By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
There has been a lot of talk in the media and online about the 2018 mid-term elections, and the race has definitely begun as the first episode of Monday Night Politics (MNP) was packed and enthusiastic on Jan. 8. MNP is hosted by the Dallas Examiner and takes place every Monday night through March 5. The forum is held at the African American Museum at Fair Park (3536 Grand Ave.) and runs from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The event is free to the public.
On Monday night’s forum, there were four political races presented, though none of the candidates for Texas Governor did attend. The positions presented were U.S. Representative District 32, Lieutenant Governor, and District Attorney.
A crowded field seeking to unseat Rep. Sessions in District 32
In the District 32 race; Colin Allred, George Rodriguez and Lillian Salerno were in attendance. The field also includes Brett Shipp, Ed Meier, and Ron Marshall, who did not attend. Democratic candidates in this race will be looking to unseat Pete Sessions, who has held the position since 2003 and was first elected to the District 5 seat in 1996. Sessions is also being challenged in the Republican primary by Paul Brown.
“I played in the NFL, became a civil rights attorney and worked for President (Barack) Obama,” said Allred. “It was all built on a foundation I had growing up here. I went to good Dallas public schools. I had a YMCA where I spent all my summers and every day when we didn’t have school I was there.”
Allred said his motivation was to serve the “unsung heroes” who shaped his life locally, and that he also sees 2020 as a “tipping point” for the country as a whole. He said Sessions did not communicate with the district outside Highland Park without a lobbyist and that he intends to “hold him accountable.”
“After these recent elections, I looked at my neighbors,” Rodriguez said. “I looked at the people in the district where I have lived for almost my entire life. I looked at the people I serve in my profession as an immigration attorney – saw the anxiety. I realized that this administration was trying to change the social narrative of our country into something that it is not.”
Rodriguez said the cornerstones of his campaign are economic fairness, and “building bridges, not walls.” Labor-side economic development is high on his priority list, and he said he wants his signature piece of legislation to be changing the U.S. Department of Labor to the “Department of Workforce Development.”
“We need somebody who will go up there and on day 1, start fighting for you, and I’ve been doing that all my life,” Salerno said. “I worked for the Obama administration for the last five years, creating economic opportunity for those 50 million people that live in small-town America. I oversaw 5,000 people and a $30 million budget. What we know for sure, I that the deck is stacked against many of us.”
Salerno also noted that Texas hadn’t sent a new woman to Washington in more than 20 years, and of all the representatives from the state, only three are female. She also shared her experiences in the criminal justice system and starting a business which she believes gives her the background and skills to help “level the playing field.”
Texas Lieutenant Governor race
Mike Collier and Michael Cooper are running in the Democratic primary for an opportunity to defeat incumbent Dan Patrick as Texas Lieutenant Governor (Patrick is also being challenged in the Republican primary by Scott Milder).
Cooper was the only candidate able to attend the forum on Monday night, and said, “It is time that we have someone who is worried about all the people.” Cooper, who has served as a volunteer in the education system, said one of his first priorities is a pay raise for teachers. He is also in favor of vocational programs for graduate students who are “workforce ready.” And he said he has already put in the time to determine how to pay for the improvements he wants.
“I’m not here to say I’m going to try to change things, but I have found the answers,” Cooper said. “I’ve been on the trail for a long time. I’m ready to serve you and your children in the State of Texas.”
A friendly competition to become the next Dallas District Attorney
The final office presented at the forum was the District Attorney. John Creuzot and Elizabeth Davis Frizell are vying for the Democratic nomination to face Faith Johnson. The DA’s office has been a source of very public scrutiny in recent years as Susan Hawk resigned following work attendance and health concerns. Other incidents involving allegations of abusive drunken behavior and prosecutorial misconduct by assistant DAs make this race more noteworthy this year than normal in Dallas.
Frizell and Creuzot seem to be running an amicable primary race, and both pledged that they will be campaigning after the primary regardless of which one gets the nomination. Both put criminal justice reform at the top of their agenda, and both come to the table with extensive experience in the justice system.
Creuzot said he emphasizes working with defendants over incarceration whenever possible. He touted a program he had spear-headed in the past to rehabilitate offenders, adding that successful graduates were in the room for the presentation.
“We put them in treatment, brought them back, worked with them and had significant reductions in probation violations, re-arrests, the whole thing,” Creuzot said.
“That’s why I’m running for District Attorney because I started criminal justice reform. As a result of these programs being a foundation we’ve closed eight prisons in the State of Texas.”
He also said he wanted to begin awarding “certificates of rehabilitation” to help ease the difficulty of former felons in getting back to a productive job.
Frizell recited a long list of high profile cases of African-Americans who lost their lives in incidents involving law enforcement and said that is her inspiration for running.
“Deadly force should be the last resort, not the first,” Frizell said, adding that “So many officers can get away with just saying ‘I feared for my life.’ Well, should you have feared for your life? Should it be a death sentence for you to be killed, shot, maimed or lose your life?”
She also notes her status as the only lifelong Democrat running, and recalled her past experiences trying to “turn Texas blue” on behalf of the party. Frizell emphasizes she is the candidate willing to fight (at one point even kicking off her shoes and striking a sparring pose).
MNP will be back again on Jan. 15 featuring candidates vying for State Representative in Districts 100, 104, 109, 113 and State Senate District 16.