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The Dallas Examiner

Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates continued on Feb. 15 at the African American Museum in Fair Park with candidates seeking office for the U.S. House of Representatives District 30 chair with incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Mallory Caraway and Brandon J. Vance. Johnson was not present at the forum. Candidates for the office of U.S. House of Representatives District 33 squared off during the forum, which included incumbent Marc Veasey and opponent Carlos Quintanilla.

The event was moderated by Matt Houston and began with District 30.

Caraway began the forum introducing herself and letting people know that this wasn’t her first time seeking this particular seat.

“If people ask why I am running, my answer is that because nothing in District 30 has changed,” she said. “Even within the last two years they have gotten worse. We in congressional District 30 have one of the highest poverty levels not only in this area, but in the country. We continually see our graduation rates decline, as well as our communities. The incumbent has represented many of these areas for not only the 24 years in Congress but also in the House and the Senate in the Texas Legislatures.”

She told the audience that Johnson doesn’t know her district well enough.

“We have an incumbent that doesn’t even know where her district is,” she said. “We had a disaster that has happened, a tornado in Glenn Heights. Johnson showed up two weeks late after the tornado because she didn’t know where the district was. She has lost because of her support of the Trans-Pacific partnership track – the support of many major labor. What she has enjoyed for the tenure of her time in Congress and also when she was in Austin, we need someone who is going to be available, someone who is involved, engaged in what happens in our district and really to bring our issues to a national stage. We need somebody who is going to be an advocate in order to speak out for those people who can’t speak for themselves. We need to make sure that we have someone who is going to make sure your voice is heard in Washington, D.C.”

Vance shared his vision and explained why he was in the race.

“I agree with what Mrs. Caraway said,” he said. “Rep. Johnson has done a great job over the years of representing the 30th Congressional District. She helped create this district. But we all have probably experienced a time where we had something that we thought was great all of our lives and we don’t know what else we have out there. There is that something else and I am that something else. I am a new voice and a new vision. I’m a young guy but I am passionate about politics. I am passionate about government and I am passionate about fighting for the people of this district. Every single day when I win this seat, I will be focused on what I can do to represent the people of the 30th Congressional District.”

Vance said as much as he loves Johnson, there is now a disconnect between her and the people she represents.

“We have thousands of young people coming out of college, coming out of universities that have no connection to Rep. Johnson and all the good work she has done. They need a new voice and need to make sure their voice and issues are heard in Washington, D.C. Last week, I was at a forum where Rep. Johnson’s staff said ‘since Johnson has been in office she has sponsored and signed 812 bills.’ I researched that information on my own and found out that on the Congress website that the number was totally misleading. We have a representative that has not had a bill passed into law since 2005 or not has had a resolution passed since 2009. That’s a big deal.”

Both candidates also explained what the role of a representative is in Congress.

Vance explained that in Congress, there are 435 members and represent about an equal size district across the country.

“Every state is based on the size of the population and how many representatives they have in Congress,” he said. “In Texas, we are a big state so we have 36 representatives. Your representative is your voice in Washington, D.C. They are responsible for coming back home and listening to the people, being accountable to the people, and then going to Washington, D.C., and carrying out the wishes and the interests of the people. They also sponsor bills.”

Vance said the three most important things for a representative is to be in D.C. and show up for votes, sponsor bills and legislation that can make it to the floor and represent the people that you are fighting for and lastly to listen to the people.

Caraway said that politics affects everything.

“The role of Congress is to be the voice of the people and introduce legislation and to watch the budget,” Caraway said. “It is also to make sure that the money that is going towards your tax payer dollars are affectively impacted in coming back to where you are in your district. More importantly, we should be advocates and we should promote politics and educate them. That is what is wrong now is that I see people who are 5 years old, and they don’t teach civics in class as they used to. They need to be taught that politics affects everything that you do.”

Both candidates were asked how they would effectively serve this office.

Caraway said that one has to be engaged in your position.

“You have to show up for votes and develop relationships to make sure that you can have votes to pass legislation,” she said. “I am really disappointed with the Democrats because we get run over and are not forceful enough. We don’t speak out enough. The middle class is suffering. We don’t have a middle class anymore, we have poor people. What is important for a Congress person to do is to rework those relationships and work with the local people. As a former state representative and City Council person, I know how to go forth and lobby a bill and not wait until someone brings you something to be proactive.”

