By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The Dallas Examiner’s second round of Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidate featured candidates for U.S. House of Representative for Districts 30 and 33, Texas Railroad Commissioner and State Representative District 109 at the African American Museum, Jan. 27.
The forum kicked off with Democratic candidates for the U.S. Representative District 30.
Invited candidates included incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Mallory Caraway, Hasani Burton and Shenita Cleveland. Johnson was not present because she is currently in Washington, D.C. working on behalf of her district.
Candidates began with an introduction.
CARAWAY: Many of you know that this is not my first time seeking this position. Many people ask me, “Barbara why do you keep doing this.” The reason why I keep doing this is because nothing has changed for Congressional District 30. We still have one of the highest crime rates, not only in the state and in the country. We also have one of the highest poverty rates not only in the state but in the country. We still have a population where we do not have affordable housing for people who have the opportunity to live in. Most recently, we have an increasing crime rate, not only in our district, but among our young people. I am seeking the Democratic nomination to go to Washington to continue the fight for you. I continually do better each time in the voting population. I am going to issue a challenge to you now. If you are happy with the way things are going right now, and are happy with the lack of progress that has been made, then do nothing. Tonight I am asking for your vote. It is time for new leadership and take up the mantle to move forward. On March the 3rd, I am number three on the ballot. Make a slam dunk. You and your children’s future depends on it.
CLEVELAND: It is time for a change. Why? Because the unemployment rate for District 30 is a staggering 42 percent, with the majority of those being people who have given up and dropped out of the labor force. The homeless rate with our veterans in District 30 has increased 13 percent over the last three years. What does that mean to you, that means 1 in every 10 homeless people is a veteran and that is unacceptable. District 30 has one of the highest poverty rates at 28 percent among children 18 and younger in all of the United States of America. Guess what? Eighteen percent of our seniors live in poverty. The crime rate in District 30 over the last five to seven years has consistently risen above the national average. Sadly, those are the facts that District 30 are faced with today.
We appreciate Ms. Johnson in her efforts to bring funding to DART, DFW Airport and success-fully securing Toyota in North Texas. Unfortunately that means little or nothing to the conditions of District 30 today. At this time, it is time for a change.
BURTON: I’m the CEO of Kemet Inspired Media LLC. My background is I have a Bachelors of Science in Biology focusing on genetics and spent four years as a scientific researcher. I have 13 years of service and activism in the 33rd congressional district. I live right down the street in South Dallas. This election is vitally important and I have been meeting with and talking with and standing with people living in the 30th congressional district for the last 30th year to understand what are our needs on a day to day grass roots level and now I would like to take those needs to the federal level. I’m running on a comprehensive agreement called the ADOS agreement. This is a comprehensive platform for legislation for health care to make us healthier, education to make us smarter, human rights to make us safer and economics to make us more prosperous in equity. You will find that I am the best candidate to listen to your needs and take us from where we are right now into a better, more prosperous equitable future. I look forward to hearing from all of you, to hearing your stories and talking with you. When you get to the polls know that Hasani Burton is building on progress from you and yours.
Johnson’s spokesperson, DeMetris Sampson, was then called to the stage to read a statement from the congresswoman that summarized her work for the district and goals to strengthen the community, grow the economy and protect the environment.
The candidates then answered questions from the audience.
QUESTION: If you are elected to office, what are your plans to remain visible to the community?
CARAWAY: I cannot in all consciousness continue with this forum. I am insulted. I am disappointed that The Dallas Examiner would allow a person to read an 11 minute statement that has nothing to do with the relevant issues today in the district. It really shows why Eddie Bernice Johnson should be voted out. She spoke nothing that had to do with Oak Cliff, Cedar Hill, Duncanville, DeSoto, Kessler Park and East Dallas, and Pleasant Grove. She talked about issues that funded her campaign and I will not be insulted. I will not stay on this stage and continue to participate in a kangaroo court that has been orchestrated by The Dallas Examiner. Good luck to all of you. I will not talk about my record, you know I have run for this office before. You know I was in the legislature. You know I was on the Dallas City Council, and many of the issues and projects that were read here tonight by DeMetris Sampson were initiated by Barbara Mallory Caraway on the Dallas City Council as chair of the city’s transportation committee. I will not stay here.
She then walked out and left the building, as the other candidates continued.
