By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
On Monday evenings heading into primary and general elections, the Dallas Examiner hosts Monday Night Politics at the African American Museum in Fair Park. it is an opportunity for candidates seeking office to address voters in person and make their case.
This week, the forum hosted candidates in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Railroad Commissioner.
For one candidate in the race for U.S. House of Representatives in District 30, Barbara Mallory Caraway, the allocation of time was not acceptable and she abruptly left the forum.
Candidates in the first session were given two minutes to make their opening remarks to the audience. Then before proceeding to audience questions, DeMetris Sampson, representing incumbent U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson — who was not present for the event — was allowed on stage to deliver a prepared statement from the Congresswoman. Sampson was given 11 minutes for the statement.
Caraway had the first opportunity to respond to the first question of the night. Instead, she took the allotted time to lambast the organizers of the event and told the audience she would no longer participate. Stating she could not believe Johnson’s representative had 11 minutes to read a statement that Caraway said had nothing to do with the relevant issues in the district.
“I will not be insulted, and I will not stay on this stage and continue to participate in a kangaroo court that has been orchestrated by the Dallas Examiner,” Caraway said. “Good luck to all of you. I will not talk about my record, you know I have run for this office before. You know I was in the legislature. You know I was on the Dallas City Council, and many of the issues and projects that were read here tonight by DeMetris Sampson were initiated by Barbara Mallory Caraway on the Dallas City Council as chair of the city’s transportation committee. I will not stay here.”
Caraway’s early departure left challengers Shenita Cleveland and Hasani Burton to respond to the remaining questions from the audience.
Cleveland is a minority business owner and activist in the community. She told the audience her biggest concerns were homelessness — especially among veterans — and the fact that District 30 had among the highest poverty rates for children in the U.S. She also stated the crime rate in the district is consistently rising above the national average, and she believes it is time for new leadership.
“We appreciate Ms. Johnson and her efforts for bringing funding to DART, DFW Airport; and yes, even successfully securing Toyota in North Texas,” Cleveland said. “Unfortunately, that means little or nothing to the conditions of District 30 today. And that is why it is time for a change.”
Burton told the audience his background is as a scientist, and that he originally never aspired to get into politics. He said he has spent 13 years as an activist and volunteer, and it is this experience that eventually led him to seek office. The emphatic “13 years” mantra was repeated numerous times in answers to questions, with great hilarity shared between Burton and the audience.
“What I’m doing now comes from being involved, and this 13 years of experience in meeting people, hearing their stories, knowing what’s going on in the community, being part of that, being the fabric of it,” Burton said. “I’m not originally from Dallas. So this is the only way I could become a Texan — be a Dallasite — is to root myself in the community; to care about the things that you all care about; to advocate and champion for the cause that you all want champion(ed).”
U.S. House of Representatives, District 33
In the race for the U.S. House of Representatives in District 33, Sean Paul Segura is challenging incumbent Rep. Marc Veasey in the Democratic primary. Veasey was not present at the forum. Segura delivered an impassioned case for his candidacy, and his delivery had the audience cheering in the closing moments of his presentation.
Segura said the incumbent took too long in joining other Democrats in calling for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. He chastised Veasey for voting in favor of a bill that included funding for Trump’s border wall and said Veasey supported the XL pipeline which Obama had opposed.
“I believe it’s always the right time to do the right thing,” Segura said. “We need somebody fighting for us.”
Segura added he had been involved in organizing protests and marches and had spent time in Tijuana reuniting immigrant children with their families. He advocates a simplistic “one team” philosophy and the belief that “abuse is abuse, no matter who’s doing the abusing.”
Texas Railroad Commissioner
There are four Democrats running for the statewide office of Texas Railroad Commissioner, a seat currently held by Republican Ryan Sitton. Two of them were present for the Monday Night Politics forum; Roberto Alonzo and Chrysta Castaneda.
Pointing out that the Railroad Commission deals with oil and gas, not railroads, both candidates said it was imperative to put a Democrat in the position.
Alonzo is familiar to DFW Democrats as a former member of the Texas House of Representatives in District 104, beginning in 1993. He was defeated in the Democratic primary of 2018 by Jessica Gonzalez. He said his experience in Austin and the workings of the state government make him an ideal candidate for Railroad Commissioner. He stands on his record in the legislature as an indication of his values, positions, and dedication to the Democratic party.
Castaneda says her industry experience as an oil and gas attorney gives her the edge in qualification. She said she knows the games oil companies play, and how to stop them and make them pay fines and fees they have so far managed to avoid. Castaneda ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in District 33 in 2012, where she was unsuccessful in taking the Democratic nomination away from incumbent Rep. Marc Veasey.
Texas House of Representatives, District 109
The final presentation of the evening was for the race in District 109 of the Texas House of Representatives. Rep. Carl Sherman, Sr. is finishing up his first term in office. He has a challenger in the primary but was the only candidate in attendance. He made the case that the political climate is such that his work is cut out for him to continue in his current role.
“We’ve got work to do,” Sherman said. “And I’m sick and tired of seeing special interests coming down to Austin and seeing them get whatever they ask for. We represent the people, and dad-gum-it I’m working for you, and I’m fighting for you every day to ensure that we get things done for the people.”
Monday Night Politics will continue next week with local judicial races. The forum is held from 6-8 p.m. at the African American Museum at Fair Park. The public is invited and admission is free.