Vance said he would inspire the people.

“Be a face and be a voice that people can look to and see something that they can accomplish,” he said. “I grew up in New Orleans and never knew anyone that ran for Congress or anyone that dreamed big or that had big thoughts or big plans. Now, I want to be a voice for the people.”

Both candidates also explained their qualifications for the position.

Vance said he meets every qualification that the founding fathers of the U.S. have laid out for someone to run for Congress.

“I lived in the district and know the people,” Vance said. “I have gone through the struggle that the people are going through. I have also worked in the office of a state legislature, state Rep. Dan Branch. I learned how to answer questions and answering constituent issues.”

Caraway said she served eight years on the Dallas City Council and served six years in the Texas House of Representatives.

“I chose not to seek reelection because being in the Texas House I realized that issues like education, criminal justice reform and making sure that our constituents have job opportunities really require me to be in Washington,” she said. “I am also a graduate of Texas Southern University and have also been a Democratic precinct chair. I am also a small business owner with Barbara Mallory Caraway and Associates and I am a consultant. I have a passion for young people and want to make sure they have a say in what is going on in this world.”

Vance said he is a college recruiter at Texas Women’s University.

“I am out in the community a lot,” he said. “I talk to high school students and their families about what they think about the district and community and what they see as far as their future. I am also part of the Dallas County Young Democrats and have worked for Habitat for Humanity.”

Both candidates also explained their goals if elected to office.

Vance said he wants to work on Social Security when he first gets to office.

“I believe there is a need to make Social Security solvent,” he said. “We need to help our grandmothers and our grandfathers. We need to increase the cap because people that make over $118,000 dollars, the rest of that is not taxed for Social Security. I think that is something that can be done.”

Caraway said the first thing she would do if elected to office is work on criminal justice reform.

“We have a situation where many people can’t get jobs because of a check of a box,” she said. “I have worked with a guy who spent 26 years in prison for a rape that he did not commit. I want to make sure that prosecutors are responsible for withholding and hiding evidence that can set people free. I also would focus on poverty and promote the earned income credit.”

The next group that spoke was candidates for District 33 with Congressman Marc Veasey and his opponent Carlos Quintanilla.

Veasey said it was wonderful to be in his second term for the United States House of Representatives.

“I have worked very hard in my first two terms to be a very visible member of Congress,” Veasey said. “As you know this district stretches from Tarrant County to areas in Dallas County. One of the areas where I have been working on and that I am very proud of is Congress on Your Corner. This is where I go each month, alternate between Dallas and Tarrant County and set up shop at a restaurant, at a grocery store, at a local business and give people information about what we are doing in the district offices and how they can get help on issues. We also set up library hours in the office so individuals know about the services that we provide.”

Veasey also talked about his work called “Mark Means Business.”

“This is actually where I roll my sleeves up and work alongside constituents in the 33rd Congressional District at local businesses. I went and worked with American Airlines in August in 103 degree weather and worked with the ground crew, put luggage in the plane and saw what it was like for the man or woman that works hard out there at one of the country’s busiest airports. I am also proud of my work on the Armed Services Committee and was able to get some amendments passed on the Armed Services Committee.”

Quintanilla said he is known as an activist.

“I have been fighting for my community for a very long time,” Quintanilla said. “I’m the guy who filed the first ordinance with a group of people who filed a lawsuit against the city of Farmers Branch for their unconstitutional horrific legislation on immigration legislation. I’m the guy who organized the task force to declare war on drug dealers who were killing children as young as 10 years old. In Dallas ISD, I’m the guy who led the initiative to bring breakfast to the classroom. I have also been a champion of tenants who have been abused by slumlords and have fought for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Quintanilla said he is running because he is very disappointed that we have a congressman who has not backed President Barack Obama all the way and has voted with Republican leadership.

