AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Congressman Colin Allred, D-Dallas, sat down with Ryan Chandler for an extensive interview covering his top priorities in his race to replace Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Here’s the conversation:
Ryan Chandler: You’ve been at this for about eight months now. But I think it’s fair to say we are officially in primary season. Throughout your travels throughout the state in the last eight months, what have you been hearing from voters that most sticks out to you and is forming this early stage of the campaign?
Allred: I’m really excited about getting a chance to introduce myself to folks who I haven’t represented or campaigned in front of before, like here in Austin. And what I’ve been hearing from them is that they think we can’t afford six more years of Ted Cruz, I think misrepresenting us in the Senate, and that they’re very worried. I think this is a time where we’re watching a lot of chaos in [Washington] DC… people don’t know if people are actually keeping them in mind and their priorities instead of themselves. And think they want a break from that. And so I think that’s what we’re going to try and provide in this campaign.
Chandler: You’ve made healthcare a major part of your campaign. And just recently, we’ve heard some bold assertions about the Affordable Care Act from Republicans. Just recently, former President Donald Trump said ‘Obamacare sucks!’ He says he wants to replace it with a better system. Ted Cruz has also long campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act. In your mind, what would that mean for Texas?
Allred: Let’s be very clear about what this would mean for us. We’re the state with the highest uninsured rate in the country. And so what we’re talking about here is taking away healthcare for millions of Texans in a state that already has a crisis. In terms of our coverage, we’re talking about going back to the days when someone with a pre-existing condition can be discriminated against, like if you’re pregnant. My wife and I have had two babies in the last five years — that’s a pre-existing condition. We need to be expanding coverage and lowering costs. It’s already hurting us in so many ways. We have so many folks here who don’t have health insurance or who have health insurance they can’t afford. It’s having so many negative impacts on our property taxes, on our hospital systems. We have to reverse that — not try to take away healthcare.
We need to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, and at some point, it might be something where folks might be able to get access to a Medicare or Medicaid-type program to buy into that. What we’ve tried to do, I think, in my time in Congress is protect folks’ coverage and lower costs, particularly when it comes to prescription drugs. I hear about it all the time. It’s heartbreaking, really. One in four Americans are rationing their insulin. So, we kept the cost of insulin for folks on Medicare at $35 a month. Unfortunately, thanks to folks like Senator Cruz, we could not do that for everyone. When I’m in the Senate, we will. We’re allowing Medicare for the first time to negotiate drug prices, which is going to help us control the cost of prescription drugs. We want to make sure we’re lowering your premiums which we’ve done through the Affordable Care Act as a way to keep expanding coverage and lowering costs. That’s the recipe for Texas.
Chandler: One of the most concerning issues for many Texas women is, of course, abortion. You recently wrote an op-ed in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal about an ordinance that Lubbock County recently passed that criminalizes using county roads or leaving the state for the purpose of securing an abortion. What do you make of that ordinance? And as a U.S. Senator, would you try to pass a policy that could prevent ordinances like that nationwide? What is the solution there?
Allred: I think it’s deeply un-American and it’s deeply un-Texas. It’s not who we are, with the combination of our very, very strict law in the state that bans abortion in all cases, whether it’s rape or incest, where we have lawyers, not doctors, determining whether or not a woman is sick enough for pregnancy to be terminated. If we’re also saying that you can’t leave the state, what you’re doing is you’re making Texas women into prisoners in their own state, and we can’t accept it. And so there is some legislation that I’ve signed on to with Lizzie Fletcher from Houston to protect women’s right to travel interstate in this country. I never actually thought we’d have to put that into legislation. It was something I thought was understood. But maybe we will. But certainly when I’m in the United States Senate, we’ll vote to codify Roe v. Wade and to go back to the standard that we’ve had for the last 50 years.
Let’s be very clear about what Ted Cruz wants to do. He wants a nationwide ban on abortion. And what’s happening in our state right now is a crisis. It’s horrible what’s happening to women in our state. We have to reverse it. There are so many impacts they’re going to have for us that are negative — not just for the women of our state and for the families of our state, but also for our economy, for our university systems. We have to do something about this.
