Recently I posted a diary on the Texas 36th Congressional District race which points out the news that Democratic candidate Michael Cole is running against Rep. Steve Stockman. That diary you can read here:
As a result of the diary, there's been feedback from some of you on who Michael Cole is as a candidate and whether or not he's not just another Democrat-by-registration. Given its early in the campaign season, I figured now may be a good time to get those issues addressed right away.
I got in touch with Michael Cole recently in the past few days and as a result, was able to get him to answer a set of questions I believe speak to the heart of what being a Democrat is and what we expect in a good representative in Congress. Bear in mind, there are issues that were not covered but Cole's answers to my questions should be a good starting point for you to get a sense of where he stands.
The interview was done by me but on behalf of the Knowledge Democrats group which is based on Daily Kos but expanding its presence beyond the Kos community. Our goal is to provide coverage and gain insight in Congressional Districts across the U.S., particularly those red district-based races that don't normally receive much coverage.
For more insight and information on the Knowledge Democrats group, reach out to me or Augustin on Kosmail or e-mail us at email@example.com
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What has motivated you to run for Congress? As I understand, this isn't your first run in Texas's 36th Congressional District. Have things changed since?
COLE: My motivation to run for Congress was service. I feel that I have a lot to offer the people of the 36th. Yes, I ran in 2012. What has changed is that after 112th and 113th Congress accomplishing nothing, and pushing the government to the brink of being shut down, the people are ready for real leadership in the House.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Touching base on your first run for Congress in 2012, you had run as a Libertarian but this time around, you're running as a Democrat. Do you identify of yourself more in the Democratic Party?
COLE: Before the last election, I fit into the left wing of the Libertarian Party. Many of us called ourselves "low tax liberal." However, the Libertarian party is pushing further and further to the right. During the last run I had many Democrats working on my campaign and we talked a lot. They presented an argument for the Democrat Party that I found appealing. Looking at the party platform, I am comfortable with it; it fits nicely with my own beliefs.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What are some issues facing the TX-36 Congressional District, particularly ones that are more local-based issues? Do you believe they are being addressed or is there a need for better outreach?
COLE: The biggest issue facing the 36th is the same that are facing all districts: Jobs. We have the ability to bring those jobs here; Orange County has a port that needs to be expanded. The Harris County part of my District includes NASA and the communities around it; there are many out of work space engineers that would be perfect to support the commercial space industry. Hardin County could become the leader of Natural Gas production if given enough detail. We just need the infrastructure to make it happen.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On your campaign website, you mention education being a big issue for you, being an educator and working with students with discipline issues. How has your experience shaped your views of education and what would you like changed about the education system?
COLE: We are not equipping our next generation with the tools to succeed. We teach to the test and then act amazed when education does not improve. We must give those that will be the leaders, the taxpayers and the dreamers the tools to achieve.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your feeling about the economy? Can more be done to improve it?
COLE: The economy is ailing. It is ailing because we are ignoring the powerhouse of the economy, small business and giving all of our attention to Corporate America. You want to improve the economy create the environment where the middle class grows. You build main street and you will have no problems on wall street.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Income equality. Do you believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed?
COLE: It is. When you have a small portion of America that owns most of the wealth, the nation is in danger. Capitalism works best when wealth is flowing, not stagnant. When there was a greater income diversity, the nation was an economic powerhouse; the change to a oligopoly in business and wealth is strangling the nation.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: How are the Newton massacre, Aurora Colorado massacre and other related incidents affecting TX-36 residents? Should Texas have more gun control (background checks and such) or can the issue be addressed on matters besides gun control?
COLE: If nothing it has forced many South East Texans to purchase more guns, more ammo. I think that background checks and safety certificates are the best way. A law abiding citizen will never use their gun in anything besides self defense and we must make sure that their rights are preserved. BUT, in the same since we must do all that is possible to keep them out of the hands of those that would do wrong with them. I would ask opponents of back ground checks why they are in favor or arming rapists, pedophiles and murders.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you believe Citizens United should be overturned? Are money and special interests having too much of an influence in politics?
COLE: Citizens United was a terribly thought out ruling of the Supreme Court. It opened the door to unlimited amounts of money to be poured into politics, now more than ever political races are becoming out of reach for the ordinary citizen. The average House race now costs over 1.5 million, expanding the reach and influence of Corporate America.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: Do you believe safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare need to be cut to address the U.S. deficit and debt (i.e. chained CPI) or are there other ways to address the deficit and debt? Should raising the retirement age factor in as well?
COLE: It is a distortion of the truth when opponents of Social Security and Medicare talk about them in terms of adding to the deficit or the debt. They add to neither, they are self sustaining at the moment. You want to address the debt, you start cutting over budget defense contracts that even the Pentagon doesn't want. You want to cut the deficit, you start getting rid of Corporate Welfare Kings.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On voting rights, how is that issue affecting people in the TX-36? What was your feeling when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the critical portion of the Voting Rights Act?
COLE: I understand why the Supreme Court did what they did, meaning I can see their thinking behind it. That said i do not agree with it, because I know that Congress will not revisit the provisions anytime soon and voters will suffer as a result.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: If elected to Congress, do you believe your role should be more on checks & balances in general or to make decisions only because they are politically feasible?
COLE: A Congressman should be concerned with the needs of his district. Once elected he or she is the advocate of their constituents in the Federal Government. The Constitution requires a level of checks and balances for The House, such as the originator of tax bills. The Founding Fathers expected the members of Congress to rise above politics to do the will of the people. That is my goal.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On matters regarding the NSA, do you believe the agency has been more transparent or less?
COLE: The NSA should be concerned with its mission of protecting the nation's communications from foreign attack, not spying on its citizens. Any wiretap or surveillance of citizens should be done by the FBI and then only after having the proper warrants issued. We do not preserve our freedoms by taking them away.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: What's your stance on the issue of abortion? Should the government step in or step away from this matter?
COLE: Personally, I see abortion as a private matter between a woman, her doctor and her conscience. In a free society we have to trust the citizens of the nation to make their own choices. We already have in place procedures to make the process as safe as possible. If abortion opponents were serious about ending abortions, they would be increasing funding for sex education and birth control measures; that is the only proven way to lower the abortion rate.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: How do you see the immigration issue being addressed?
COLE: Two fold, we need to address those already here. Untill the start of the 20th Century there were really NO immigration laws. We held to the moral stance of "give me your tired, your weak, your huddled masses..." Today, we hold citizenship to the highest bidder. I think that if a family has gone as far as to risk their lives to make it here, that is a trait of determination, we should want those people as citizens.
The truth of the matter, no matter how many or high we build a wall, the American Dream will beckon to all. By engaging the nations that they come from, by creating the ability for US firms to invest in those countries, we allow them the opportunity to build their own middle class and open the door for American exports. We win, they win.
KNOWLEDGE DEMOCRATS: On the issue of climate change and global warming, do you consider it a grave threat that needs to be addressed or a hoax?
COLE: I see no credible evidence that it is a hoax. The world's scientists have almost to a person by using the rigors of the scientific method and peer review have come to the conclusion that it is real, that we need to do something. Pretending otherwise is endangering ourselves.
Note that if you have additional questions or concerns (particularly if you're a resident of the TX-36 Congressional District), feel free to address them here in the comments section. Michael Cole plans on reading the diary and will pay attention to any feedback provided.
If you are looking to support Michael Cole for Congress in the TX-36 Congressional District, here are the necessary links: