On November 8, representative Bill Flores is aiming for re-election to his spot representing the 17th Congressional District of Texas. Dr. Bill Matta hopes to thwart him. The Roar talked to both candidates about their campaigns.

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source: Facebook

by Jennifer Zhan, senior editor

Dr. Bill Matta, hailing from McLennan County, is the Democratic choice for the seat.

How would you introduce yourself to voters?

I assume you would like to know who I am, credentials, that sort of thing? Well, I have over 30 years experience in higher education, I’m retired from the Air Force with 30 years commissioned service. And if I’m claiming to represent family values, I should mention that that family is one of the most important things to me. I have been married for almost 35 years, and I have four grown children that I am very proud of. In fact, that is the reason I left active duty in military service, so I could return to graduate school and educate myself as much as I could, but also so that I would be able to pursue a career, that would allow me to be home, with my family, on almost a daily basis. And that’s what my career in higher education allowed me to do, despite the times that I have had to go on active duty—willingly, gladly— throughout my years of active Air Force Reserve service.

I have been a Democrat since the age of 16, when I first developed political awareness. I have followed politics throughout the years and have been increasingly distressed over the tendency in Washington to move towards non-governmental ways, ways that are antithetical to how our government should operate, how our government should function. We shouldn’t elect people into office to serve us, and then see them try to shut down the government. That is what has irritated me most over the past decade, the increasing acrimony and unwillingness to work with each other, to compromise, to do things that everybody wants done in this country by government, I think things everybody agrees have to be done by government, that is, maintaining roads, scientific and medical research, funding our schools properly, and so on. Those things have not been done, not well, for at least the past 10 or 15 years. We have to avoid this desire to privatize everything. Of course, a free enterprise system is necessary for our country. It’s absolutely necessary, and I believe it is for the American spirit to persist. But certain government functions must be provided as services.

As for your campaign, what issue do you feel most passionate about and why?

I am most passionate about environmental issues because that is the one issue that poses an existential threat to not just our country, but to the entire world, to the very existence of the human race — and certainly to many other species living on this planet. We must act soon.

I believe in scientific facts. The evidence is incontrovertible. The climate will change, the Earth is warming. And it’s caused by human activity, by the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And of course we pose threats to ourselves in other ways. Pick any number of various pollutants that we introduce into the atmosphere, into the soil, into the water, by our own activities. As individuals we don’t always recognize that we are the source of those problems, and that we have to fix them. We have to keep the Earth livable for the next generation, and the generation after that and perpetuity, as long as possible. We want our children and grandchildren to survive and have a decent world and decent prospects of living good lives.

It’s our responsibility, for the current generation, the people who are in Washington, D.C., and the people who run the government, to take control of the situation if private enterprise is not capable of doing that. There are many forces at work and private enterprises that prevent them, sometimes, from managing and monitoring what goes on in businesses. That’s one of the main functions of government, to provide regulatory oversight. And regulatory oversight has suffered greatly, because of budget cutting and antipathy towards government oversight. Having government interfere with private enterprises has been viewed as the wrong thing to do, but it’s absolutely necessary at some level. Yes, too much interference is bad, but we have to protect ourselves from ourselves, and that’s one of the roles of government.

Compared to the candidate running against you, what do you feel makes you more qualified for the job?

The other candidate has made his living in the oil and gas business. And so he’s very familiar with that, but he’s also beholden to those interests, and to the interests of private enterprise, and the upper 10%, the ultra-conservative politicians who want to retain control of money and power. And I don’t think he has an awareness of the environmental problems we face or how to fix them.