Chandler: It’s interesting you spoke directly to the people of Lubbock and West Texas with that op-ed. When you think about these West Texas places like Lubbock and Amarillo, how do they factor into your campaign strategy? You know, I used to be a reporter in Lubbock before this, and I followed Beto [O’Rourke] around the Panhandle when he was campaigning for governor. And he made a big deal about going to all 254 counties in Texas. And that, you know, that’s one strategy. But I’ve also heard from Democrats saying that, ‘really all we need to do is focus on turnout in the big cities.’ And it’s not worth going to Sweetwater, Texas. What do you make of those arguments? What strategy are you going to employ to turn out as many voters as possible?
Allred: Well, I want every Texan to know that I want their vote. Let’s be very clear about what I think Ted Cruz is offering to rural Texans, which is just culture war. But that’s all it is. He’s not helping us by investing in our infrastructure. He’s voted against that. He’s not helping us deal with what’s gonna happen with the next generation of farmers that are coming up. We have so many farmers that are aging out. He doesn’t have any ideas or policies to help rural Texans other than culture war red meat that isn’t going to help you and your family when a crisis hits or when you need to send your kid to a good school or when grandma gets sick. None of that is going to be helpful.
I want every Texan to know, particularly in our rural parts of our state that I want to be your Senator, that whether you agree with me on everything or not, I will represent you. I’ve been the most bipartisan member of the Texas delegation in Congress. I will work across the aisle to find ways to get things done for you and your family, not just deliver culture wars.
Chandler: One issue that is very important for West Texas is, of course, the farm bill. That’s been punted to 2024. What does that mean for the state of Texas? Can Congress get that across the finish line in a way that Texans will like?
Allred: Thank you for asking about that. I think it’s really important, and it’s a product of our dysfunction. Unfortunately, the farm bill is traditionally a very bipartisan piece of legislation that both helps us help our agricultural system and our farmers, but also helps us in terms of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for folks who need help getting access to food and dealing with hunger insecurity. And so it’s an incredibly important piece of legislation. It’s bipartisan, it helps people in rural areas and urban areas, and it really is a sign of our dysfunction that we haven’t been able to get something done on it.
The good news is it’s at least going to be extended until we can reach a deal, but we have to talk about the future of farming in Texas. I’m very concerned with it, because when you look at farmers in our state, they’re aging out. And the cost and barriers to entry for the next generation to come into that profession is incredibly high. And so, those are the folks who need our help to get over that initial hurdle. Because we’re the number one cotton-producing state in the country. Agriculture is incredibly important for our economy. But we have so many folks who do that incredibly important work who are going to be leaving in one capacity or another, and we need to have another generation coming in to take their place.
Chandler: Let’s look overseas. As a U.S. senator, you will have oversight over American military interactions and aid to foreign countries. Of course, the Texas Democratic Party just recently unanimously passed a call for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. Do you agree?
Allred: I’m on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And I think this is a time for mature and solid leadership. And to me, what we have to do in terms of this conflict is continue to try and get humanitarian aid into Gaza to try and protect civilians as much as possible. But understanding this is a war of choice by Hamas. They chose this war. They’re still holding over 200 hostages, right? Now, they can release those hostages, they can lay down their arms.
Israel has every right to defend itself. But they have to do that within the context of the laws of war. And to me, democracies like ours, whether it’s the Americans or the Israelis, we are strengthened — not weakened — when we apply the standards and values of our country to the way we conduct ourselves in military conflicts. Because when we do that, we show our values. And so I think it is equally important how Israel conducts themselves in this war, but they do have a right to do that. And it’s incredibly saddening to me to see what’s happening, but also to see these stories that are coming back from these hostages, and also to see the civilian toll in Gaza. I hope that we can find a way forward soon, that brings the conflict to an end and leave Hamas no longer in power.
Chandler: So you are not calling for a ceasefire at this time?
Allred: I am not.
Chandler: Broadening this out to not just Israel but Ukraine and the ways that the United States supports our allies in armed conflict. How do you judge when and how the United States should support them with money or weapons? Would you ever condition that aid? What do you make of how we should continue funding these conflicts?