“He voted against the president on the Keystone Pipeline,” Quintanilla said. “He voted against the president on the Syrian refugee bill, and voted against the president when they were over-militarizing the border and the governor wanted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to send the National Guard to the border when everyone was saying it’s no good. If I become the congressman, I will stand by President Barack Obama and will stand with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and I will defend very aggressively the Latino community, the Black community and the poor White community of the 33rd Congressional District.”

Both candidates were asked what they would do when in office to make sure both Dallas and Tarrant counties are served equally in the 33rd District.

Quintanilla said that this district is 67 percent Latino.

“Just because this district is 67 percent Latino doesn’t mean that I am not going to represent the African American community,” he said. “I led the campaign against racial profiling in Arlington, in Irving, and in Euless. I have also been in the forefront of fighting police brutality not only against Latinos but against African Americans. When you have 13 percent unemployment which is highest in the nation and have 90 percent of Latino and African American not graduating college and have 53 percent not graduating from high school, everyone is affected.”

Veasey was asked what new initiatives he has planned if he gets another term to equally serve Dallas and Tarrant counties.

“We will continue to do outreach on both sides of the district,” Veasey said. “Currently, in our job fair, we alternate between Dallas and Tarrant counties.”

Veasey was then asked to describe some of the victories he had when serving Congress.

“On the Armed Services Committee we approved the entire Pentagon’s budget,” Veasey said. “I have also signed bills that have brought additional jobs to the DFW Metroplex as it relates to defense. Transportation projects like the horseshoe projects. On the Armed Services Committee I was the only Democrat to get an immigration bill passed to do a study as it relates to armed services.”

Quintanilla said he has invested over $600,000 dollars in redevelopment to bring more jobs to the community.

“I have also been an activist and we took Farmers Branch to federal court and we beat them,” Quintanilla said. “We basically attacked their discriminatory laws.”

Each candidate also asked how they would balance their work in Washington, D.C., and in District 33.

“I would dedicate my time to working with the Department of Labor and Urban Development and work with the Justice Department and meeting with government agencies to bring resources to our communities,” Quintanilla said. “Our community is the poorest community of all the districts in Texas. I am going to spend a lot of time knocking on doors and also getting job training programs, vocational training programs and educational training programs.”

Veasey said he plans to continue the outreach he has already done.

“In D.C., I always encourage constituents when they come to the district, to make sure that they come to the office to talk to me about whatever issue that they are advocating on behalf of the residents of the 33rd Congressional District.”

Veasey then talked about the forms of communications his office has used to inform constituents of what is going on in the district.

“We use all forms of communications to do outreach,” Veasey said. “Social media is where you see a lot of the outreach. We have an active Facebook page, an active Twitter account, and make sure that we utilize all those forms of social media as well as emails.”

Quintanilla said he would also continue to do outreach as well.

“I will continue to use social networks and go to the schools like I did with breakfast in the classroom and continue to be a grassroots person,” Quintanilla said. “I am going to be very visible.”

Both candidates were also asked what they would do to bring the HIV rate in Dallas County down.

Veasey said he would continue to push for federal funding.

“In Texas, we haven’t had Medicaid expansion that would provide medical services to local people that need it,” Veasey said. “Also, the Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood. I spoke on the floor against the attacks on Planned Parenthood. Three percent or less of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion related services and I’m very pro-choice. They provide a lot of other services dealing with contraception and how to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and Republicans want to eliminate Planned Parenthood and cut it off from funding I think is an absolute tragedy.”

Quintanilla offered his thoughts on how to reduce the HIV rate in Dallas County as well.

“In Los Angeles County, I did the AIDS education campaign,” Quintanilla said. “The campaign was an educational tool to teach young people the risk of HIV/AIDS. We did a media campaign and got artists to do commercials to talk about HIV and how it can be transmitted and how it is affecting minority communities in large numbers. I will continue to do that and we need to talk about it and attack it.”

Both candidates were then asked what is their plan to attack the student loan and debt crisis.

Quintanilla said he believes higher education such as college should be free and student loans should be forgiven.

“We should have free education for all Americans,” Quintanilla said.

Veasey said we need some type of program to help students get relief from their student debt.

“We also need a long-term plan to have more Pell Grant funding and less loans and also make college more affordable since it continues to get more expensive every year,” Veasey said.

Voting for the primary elections will be held on March 1.

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