Taking Back Texas

Jana Lynne Sanchez aims to unseat one of the most conservative Texans in the House of Representatives

(Photo: Twitter/@janasanchez)

This article is the first installment of the Blue Texas Project, a series of interviews with Texas Democrats running for Congress in 2018.

A large number of Texas Democrats motivated by President Donald Trump’s scandal plagued start to his Presidency are planning to run for elected office in the 2018 midterm elections.

Only three months into the current Administration, numerous Texas Democrats have already declared their intention to run for the United States House of Representatives.

After years of embarrassing results in Texas, Democrats had a strong statewide showing in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton lost the state by 9.2%. In 2012, former President Barack Obama lost the state by 16%. The better than expected performance was overshadowed by Trump’s electoral victory.

Jana Lynne Sanchez is one of many Texas Democrats who see opportunities for the party in a changing Texas. Sanchez will challenge seventeen term incumbent Joe Barton for his House seat in Texas’ 6th Congressional District. She will first have to make it past a potential primary challenge.

Rep. Barton is a Tea Party Republican and a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. He made national news last month when he told a constituent to “shut up” at a town hall meeting in Frost, TX.

Sanchez, a pragmatic centrist from Waxahachie, believes Barton’s views are too extreme for the ideologically diverse district.

If Trump continues to flounder as President, there is the possibility of a wave election for Democrats in 2018. Upcoming special elections in traditionally red states like Kansas, Georgia, and Montana will be a good indicator of how the American electorate feels about Trump and Republicans in Congress.

Democrats like Sanchez believe the wave is real and hope to ride it to Washington D.C. in 2018.

Read my Friday, April 7 interview with Sanchez below. It is lightly edited for clarity.

MR: What was your motivation to get in this race and challenge Joe Barton?

Sanchez: Well, the simple answer is November 8. I think like many progressives around the country I was really shocked at the outcome of the election. I thought a lot about the worst outcomes of having a President Trump and a Republican Congress. And I decided that the best thing I can do to ensure the future of the Constitution, and democracy, and, quite frankly, the American Dream was to run for office. So, I looked around at the districts I live in and decided the office I could most easily win would be Congressional District 6. That’s why I picked this district and that’s why I am running in this district.

MR: We are about 90 days into the Trump presidency. What’s your assessment so far?

Sanchez: (laughing) Wow, where do I start? I think like most people I have been pretty horrified by the incompetence, but also pretty shocked by the level of complicit behavior by Congress. It’s been as bad as we expected in some ways, although I was not quite prepared for the level of incompetence.

A map of Texas’ 6th Congressional District

MR: I am looking at your district right now, it appears to be heavily gerrymandered. Will that affect your chances of winning in November 2018, if you are in the general election?

Sanchez: OK, so a little bit of background. This district was recently found not to have been gerrymandered on racial lines. So I can’t really say whether it is gerrymandered or not in terms of the present state of today. Because the district is not majority white, which is one of the factors that determines how gerrymandered a district is. Right now the district is at least 22% Latino, 20% African American, and it has about 9 to 15% other, which includes Asians and Native Americans. The percentage of whites in the district is 45%. I actually believe this district is very winnable by a Democrat. Joe Barton has never been properly challenged with a candidate who can raise money and who could appeal to centrist Democrats, which is how I would describe most of the Democrats in the district, as well as Independents. I don’t feel that the previous candidates have raised enough money or done enough work in terms of getting out the vote and walking precincts in order to win.

MR: Your mentioned your opponent Joe Barton. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is the most conservative members of Congress. Do you think he is a proper representative for a district that is 22% Latino and 20% African American? Is it proper to have someone from the House Freedom Caucus representing such a diverse district?

Sanchez: Obviously, I am going to say no. I think that the district is majority Democrat if you look at the likely Democrat voters and Independents. Republicans form a minority in this district. Unfortunately as we all know, Republicans are much more likely to vote than Democrats and Independents. Also, Democrats have not had a choice. I absolutely believe he is way too far to the right for this district and has been in office way too long.

MR: How do we change that? How do we get more Democrats out to vote in 2018?