Allred: In the context of the war in Ukraine, there is certainly a limit to what we can do to support them. But that limit to me, we’ve not reached. We need to continue to support them in what I think is a brave democracy defending itself. It’s an authoritarian neighbor that wants to destroy their country, their way of life, and basically incorporate them into some version of the Soviet Union. And so that’s what we’re standing up for – freedom and the right to self-determination. That’s traditionally what the United States has stood for throughout our history. And it’s one of the responsibilities of being the leader of the free world… you take care of your folks at home, but you also are the shield for the rest of the world, for people out there who are hoping that somebody will help them defend themselves. And that’s what the Ukrainians are doing. We’re not fighting. They are. They’re the ones who die on the battlefield. But what we provide them in terms of military aid is allowing them to be really the second strongest military in the world at this point. And it’s been inspiring. We should continue to support them.
Chandler: I asked about conditioning, because that’s something that Speaker [Mike] Johnson has done when it relates to Ukraine and Israel aid. How do you judge him is his early performance as speaker? What grade would you give him so far?
Allred: Well, it’s too early. I’m glad that we kept the government open for a brief period. We’ll see what happens in January, if that continues.
I was not pleased with the way the Israel aid package was structured in terms of taking money from the IRS to say that that’s how we can support Israel. To me, that didn’t make any sense. But at the same time, I recognize that we’re in a period of divided government, and the Republicans have the majority in House of Representatives. With a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic president, we’ve got to find a way to get things done in a bipartisan way. And that’s what I’ve always been focused on. I was named recently the most bipartisan member of the Texas delegation. And, you know, that’s hard work at a time like this. But it is possible. And so I’m hoping, and I’ll remain hopeful, that we can work with Speaker Johnson to get important things done for the country because there’s some big priorities that are still out there. We can’t just say we’re gonna take a year off from helping the American people.
Chandler: Do you think he’ll be speaker for the long term or is there any chance that we could see another debacle like the McCarthy situation? Is he there for good?
Allred: It’s hard to say. But, you know, I would say longevity isn’t in anybody’s cards on the outside right now.
Chandler: There was another notable bipartisan vote in Congress recently — against now-former Congressman George Santos. Did you ever have the pleasure of working with Mr. Santos? What did you make of his short tenure in the house?
Allred: Well, he was not on any committees. So I didn’t have any committee work with him. And I suppose he voted on legislation, but, I thought he brought disrepute to the House. And that’s why I voted to remove him. I think that there are certain standards that legislative bodies themselves should police. We don’t need the executive branch to come in and convict. We, as a House of Representatives, can say you are unworthy of being a member of this body based on the lies, the fabrications, the fraud, and the abuse that you’ve pursued. And that’s what we did. I’m glad that we waited until the ethics report had come out, until due process was served. Once that came out, it was time for him to go.
Chandler: Before you run against Senator Cruz, you’ll have to get through this primary first. There’s a long list of candidates, notably, State Senator Roland Gutierrez and State Representative Carl Sherman. Is there any appetite from your campaign to debate them in a Democratic primary debate before you face up against Cruz if you win?
Allred: Yeah, I’m sure there’ll be a debate. And I think that’s fine. And I’m looking forward to the primary process. You know, I want to have a robust discussion about where we should go, both as a party and as a state. And I want Texas Democrats to know that the way I have served has been one that’s tried to bring people together, try to get things done. That’s put me in a position to be able to not only beat Ted Cruz, which of course is important, but also to bring our state and our country together on the other end of this because that’s one of the my top concerns for us as a country. It’s not just which party is in power or who’s in which office, but, are we coming apart at the seams? John Lewis used to say that we might have come here on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. And we’re all Americans. We have to remember that, and even at a time of really heightened tensions, we have to keep that in mind.
Chandler: Lastly, congressman, is Texas football going on? I know you know about football. How about the Longhorns? Can we do it?
Allred: They can do it. I mean, listen, if you’re in the playoff, you know, you can make it. And I thought their Big 12 Championship performance was really good. The quarterback is back, so they got the chance. I’m sorry that my Baylor Bears didn’t make it. A little tough year for us.