CLEVELAND: I am actually glad that the statement was read because it opens up the door to the truth of the matter. I’m very excited to not really have to change my plan. Because I am always in the community everywhere. You see me in South Oak Cliff, and I am actually so glad she mentioned the meeting that took place in South Oak Cliff when they ran bond time it was a very tough, invitation only and wasn’t open to the community. And if I feel like you really want a transformed and transparent community, you gotta start at the bottom. So while they were having that meeting, we were at 75216 South Oak Cliff, that is the bottom of the district. And when we help the bottom, we raise up the entire district and that is why I will continue to do to this day.
BURTON: I got started in government service when I was a young boy. I was part of the late congresswoman Julia Carson’s Congressional Youth Caucus. I live in South Dallas. I love South Dallas. I’m dedicated to this community. I served here for many, many years. So as your congressperson, should you honor me with your vote, I am going to make Congressional caucuses for each and every Democrat across the 30th Congress-ional District. So one, I am staying in touch with what is going on at the grassroots level. And that you all will always have a direct line of communication with me. And for anyone who has ever known me, I am very accessible. You can hit me up at Hasani4Progress.com and I will be available to you on any social media site.
Q: What have you done, the real work you have done and not just photo ops in the community?
BURTON: Thirteen years of experience since the day I got to Dallas as fast as I can. I have been in Dallas longer than any other city in my life I am a true Texan now. For 13 years, I have helped pass legislation in this building and the city. I have helped activists in this city. I have helped stand side by side to march for the causes we care about. I know what is going on here. If you want information, I got it for you. We can talk all the details. Thirteen years of experience actually making stuff happen.
CLEVELAND: I have been working all over and including Pleasant Grove and just because I am not at every single event, I’m only one person. However, I act. I show up where it is needed. I read the necessary things or situations that needs to happen. I have personally been working in many communities including my own helping small minority owned women businesses gain contacts. And I share some of those small businesses that comes out of Pleasant Grove. We need those same opportunities in procurement.
Q: What is your position on term limits as it relates to the congressional districts?
CLEVELAND: That is one of the platform issues I am running on. Because I understand that District 30, this seat should be a calling and not a career. It’s about going there for a purpose to help the freedom of people and to bring prosperity into the District. Then to open up the doors for others to come in and to provide change and make a better way for us. I don’t think we should hold this seat until death do us apart. We should open up the doors of opportunity and that congress should act to include term limits.
BURTON: First of all, I want to say that I am a consistent person. 13 years. There are three original sins that our Founding Fathers made when they founded this country. The first and foremost the greatest of these is slavery. The second of these is not giving women the right to vote. The third of these is not putting term limits on all our federal elected officials because an elected position is a service. It is representation to the people. It is not about that person, it is not about their power, it is not about their prestige, it is about the people and should you honor me with your vote, I will be in that office only for as long as enough to get the ADOS agreement and then get out for the next person.
The candidates then provided their closing statements.
BURTON: I want to thank you all for your time and your attention from the bottom of my heart. Doing something like this especially like a primary like this is not an easy thing. It is not something I am doing just on my own to do it. I have never aspired to be an elected official. I aspired to be a scientist and I aspired to be an entrepreneur. What I am doing now comes from being involved in this 13 years of experience of meeting people, hearing their stories and knowing what is going on in the community and being a part of that. I’m not originally from Dallas so this is the only way I could become a Texan, be a Dallasite, is to root myself in the community to care about the things that you all care about, to advocate and champion the causes you all want to ensure. We have to think about not just what happened in the past, but where are we now and where do we want to be in the future. Where are we going to be four years from now, eight years from now, 10 years from now and what does our representation look like? What do we want to be like as a people? Do we want to be healthier, more educated do we want to make sure our human rights are protected? Do we want prosperity and economic equity? I have the experience, I have the passion, I have the heart and now all I need is your vote.
CLEVELAND: Why should you elect me? Because I am the district. I am connected to a lot of what you see. I was once homeless. Not once, not twice, but three times. My father was executed in the state of Texas. There is an actual bill that is sitting on the committe that would eliminate and abolish the death penalty. It would also decriminalize the Black community when it comes to the criminal justice system. It would end those bonds and cash bail. It would bring quality health care to the people. I am in love with this district. I believe it is beautiful and that there are so many people left out right now. And I’ve seen under the current incumbent that conditions are worsening. We all see the numbers. It is a fact that we are deteriorating in certain areas. And I believe that I am the best candidate to go in and go to the bottom and make it where the last shall be first and bringing the people up. And I actually care and not because I want to be in Congress, or sit in the seat because I want to be puffed up or have power. No, I want to go in and spread power. I want to go in and bring back resources to not have 20 percent poverty in this district. I truly care. That’s why I show up. Everywhere there is turmoil I go to help the people and to provide a better way. I am everywhere where there is a problem.