Sanchez: I think there are three things that will get more Democrats and Independents out to vote in 2018. They have to have a choice and the way they will decide they have a choice is by the message of the candidate, the amount of money the candidate spends getting that message out, and the fact that they have met the candidate, hopefully on their doorstep, in order to see if they like the candidate. In my case that is why I am focusing on raising money, focusing on my ground game, and I will begin walking five days a week with volunteers in every winnable precinct in Tarrant County and Ellis County. That is starting as soon as the municipal elections are over and will go through the entire primary and general. Our goal is to meet every single likely Democratic voter in a winnable precinct once or twice during the election and to raise enough money to do the things we need to do to win. That includes sending targeting mailings to likely Democratic voters, that includes buying media advertisements. Doing all the things you need to do to win a campaign.

MR: I want to touch on a few of the issues that will come up running in Texas. Donald Trump still wants to build his border wall. That would hurt the Texas economy…

Sanchez: (cutting in) Absolutely, disastrous for the Texas economy!

MR: In addition, it is unwelcoming to Mexican Americans in Texas. I think it is a bad symbol, but I want to get your opinion on how as a member of Congress you would oppose the border wall and what your general position on it is?

Sanchez: It is hard for me to say how I would oppose it because I don’t know what will happen in terms of legislation by that point and how far along the Republicans might be with the wall. But I assure you at every opportunity possible I will be opposing the wall. It is a really stupid idea. It’s been floated for fifty years in the state and it’s never been popular, it has never been possible, and it is a huge waste of resources that will damage the economy dramatically. There are ways to solve the problem of undocumented workers being in the state. Some of them we need of course. We need many undocumented workers willing to do the jobs that are not being filled by Americans. There are other smarter ways of solving that problem. The wall is simply a drain on resources. It will cause retaliation from the Mexican government that will cost even more jobs. Our economy is very connected with the Mexican economy. We need to continue that mutually beneficial arrangement. Everybody from the beef ranchers to companies that import parts for cars and all kinds of equipment that is imported into Mexico will be dramatically hurt by a bad trade relationship with Mexico, which will result from the wall being built.

“Imagine that you are a child, you go to school, and when you come back your parents have been deported. That is what we are facing.”

MR: In addition to the wall, Donald Trump has stepped up Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. The Fort Worth and Austin Independent School District’s recently passed so-called sanctuary school bills. What is your opinion on how this affects the Latino and immigrant community in Texas?

Sanchez: Well, imagine that you are a child, you go to school, and when you come back your parents have been deported. That is what we are facing.

This is really bad for families. It is a very anti-family position. I think everybody can agree that we need to understand who is in our country and what their legal status is. Are they criminals or are they hardworking people who are simply trying to make a living? We need to stop sweeping people up in raids who the only thing they have done wrong is to try and make a living. We need to be much more selective in the way that we go after people who are real criminals potentially harming people in the community. President Obama deported a record number of criminals from the U-S, but he did it without sweeping raids that swept up people who were not guilty of anything or guilty of very minor infractions. These are not the people we need to worry about. We need these people, they are doing jobs that need to be done.

“[The bathroom bill] is another ideological drain on resources that will cause boycotts and make us look ignorant and bigoted to the rest of the country.”

MR: A controversial subject right now in Texas is the bathroom bill (Senate Bill 6) that Lt. Governor Dan Patrick wants to pass. How do you feel about the bathroom bill?

Sanchez: I feel like it is another ideological drain on resources that will cause boycotts and make us look ignorant and bigoted to the rest of the country. We have already seen that in North Carolina it had to be repealed in order to repair the damage to their reputation as a state and to their economy that was being done by that law. It’s just a case of tea party fanatics going crazy and not having anyone there to counter them with rational thought and pro-business policies.

MR: And before I let you go, what is your best pitch for why voters should support you next year?

Sanchez: I am a centrist Democrat who can protect and promote the values of all the residents of District 6, which stands from southeastern Tarrant County all the way down to Corsicana. It is a district full of diversity and full of hardworking people who have great values and I will go to Washington and represent the people free of the ideology that has plagued this country for the last twenty years.

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Interview // Congress / Elections / Politics / Texas