Texas Democratic candidates debate for nomination to unseat Sen. Cornyn

Texas Politics
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The flags of the United States and the State of Texas. KXAN Photo.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Twelve Democrats are vying to represent their party in the November election against John Cornyn, and on Tuesday 11 of them are meeting on the debate stage in Austin. The event coincides with the first day of early voting in the primary election.

Cornyn is Texas’ senior U.S. senator and has held the role since 2002. Before that, he was the state’s attorney general. He faces four opponents in the Republican primary.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll reports MJ Hegar has widened her lead among other candidates, with the support of 22% of self-identified Democratic primary voters. Support for other candidates ranged from 5% to 9%. A candidate must win more than 50% of the vote in the primary to avoid a runoff.

However, the poll also noted Hegar and others suffer from a lack of name recognition. KXAN’s State of Texas politics program has profiled the top seven candidates in the polls. Here’s a recap:

Chris Bell – Former Congressman says experience gives him an edge to beat John Cornyn

Chris Bell - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Bell supports Medicare for all, but he said he still wants Texans to have the option to choose their insurance company.
  • Bell is also a supporter of stricter gun laws. He said he supports universal background checks, red flag laws and a mandatory buyback program.
  • Bell also said when it comes to the border, he wants to immediately turn around policies put in place by President Trump and supported by incumbent Cornyn.

Amanda Edwards – Dad’s cancer battle shapes her health care policy

Amanda Edwards - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • The at-large Houston city council member says that experience makes her the best candidate to represent you in the United States Senate.
  • While some candidates back Medicare for all, Edwards says she’s looking at a different solution.
  • She supports a fix to the Affordable Care Act that allows for a public option. 
  • Edwards said health care is a personal issue for her. Her dad was diagnosed with cancer when she was just 10 years old and died when she was 17.

Annie Garcia – Plans walk across Texas in U.S. Senate bid

Annie Garcia - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Garcia said she would like the U.S. to adopt a system similar to Spain’s universal healthcare system outside the medicare-for-all system with fewer fees attached.
  • “We need to look at the people that are currently in our country that are undocumented and we need to figure out how to get them on a pathway to citizenship and then we need to look at people that are trying to enter a country who want to come to our country and make sure that we are honoring our American values and our economic means at the same time. “
  • Garcia said while she wants to see the issue of gun violence addressed, she does not even consider buybacks a practical solution.

MJ Hegar – Leads Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate

MJ Hegar - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Hegar said that she supports universal background checks and ending open carry.
  • She said she supports comprehensive immigration reform, fully funding immigration courts and supporting DACA recipients.
  • She said she wants all her neighbors, family and friends to have access to Medicare, but also still leave people the option to choose their healthcare providers.

Sema Hernandez – Senate candidate campaigns on issues ‘other candidates will not touch’

Sema Hernandez - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • Hernandez says she’s a mother of four and calls herself a working-class candidate. 
  • Hernandez talked about her support for policies like Medicare for all and the Green New Deal.
  • “I’m running to end the systemic poverty, systemic racism, and the ecological devastation that is brought on by policy violence, 40 years of neoliberal policy violence,” Hernandez explained.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez – a Texas candidate for U.S. Senate

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • When it comes to gun control, Tzintzún Ramirez said she was the best shot in her family growing up and supports protecting the second amendment, but she said she also supports mandatory gun buybacks.
  • She believes work needs to continue need to protect the rights of dreamers and to get comprehensive immigration reform “for the millions of people who have long worked and contributed here, especially in Texas, to our state’s economy.”
  • Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country with one in six Texans not having healthcare. Tzintzún Ramirez supports Medicare for all for that reason.

Royce West – A closer look at his U.S. Senate campaign

Royce West - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate
  • When it comes to the border, West said Texas needs more judges with more resources so Texas can adjudicate the asylum claims.
  • He supports a ban on assault weapons, background checks and red flag laws.
  • West said one of the things he wants voters to know is that of the 12 Democratic State Senators, 10 of them, including himself, support his candidacy. Also, of the 67 Democratic House members, 49 support his candidacy.

Tuesday’s debate begins at 6:30 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. It is hosted by KVUE, KUT and the Texas Tribune.

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