And that’s where education comes in. The environment, of course, is the most pressing problem, but we can’t fix it unless we educate people properly. We need to educate people adequately and give everybody a decent shot at education from kindergarten all the way up into college. I would like to see college made free. Other countries in the world, progressive countries, modern countries, are able to do that. I think we should able to do more in that direction, towards providing free college, at least the opportunity to try college, for students from families of modest means. Here in Texas, we don’t apportion education funds very well. Poor districts, rather than getting more funding and the good teachers and the good guidance and resources that are needed to educate students, suffer the threat of being shut down because of testing scores and various other things that somehow indicate poor performance. What should be done is make those schools better, not turn them over to private enterprise or to businesses, because that has been a failure in many parts of the country. When businesses come in and create charter schools, if the schools don’t make money or don’t do any better than the public schools before them, they get shut down. Communities are left adrift, with no educational resources for their children, and no options other than to bus them somewhere out of community. The sense of humanity is lost, the sense of pride is lost, and students are forced to spend longer times commuting to distant locations where they don’t know people— and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be bused to better schools anyway.

How do you feel about Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the state of politics right now?

I do believe that if we get 50% voter turnout, there’s a good chance that Texas would swing Democratic this election. 

As far as Hillary Clinton’s campaign, she is an extremely hard worker, an able government servant. She is as tough and knowledgeable as they come. And she has all of the experience. Many people have declared her the most qualified candidate for the presidency ever, or at least certainly in recent times. She has somehow weathered all of these attacks that have been conjured up with the thinnest of evidence. Had there been any real evidence of wrongdoing, she would not be where she is today. If she were guilty as charged, she would be in jail. Whereas her opponent, Donald Trump, I think is at risk of ending up in jail for a variety of things. He is certainly not the model citizen for our country’s leadership. He doesn’t have the temperament to lead, to govern, to work with people on a consensus-built basis, or on a leadership basis of any sort. So, every time he goes out in public and speaks, he helps Hillary’s campaign. Now Hillary is not the most effective public speaker, perhaps, but she is a dedicated public servant, and I think she will serve us very well as a president for these next four years, maybe eight years, who knows.

Is there anything you’d like to add about down-ballot campaigns or other political issues in general?

Well, the Democratic Party, I think, has always been the real voice of the people. The party of family values, family planning, for example, and women’s healthcare. Healthcare is a major issue, it’s a major concern for a lot of voters. Even though the Affordable Care Act was passed, the conservative Republican leadership in Texas has refused to accept federal money that would help to implement the program and make it run better. Not only that, the Republican philosophy has been to wage war on women. Not literally, but certainly figuratively. The Republican establishment does not women to have any control over their own lives. Family planning is not allowed by that philosophy. If it were allowed, Planned Parenthood clinics would not be shut down all across the state. There’re only a few left compared to where we were, say ten years ago. The main purpose of Planned Parenthood is not to provide abortions, but to prevent abortions. All of the usual services are provided at family planning centers: competent medical care, information about family planning, contraception, treatment and prevention of STDs, and prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Women and families in general should be allowed to decide when it’s right for them to have children. I know it makes sense at some level, to say if you don’t want children, don’t have sex, but when a young couple if they’re not financially ready to have children, what do they do? Do they sleep in separate rooms? I don’t think that’s possible or likely. And sometimes things happen. People aren’t always able to refrain from having sex. It’s a human desire. We need to have family planning, it’s part of modern medicine that many conservative leaders in this state and across the nation seem unwilling to accept responsibility for.

Another big issue is income inequality, which can be adjusted somewhat by fixing the tax code, which is broken at the top. Money and power — they’re often one and the same — have collected at the top. It is often referred to as the top 10%, sometimes people refer to the top 1%. The Republican Congress have cut taxes, and they’ve cut taxes where the burden of keeping our society going, keeping our government going, has fallen on the shoulders of the middle class, the bottom 80% of taxpayers. We need to revise our tax structure, make it more progressive for the upper income levels. If somebody like Donald Trump can get by without paying any income tax for possibly 15 or 20 years, simply because the tax code allows him to do it, is that right? I don’t really think so, and I think a lot of people would agree with me that that’s not exactly the most moral approach to force other people who don’t make that kind of money to shoulder the tax burden with property taxes and sales taxes, which disproportionately affect the middle class — people from backgrounds like yours and mine.

