Brady and challenger Hernandez discuss debate, issues

Posted 10/6/20

With November’s Election Day less than a month away, 470 U.S. Congressional seats will be on the line as each side fights for further representation in the House and Senate. The races serve as a backdrop to the country’s ultimate decision between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who engaged in their first presidential debate in Cleveland Sept. 29.

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Brady and challenger Hernandez discuss debate, issues

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With November’s Election Day less than a month away, 470 U.S. Congressional seats will be on the line as each side fights for further representation in the House and Senate. The races serve as a backdrop to the country’s ultimate decision between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, who engaged in their first presidential debate in Cleveland Sept. 29.

Congressman Kevin Brady has served as U.S. Representative for Texas’ 8th Congressional District since 1997 and has enjoyed a sizable margin of victory in each general election against the given Democrat or Libertarian challenger (he ran unopposed in the 2016 general election).

He is the lead Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and served as its chairman before Democrats took control of the House in 2018.

“I have been privileged to represent this district for a number of years,” said Brady in an interview with the Meteor. “I am proud of the tax reform bill that let families keep more of what they earned and jumpstarted America’s economy into the most competitive economy on the planet. We increased wages for the first time in a decade. In fact, the average household’s budget grew by $6,000 in the first two years of (the Trump Administration).”

Brady also lauded his ability to work with Democrats on the other side as well as his role in replacing the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“I led the effort to pass the (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) through the House,” said Brady. “I’ve worked across the aisle on a number of key health care issues, including leading the charge to lower drug prices and end surprise medical billing.”

Brady and his family have remained based in East Texas during his time in Congress.

Challenging Brady is Democrat Elizabeth Hernandez of The Woodlands, who is a graduate of Sam Houston State University with an extensive accounting background. She enters the political arena for the first time in 2020. 
“I am in a position to represent everyday Americans,” said Hernandez to the Meteor. “I have been a single mother, I have a child with a disability and I struggled to put myself through college. I was working full time, going to school part time and raising my three kids.”

Hernandez recently graduated from SHSU with an accounting degree but has worked in the field for over 20 years in a variety of positions.

“I feel that (Brady) has lost touch with Texas 8,” said Hernandez. “He is beholden to special interest and to Trump. I am someone who understands everyday struggles and has been in those situations. I can sympathize with them and I have that perspective that Brady does not.”

Hernandez has also listed the increase in the country’s National Debt as one of the reasons she launched her campaign. She believes more individuals with accounting backgrounds in Congress would help solve fiscal-related issues and, in turn, clear resources to address other issues.

She tabbed healthcare reform as one of those main issues and spoke from personal experience on the matter.

“I have been the parent that has had struggles with health insurance,” said Hernandez. “A parent should never have to think how they are going to pay when their child gets sick.”

She stated her campaign’s strategy in going against the established Congressman involves engaging directly with citizens in the district with an emphasis on Hispanic and student voters.

“We are definitely running a grassroots campaign,” said Hernandez. “We are fighting name recognition. I am not somebody who has been in politics. The number one goal is letting people know that (Brady) does have an opponent, people are not used to him being opposed.”

Democrats currently hold the advantage in the House of Representatives (232-198) while Republicans hold a majority in the Senate (53-45).

Libertarian Chris Duncan is also challenging Brady to represent the district but could not be reached for comment. He ran against Brady and Democrat Steven David in 2018.

Presidential Debate

Republicans, Democrats and American citizens alike expressed negative reactions to the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden in Cleveland Sept. 29, which featured an exchange of multiple hostilities between the two White House hopefuls. Both Brady and Hernandez agreed that more time should have been devoted to the issues, but similarities in their takeaways ended there.

“There is no question the debate itself was unprecedented,” said Brady. “The public wants to see more discussion about ideas, achievements and goals for the next four years for America.”

Brady called Trump’s debate performance “passionate” and stated his belief that the President’s record alone suggests he is the clear cut choice between the two.