Next were Democratic candidates for U.S. House of Representative District 33. Invited candidates included incumbent Rep. Marc Veasey and Sean Paul Segura. Veasey was not in attendance.
Segura began with an introduction.
SEGURA: I believe it is always the right time to do the right thing. We need somebody fighting for us. Fighting harassment, unjust use of force, including deadly force by police. And establishing mutual respect between the police and our communities. We deserve a congressman in DFW that is fighting everyday for immigration reform and to stop separating children at the border. We need to abolish ICE. We have a tax system where regular Americans get bigger refunds and pay less taxes. And big corporations and the super wealthy just pay a fair share. The congressman we have right now was against the impeachment of Donald Trump. For two years, he finally came along with other Democrats to impeach. He was for the XL pipeline that Obama was against. The Keystone Pipeline in October spilled and was over 400,000 gallons of oil into the coast. So it is not safe for our water and our environment.
He then answered questions.
Q: We know here in this area, we have a growing Latino population. A lot of times in our communities we have the same issues. I know as far as your community you have followed us as far as leadership but now you want your time in the leadership. So how can you make sure if a Latino is elected in this district which is still considered a Black district, how will you make sure that you are still including me in that legislation and pushing for things that are vital for this country?
SEGURA: I believe that we are one team. One. Black or Brown, I am for people, regular people. Lower income people. The people that make up our district. I have nothing but love for the people in my district whether White, Black, or Brown or Asian. It doesn’t matter. An issue is an issue. A lot of time it affects us the same. And I stand up and feel the same way in someone addressing an issue that is addressed toward an African American community the same way if there is an issue affecting the Latino community. It doesn’t matter. What’s right is right and we have to fight the abuse no matter who is doing the abusing.
Q: We don’t know much about you, so give us a little about your background?
SEGURA: I organized marches, protest, spoken with officials in the city and many times we accomplished very little or nothing. I think it is because a lot of times our petitions are falling on dead ears. They don’t understand the issues and haven’t experienced the issues first hand. I grew up in DFW, I grew up in the lower income areas, I experienced discrimination and been pulled over not two, three, four or six times. But over 10 to 12 times. Been disrespected so I understand that first hand. I’ve been at the border with the first and second caravan. I stayed there for over seven weeks helping reunite children with their parents and I’ve seen our immigration system. I have my own business. I had to fight the city because they were trying to push me out and take my land and not follow the rules of the city. So we need people that will fight for the regular people, those who don’t have the money or contacts.
Q: Where do you stand on Medicare for All?
SEGURA: I am in favor of Medicare. Unlike my opponent who received hundreds and thousands of dollars from big oil and gas and from the health care and pharmaceutical companies. I am for the people because there is not enough money on this earth for me to sell out the people of this community. We can’t remain silent on these issues. We need somebody that is fighting for us.
Next was his closing statement.
SEGURA: So if you agree with me on these issues. That we should have a more united America, that we are one team, that we can work to have better police community relations. If you want to have somebody fighting in Congress for us to help prevent the next tragedy then you need to get into this next election. I am not running for Congress, we are running for Congress. If I get into Congress, we get into Congress. You will see what the difference is when we have somebody that is representing the people that cares about us. I am not running for me. I don’t expect it to do it for me but for you, for your kids, and community. Step up baby.
The next group was Democratic candidates for the office of the Texas Railroad Commissioner. Invited Democratic candidates included Roberto Alonzo and Chrysta Castaneda. The incumbent is Republican Ryan Sitton.
Candidates began with an introduction.
ALONZO: The Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads. It has to do with oil and gas. Although in 1999 and 2001 I did serve on the DART board which means I dealt with trains.There are four candidates running. We all basically think the same. We are against fracking. Oil and gas companies ask for a permit. They just fill out a form, there is no questions, there is no research, there is no economic impact, how to fix the community. So we need to get on there and I can tell you this. For years, no Democrat would run, because we didn’t think we could win. But we talked a lot about this for years and we would come to meetings and conventions with Democrats and few people would show up. But guess what, now we are showing up. We are showing up and this is going to be a tsunami year like it was in 2008. Everybody notices Texas not in the primary only but also in the fall. So as it relates to the Democrat, I have been in this process since 1980. I have been an actual delegate eight times and I have been a precinct delegate here in Dallas since 1986 and I have been in the state Democratic executive committee and I’ve been an eight time national delegate. I’ve been a 20 year state representative. With all the issues we are dealing with, I’ve done it. In fact, three years ago, I proposed that we change the railroad commission to oil and gas so people would know what it is about.