For more on Dr. Matta’s campaign and his stance on other political issues, visit www.billmatta.com.

bill-flores

source: Facebook

by Maya Girimaji, section editor

Congressman Bill Flores, who has been the U.S. Representative For Texas’s 17th congressional district for five years, is the Republican choice for the seat.

How would you introduce yourself to voters?

I bring a business perspective to Washington. I know how to meet pay rolls and balance a budget. I know what makes the economy work and what keeps it from working well. There aren’t that many people in Washington that have that type of experience so it helps me do a better job compared to other persons who are in Congress today.

As for your campaign, what issues do you feel most passionate about and why?

The most important issues right now are the same ones that constituents are telling me. Number one is national security and border security. They’re very concerned about the safety about their families, so that is very important to me. The next thing are jobs and economic opportunity for hardworking American families. The third one is that we still run big deficits and we’ve got to get the budget balance. The fourth thing is that America is really frustrated with Washington. It doesn’t seem to work and what we need to do is find a way to make Washington start working better. We need people who will come up with solutions that are the right thing to do for families instead of worrying so much about politics.

How do you plan on addressing these issues?

What we’ve done in the House is that we’ve put together something we call “A Better Way”. It addresses all of these issues plus a couple more. So we’ve got real world solutions for national security, for jobs and the economy. We have real world solutions to deal with the deficits. We have solutions for how to make Washington work again. We also have solutions to deal with a big problem we have in this country and that is poverty. And, lastly, part of making Washington work and the solution is that we need to restore the Constitutional authority of our government. The government is ignoring the Constitution and so we have a section of our agenda that does that as well.

How do you feel about the state of politics right now?

I think it’s unfortunate. We’ve probably got two of the worst candidates running for president that we’ve ever had. For those high school seniors who are getting ready to vote for the first time, it’s really pretty embarrassing that those are the two they have to choose from, in terms of major party nominees. It’s a shame that we’ve got a candidate who can’t control his mouth and says nasty things. He’s got good policies because actually he’s adopted most of what we’ve proposed in a better way. The other candidate really has some bad history in her background. One thing is that if you look at the rise of the Islamic state or ISIS, she created the environment for that to grow up in Syria and in Iraq. She also allowed more Americans to die in Benghazi. She had illegally handling classified emails on her personal server. She’s a terribly bad actor. It’s really a shame that we don’t have better folks to choose from. You’d like to have Americans choose from two really good people and choose the better of the two. And they’re picking the one that is the least bad, in this case.

How do you intend to reach out to young voters?

What we’ve tried to do is have a really active presence on social media. We have two Facebook accounts, one for my official page and one for my political page, for running for office. We’ve got two Twitter accounts. We try to encourage everyone to sign up for those, not just young people. And then we’ve got an Instagram account on the official side. So we try to encourage people to follow us that way. It seems to be the easiest way for younger folks to be able to keep up with what’s going on.

Compared to the candidate running against you, what do you feel makes you more qualified for the job?

Well, number one, I have real world business experience. And I also have 6 years of experience in Congress that’s been particularly effective. I’m a leader in Congress in a short period of time. And I also have 30 years of real world business experience that sets me a part from both of my opponents. I haven’t seen anything from the other campaign except for some signs. We’re running a full-fledged campaign. We’ve got signs, we’ve got a social media presence. I’m speaking to lots of groups. I already have two speaking events today. We’re reaching out to numerous groups to try to make sure we’re standing in front of everybody. We’re running a comprehensive campaign.

Is there anything you’d like to add about down-ballot campaigns or other political issues in general?

Those high school seniors who are voting this year seem to be really engaged in looking at the issues and making sure they understand the candidates. This vote that they’re going to make is very important to their future. So I encourage them to study the issues and not look at just one news source. Look at a diversity of sources so that they can get an idea of what the real story is behind issue, where the candidates are on each issue because, unfortunately, the news today is highly stratified.

For more on Congressman Bill Flores and his stance on issues, visit flores.house.gov.