and say we are going to fix this once and for all. Having to work with mothers who are mourning the loss of their child due to police brutality and knowing that we have so many barriers when it comes to trying to make sure an officer is prosecuted for murdering one of those children or when it comes to the civil rights fight in court the issues that we have, I decided it is just best if we rewrite around the issues that I am facing consistently and rewrite around the House in the districts instead of dealing with it one case at a time.

 

Q: Why are you the best candidate for this position?

House District 100 is a majority minority district. It’s 40% Black, 40% Hispanic and 20% White. Therefore, I do believe that the person that represents this specific district needs to be someone who is intimately familiar with the issues that Black and Brown people are going through and is willing to be that voice for the Black and Brown community. Not to be saying that I would be ignoring the 20% voice at all. But I think that knowing the district and constituency with a strong minority voice and that is what my track record is. I have been fighting for equity issues on so many levels in court and so we can’t have people or have a person in office that doesn’t understand the laws. In the way that I have been practicing law for 14 years, a lot of times we think something sounds good, but if we don’t understand how it works then we won’t be able to get legislation passed that will truly accentuate that change. With us being in a modern day Civil Rights Movement, never did I think we would be physically where we would be right now where we see protests keep going and going, very reminiscent of the 1960s. In the midst of this movement, I have been there marching with people. I’ve been there representing protestors as they have been arrested. I have been involved in every portion of the movement. What I stress to anyone is that we can’t stop at marching. We got to make legislative changes. We got to know who is running for the legislature and where they stand on these issues. I do believe the next step is rewriting a lot of the legislation. Unfortunately my opponent has not been present. The politician is supposed to be present to the people and it’s my job to represent and work for the people. I have to know what the people require of me, and it’s hard to know that if you don’t show up. Consistently we have been a grassroots campaign. So hopefully the people can see that I am the person that is willing to do the hard work and lead even in the most difficult times. I am not tied to any special interest groups, I am running as it comes from the people and not from big money people that are going to ask for certain things. That’s what we need right now, today.

 

Texas Railroad Commissioner

 

The office is responsible for the oversight of the oil and gas operations in the state of Texas, including protection of natural resources, responsibility for the environment and responsibility for the health and safety related to oil and gas operations.

 

Chyrsta Castaneda

 

Q: What is your political and/or business background?

I was a Democratic primary candidate for the Texas Congressional 33rd District in 2012. I have long been a community organizer, including serving as the state chair of Ignite Texas, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire young women to become educated about and run for public office. In that role, I helped train over 5,000 girls in underserved communities in Dallas and throughout Texas, some of whom are now in public office or service. I am an engineer and an attorney who has worked for over 30 years in and around the oil and gas industry, which is the purview of the Texas Railroad Commission, the statewide position that I now seek.

 

Q: What is your platform?

I am running on an environmental platform. I seek to reduce and eliminate flared and vented natural gas, which is a health hazard as well as a waste of our natural resources.  I seek to encourage the reclamation and reuse of water resources. I also want to help the workers who are being displaced by the enormous industry downturn caused by the COVID19 pandemic. My platform is at www.chrystafortexas.com.

 

Q: Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I have over 30 years experience in and around the oil and gas industry, involved both as an engineer and an attorney, and I plan to put that expertise to use for the good of all Texans as Railroad Commissioner. I have been endorsed by every newspaper that is endorsed in my race and virtually all of the clubs and organizations. I have experience and knowledge of making the Railroad Commissioner office better.

 

Roberto Alonzo

 

Q: What is your political and/or business background?

I have been a lawyer for 36 years, since 1984. My political experience is that I was a Texas State Representative for 20 years. I was on the DART Board for two years. I also served on the permit board in Dallas. In the Democratic Party, I served as the chair of the Mexican American Democrats of Texas and served over 18 years on the state Democratic Executive Committee and have been a eight time national delegate and was co-chair of the Texas Delegation to the 1992 Democratic Convention.

 

Q: What is your platform?

Right now we need to have somebody on the Railroad Commission that represents the people. The only perspective on the railroad commission is the oil and gas companies. We need to have somebody that has knowledge of governing, knowledge of looking out for the environment, and looking out for the safety of the workers.

 

Q: Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I’m the best candidate because this is not a lawyer committee, this is not an oil and gas committee, this is a governing committee and they are supposed to look out for the environment and the benefit of the people. In my 20 years of experience with the knowledge and track record of governing, I would be the best candidate for serving on the Railroad Commission and I am the best Democratic candidate with the best Democratic Party values.

 

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