Article Originally Published by Will Tarpley on North Texas Daily
Multiple democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate race against Texas Sen. John Cornyn met in the Lyceum to answer question at Saturday’s U.S. Texas Senator Forum, hosted by the UNT Democrats, the Denton County Democratic Party and several other UNT groups. Among the candidates attending were Sema Hernandez, Chris Bell, Amanda Edwards and Adrian Ocegueda.
Texas State Senate Representative Royce West and Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez were set to appear but had to cancel due to scheduling conflicts.
The UNT Leftist Unity Club, Eagles 4 Gun Reform and UNT GLAD also helped sponsor the event. The co-head of Eagles 4 Gun Reform, Brett Davis, talked briefly about the organization prior to the event.
“We wanted to reach out to all these candidates running for Senate because their policies related to gun reform were unknown,” Davis said. “We wanted to invite some candidates to come to speak at a College Dems meeting, then Shane Warren, our president, said ‘I know this guy, Joel Ortega, who’s with the Denton County Democratic Party,’ who was wanting to do this student-led forum. So, he got me in contact with Joel and we just rolled from there.”
Moderated by UNT students Hillary Shah, Azmar Khan and Hanlyn Tyler, the forum covered topics such as human trafficking, medicare, gun reform and Israeli-Palestinian relations, among other subjects. The event began with questions from the moderators before opening the forum to student questions.
Edwards, an attorney and city council member from Houston, called her home city “ground zero for trafficking,” and suggested that ICE could be used to fight traffickers and education to spread awareness.
“Instead of focusing ICE on communities and tearing our communities apart, we need to be focusing ICE’s attention on human trafficking issues,” Edwards said. “One of the things we were able to do [in Houston] is to identify signs, which is very difficult to do. How many people in the room, right before their very eyes, [have] been trafficked? It’s very difficult to identify those signs, particularly in the labor trafficking context, so we put together packets that all other cities could utilize. I think we need to have the federal government put more funding behind making sure awareness is created and that we’re putting our cities and communities in the best position to identify when trafficking is occurring.”
On the topic of Medicare-For-All, Hernandez said she had “been singing the praises of Medicare for all before [she] started running for office.”
“Funding Medicare for all would also help to fund these closing hospitals and doctors in rural areas,” Hernandez said. “It would ensure we build our healthcare to the scale of the economy to take care of people who have not seen doctors in years. Because of my healthcare, I have not seen a doctor in 11 years. I don’t have healthcare. I fight for it, not just for you, but I’m also fighting for myself.”
On the topic of gun control, Ocegueda suggested a change to rules in the U.S. Senate to get reform passed.
“I think gun control is a perfect example of when we start thinking about how our government works when it comes to the institution of the U.S. Senate,” Ocegueda said. “[Democrats] use Mitch McConnell a lot as an excuse, but no one ever thinks ‘Can we change the rules, can we change how the Senate operates?’ My idea is to put a 20% minority rule, where any minority party in either chamber would have control of 20% of the agenda. So, if gun control was passed through the House, you could ask Chuck Schumer to use part of the Democratic part of the agenda to bring forward gun legislation.”
Chris Bell, who has represented the 25th District in Texas and served on the Houston City Council talked about the President’s recent “Peace-Prosperity Plan” for Israeli-Palestinian relations.
“I think it’s extremely important we maintain our friendship with Israel, but sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with your friends and push them in a direction they may not want to go,” Bell said. “As for where the boundaries need to be drawn, that’s for the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate, but we’re never going to get there without the U.S. applying pressure. For Donald Trump, to just side completely with Israel, is absolutely the wrong approach, in my way of thinking.”
The event concluded with statements from all four present candidates, plus a statement from Nicole Collier, a surrogate for Royce West.
“There’s no denying that there are so many talented individuals running in this race,” Collier said. “However, when I look at a candidate I’m going to back, I’m going to look a couple of things – I’m going to look at their qualifications, their experience, their positions on the issues and their electability. When you look back over the past twenty-six years that state Senator Royce West has served in the Texas Legislature, I see that he has proven results.”
All candidates are on the March 3 primary ballot. Early voting ends on Feb. 28, with Election Day on March 3.
A recording of the forum in four parts can be found in the video section of the Denton County Democratic Party’s Facebook page.
Featured Image: Texas U.S. Senate candidates answer questions from moderators as well as students at the Texas Senator Forum at UNT on Feb. 22, 2020. Image by Quincy Palmer
Source: North Texas Daily