CASTANEDA: It has everything to do with oil and gas and that’s where I come in. I have worked in and around the industry for over 30 years and I want to emphasize the word worked. I have worked to represent landowners and royalty owners and I held one of the biggest verdicts against the oil companies to enforce the law not only in the state of Texas but nationwide. I know the business. I’ve been an engineer. I’ve been an attorney. I’m a mom and I have worked long and hard to elect more women to public office. Including women who have now hold public office. I ran against Marc Veasey in 2012 for the Texas 33rd Congressional District. Why? Because I believed it was so important to have women in office. Because I know this complicated business and I know that there is not one type of permit but there is 30 permits and I know the law, I know how the commission runs, and I am going to be the best person to beat the Republican who cares nothing for the law because I work. I work so much that the groups who are endorsing have endorsed me over all my opponents. I am the person who when the media calls, I actually answer the phone and explain to them and as a result if you google me I am the one getting all of the attention from the media. We will win this seat. I agree with my opponent on that and when we earn this seat, it is important that we know how to govern and we elect people that know how to do the job and are ready to lead and not resting on laurels for 10 or 20 years ago.
The candidates then answered questions.
Q: Are you aware of the amount of fines for the abuses that have happened in this state and what regulatory experience do you have in opposing fines?
CASTANEDA: I am aware of the fines. I have not represented any company in opposing any fines. I’m not on the other side of this issue if that is the intent of the question. I will say the fines are historically way too low and way too small and way too late for the kind of abuses that go on. It has been against the law for 100 years to flare oil and gas. Flaring is lighting on fire natural gas. Right now we are flaring on gas enough to power the city of Houston. My Republican opponent is giving out exception permits so people are not incurring fines. So we are going to slow down that process. We are going to make sure that we adequately fund the railroad commission to have enough people to enforce the fines when they need to be enforced.
ALONZO: I’ve done the research and like Chrysta mentioned, very low. And the reason why it is very low is because the people in office right now are doing that they are not monitoring or enforcing the law. We are running for office to try to get there. You know as I go around the area and speak, people ask me are you going to take care of this problem, well I can’t do it by myself because there are three votes. It takes two votes to tangle, but I will tell you this, this is not about being a lawyer this is not about representing but this is about policy. And I have got 20 years and I am honored to have served the state of Texas in addition in those 20 years, we’ve dealt with a lot of oil and gas and tried to fix those problems but in conclusion, recently there was a vote to vote against flaring and the vote was 2-1. Which means if one of us gets there, I can guarantee we will have an opportunity to change things.
Q: What can you do about stopping fracking?
ALONZO: I can tell you when that issue came up and Denton voted to stop fracking what happened was that issue went to the legislature and when it came up I voted against it.One of the things we can do is have votes on the commission but encourage and work with policies that deal with these issues. Some of these are statutes that are state law that already exists but I think as we try in Austin to change that, we can also do it in where we can in the railroad commission.
CASTANEDA: So the issue of state vs. local control is a huge concern because the closest oil and gas corporations get to our communities of course they always impact the communities that are on the edges where there is environmental injustice. We have got to bring local control back to where local communities have some control on the operations that are nearby. Fracking is a huge amount of different types of operations. There are the operations that pollute our groundwater if they are not done correctly. They are the operations that create earthquakes if they are not done correctly. We need to make sure that the Railroad Commission is putting out the very best available data to the operators to make sure those types of concerns are controlled. We need to make sure that our communities have the say so again.
Q: How willing are you to get a platform that expose the abuses that are impacting our state and our community because it takes to litigation to make some of the successes that we have in our country? How far are you willing to fight?
CASTANEDA: I ruled the largest verdict in the nation against oil companies in 2016, the largest verdict in the Permian for them not following the law in the contracts and the obligations the railroad commission set forth. Here is why I am the best candidate. Because I look at every little detail and I know from engineering and from law and from accounting and finance, everything that they do, everything that they try to hide. If you want it fixed, I’m that girl.
ALONZO: I’ve been there, you look at my track record for 20 years, it is there as far as how I voted in all of these issues you are talking about. I have done it and I talked about it, I voted on it and of course if I am on the Railroad Commission I am going to make sure that we make those changes.
The candidates then gave their closing statements.