“Throughout all of that back-and-forth, (Trump) made the point that he rebuilt America’s economy, rebuilt our military, stood up to China, and funded the highest budget for our veterans in history,” said Brady. “Despite the 90 minutes of back-and-forth, he has a remarkable record of achievements.”

Hernandez was also displeased with the debate’s rhetoric.

“I was disappointed to see that our two presidential candidates are bickering like children instead of discussing policy,” said Hernandez. “I don’t think that is something the American people should expect or accept going forward.”

She also placed the blame for much of the evening’s negative discourse on Trump and his tendency to talk over Biden and debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News.

“It was clear that Trump went into that debate with a strategy of bullying and talking over Biden and not allowing policy discussions to take place,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez believes Wallace did the best job he could in a difficult situation and highlighted his efforts to address Trump’s rule violations, but also stated he could have been more firm at times.

“I think (Wallace) has been roundly criticized by both sides in this debate,” said Brady. “He certainly lost control and didn't regain it. He had some questions, like one on (racial sensitivity training) that, frankly, most Americans have pretty low on their priority lists. They want to hear about the economy and the recovery from (COVID-19). They want to know about healthcare and the issues that affect them. That is what I am hopeful, in the second debate, we will see.”

Trump has been widely criticized by the left for his inability to distance himself from organizations that practice racist ideologies and white supremacist values. In the debate, Wallace asked Trump if he would specifically condemn white supremacist organizations. Trump asked the moderator to give him a name in which he should condemn, prompting Biden to suggest he condemn the so-called “Proud Boys”, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a “general hate” group.

Trump responded with the following statement:

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem, this is a left wing…(cut off by Biden, who stated Antifa was an idea and not an organization)”

“Like mostly everybody, I was alarmed by the statements (Trump) made toward the Proud Boys,” said Hernandez. “Telling a white supremacist group to “stand down and stand by” is not condemning white supremacy, it is encouraging it. It is not hard to say, without a doubt, that you do not want those groups to take any action.”

Brady pointed to the President’s comments in August of 2017, shortly after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which Trump condemned white supremacy on two occasions. In a statement released from the White House, Trump labeled the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

He went on to state he condemns “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”

“(Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy) is a lie,” said Brady. “It’s well-spread, but, nonetheless, still untrue.”

Brady also stressed Biden’s failure to properly address the civil unrest, predominately in but not limited to major cities, that has plagued the nation for months. The violence has taken place separately from countless peaceful protests across the country that stemmed from a Minneapolis police officer’s murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in May.

While Biden condemned rioting and looting in the debate, Brady felt as if he was silent on the matter for too long.

“This is one of the rare times we have heard (Biden) say anything about the looting and violence in America’s communities,” said Brady. “He refused to denounce Antifa, continued to blame Republicans for the violence, and that is why, I think, he is scrambling now to try and get some traction on that issue. A lot of families are frightened about all of this violence coming predominately from the left and Antifa.”

Hernandez does not believe there is any correlation between the violence that has taken place and the Democratic Party, stating liberal leaders have often condemned the behavior.

“It kind of upsets me sometimes because people try to equate those who are looting and doing these things with the Democrats,” said Hernandez. “I do not condone that whatsoever. I do not think it is okay, and I believe Biden has made that clear. We have only had peaceful protests in Texas 8, which is good.”

Biden and Trump also sparred over voter integrity and how that might look during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which more and more Americans are considering a mail-in option in favor of showing up at the polls in person.

On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting drop-off locations for mail-in ballots to one per county, regardless of population. The move came less than two weeks before early voting is scheduled to begin in Texas Oct. 13.

“(Abbott’s executive order) is outrageous,” said Hernandez. “It is very obvious they are trying to suppress votes. How can we have one location for a county as large as Harris County?”

Critics of Abbott’s move argue it harms the state’s most vulnerable voters.

Brady sided with Trump’s debate sentiment and expressed a need for voter integrity in the unprecedented election.

“Given the chaos that is surrounding mail-in ballots, including states where judges are allowing the counting of ballots for weeks after election day, it is important to ensure that our election has integrity,” said Brady. “In Texas, we are fortunate. We have absentee balloting, we have a full three weeks of early voting in person, including weekends, then election day itself. There is no question, if you can go to the grocery store and shop safely, you can certainly vote in person safely in Texas.”

Hernandez stated her belief that Trump has inflated the issue of ballot fraud and is confident in the current system to deliver accurate results come Election Day.

“I think it is fear-mongering by the Republicans,” said Hernandez. “My only concern would be interference by the Russians. I am not concerned about our mail-in ballot processes.”

Brady referenced a case at the local level in Gregg County from 2018, in which a county commissioner and three associates were indicted on 134 total counts of voter fraud in the Democratic primary election.

“I don't think it is healthy to mail out ballots to those who haven’t requested them,” said Brady on the broader issue. “I don’t think it creates confidence in our election system when you got, seemingly by the day, changes in long held election laws in the state. That is a recipe for not just fraud, it is a recipe for not having your vote counted.”

House Democrats narrowly passed a COVID-19 relief bill Thursday that included a number of extra spending measures unrelated to the pandemic. The bill passed by a vote of 214 and 207 but has no chance to make it through the Republican-held Senate.

No Republicans voted for the bill and only 18 Democrats voted against it.

“I am discouraged the (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) is more anxious to sabotage the economic recovery than to sit down with Republicans in Congress and the White House to find common ground,” said Brady. “Today, the jobs report shows America has, unbelievably, recovered more than half the jobs we lost in COVID already, but there is more work to do. Small businesses need another round of the Paycheck Protection Program and streamlined forgiveness. Our airlines need help to make sure they are not furloughing tens of thousands of workers.”

Hernandez stated the need to bring back enhanced unemployment benefits, which provided an additional $600 a week earlier above traditional state levels during in the pandemic to assist individuals who had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.

The CARES Act was enacted to provide $600 a week in unemployment benefits from April 5 to July 31.

“(Enhanced unemployment benefits) need to be reinstated,” said Hernandez when asked what needs to be done in Congress to alleviate the financial woes of the pandemic. “Number two, sending direct payments to the people that need them. We still have people being evicted and struggling to feed their families. People need money to be able to eat and keep their utilities on.”

In terms of COVID-19 treatment, Brady has stated that Congress has already funded the manufacture of vaccines and are prepared to deploy them quickly when deemed safe and effective.

“These vaccines are moving through clinical trials very well,” said Brady. “The fastest this country and the world has ever deployed a vaccine, from zero to deployment, is four years. It looks very likely that we will have accomplished that in 10 months.”

Hernandez has her doubts about the vaccines and their effectiveness after such a short period of time.

“I think it is reckless,” said Hernandez. “If I was presented with a vaccine (in the next few months), I would not take it or give it to my children. I have talked with a number of people who work in pharmaceuticals and preparing for a medication takes a long time. I do not think we are anywhere near being able to present something like that to the public in such a quick turnaround.”

Joe Biden and Democrats have been openly critical of Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was authored by Brady in 2017. Biden’s alternative tax plan includes raising taxes on individuals with an income higher than $400,000 as well as raising individual income, payroll and capital gains taxes.

“(Biden) has pledged eight times to fully repeal all of (Trump’s) tax cuts,” said Brady. “That will raise taxes dramatically on single moms, it will raise taxes by two thousand dollars a year on an average family of four in my congressional district, it will raise taxes on small businesses by 20 percent.”

He likened Biden’s current plan to the tax code under former President Barack Obama, when he said U.S. companies were constantly moving overseas.

“Raising taxes and taking more from the pocketbooks of families and small businesses would be a terrible idea in normal times,” said Brady. “It is even worse as we are trying to recover from this pandemic.”

Hernandez stated Biden’s plan to raise taxes on those making $400,000 a year is too low of a starting point.

“My idea would be to raise taxes for those making one million or more (per year)," said Hernandez.

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