CASTANEDA: I think as you can see tonight, I know this business. I know it inside and out. I know it forwards and backwards and hear is what I also know. I know that I am willing to work harder than anybody for the people of Texas. I know that I have worked harder. I have been ping ponging around this state into the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve been to Midland. I’ve been to the heart of the Petroleum Club and I talked to those people telling them I am a Democrat running for the railroad commission. I’ve been into the heart of the oil and gas companies and I know I can get them to do something about these problems, about flaring, about putting more money into our state and wasting less energy. I know that progress for Texas, a 100,000 member organization has endorsed me as the right candidate for this race. I know that communities all around the state, Houston, Austin, Dallas, those groups are all endorsing me, why because I will work.
ALONZO: I’ve lost many times. I’ve lost when I ran for student council in high school I’ve lost against Domingo Gacria in 1996. I’ve lost against Jessica Gonzales two years ago but I didn’t give up. I kept on participating, in fact through the years I helped elect people to office. In the end we are going to have difference of opinion but I want to do what a lot of folks don’t do. We are going to stick together to support the Democratic nominee. For railroad commission, president, congress state senator, state rep and the list goes on. I want to continue participating. And I have dealt with all these folks and in the end folks it is not about screaming or yelling. It is about governing. It is about talking to people as I pointed out we already had a vote on the railroad commission and the vote was 2-1. What does that tell you? That one of us has to be there to make it a 2-1 in our favor. We are going to work together and try to get as many supporters from both sides and keep on trucking. You win the nomination I will support you (he told Castaneda). If I win the nomination, you are going to support me. And that is how it is going to be. I am going to continue to participate and help all Democrats.
The last presentation focused on the Texas House of Representatives, District 109. Invited candidates included incumbent Carl Sherman Sr. and Christopher Graham. Graham was not in attendance.
The candidate began with an introduction.
SHERMAN: I want to thank you for the opportunity you have given me and the privilege to serve you in District 109. My first term as a new state rep, I am proud to say that I am one of only two freshmen that were appointed to the esteemed appropriations committee. I also while serving on appropriations that determines your budget for the state, that’s important and in line with my history as a former city manager and a former businessman but where my heart is corrections. In the state of Texas, we incarcerate more people than any state in the Union. We incarcerate more people in the state of Texas than any other state if it were city it would be the 20th largest city in the state with 164,000 people incarcerated in our state and 104 prisons across our state. I know that because I am touring our prisons. It matters to me how we treat our people. As a former city council manager the conditions that we have to maintain for animal shelters is not even being maintained for our prisons. Out of the 104 prisons that we have, 75 do not have air conditioning in the housing unit. People are dying. So I am fighting for you and I am fighting for the people who can’t even vote for me.
Sherman then answered questions.
Q: What was the most challenging thing you experienced as a freshman in your first term you served in District 109?
SHERMAN: The most challenging was the convergence of the special interests at the capitol level. As a city manager and as a former mayor and council member, I tell you it is some of the same folks I saw at our council meetings lobbying for things that they wanted special things they wanted, special variances they wanted that they didn’t get because in our state, we have 1,214 cities. Of those, 862 are general law cities and 352 are home rule cities. That simply means that there are enough people that care about the home rule cities that they get to make their own laws. This session was an attack on local control. To strip away your control and make the decisions from the state level and that was the most disappointing thing about this session.
Q: The state has control over group homes and I think it should be given back to the cities. Are you willing to fight that fight?
SHERMAN: You are absolutely right. The state should not be involved in local issues that pertain to our communities and so yes I have and I will champion bills that pertains to that. And this 86th session has been an assault on local control.
Q: What would you do to help senior citizens that can only get $20 to $30 dollars in food stamps when they are on a fixed income and that’s all they get while a single young mother gets $800 in food stamps?
SHERMAN: I will have a meeting with senior citizens on February 13 and would love if you would call my office and be a part of that because the more we can get input from folks like you about these issues the better. We will be going to five different communities that are senior communities in Dallas.
He then provided his closing statement.
SHERMAN: Someone asked me am I having fun? I really resented that question. Because this is not about having fun. There is a lot of work to be done. It sickens me when so much time is spent on the floor celebrating a lemonade bill. When we got people that need legislation that is going to help them and improve their lives. We got work to do. I am sick and tired of seeing special interests come down to Austin and seem to get whatever they ask for. We represent the people. I am working for you and I am fighting for you everyday to ensure that we get things done for the people. We got to seek change. I had 66 bills that I authored or co-authored or co-sponsored I am the only freshman that had two bills vetoed by the Governor. The governor’s office said to me it is nothing personal Rep. Sherman, but I take it personally. When you are affecting my ability to improve the lives of people in my district and beyond. So I need your support and need your vote to help get things done in the 87th legislative session.