Demand Better!

You have the right to a federal government that can fulfill its most basic responsibility to protect the lives and livelihoods of its people. 

Rick On The Issues
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Demand Better!

You have the right to a federal government that can fulfill its most basic responsibility to protect the lives and livelihoods of its people. 

Read more about the issues

Meet the People of District 17

  • Subscribe to our Mailing list to get the latest updates on the 2020 campaign!

Why I’m Running

I was the Democratic Party nominee for this seat in 2018.  Much has changed since, but not my core motivation to run. For years I’ve felt that our deeply divided, hyper-partisan, and dysfunctional Congress is no longer serving the needs of the American people. I have been fearful that we’ll hand off a weakened and diminished America to our kids and to future generations to come. I was concerned that America was vulnerable, that some global event such as a recession or armed conflict might hit us at a time when Congress was too dysfunctional to deal with it.

I never imagined, nor would I have wished for something as deadly and devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic, to prove my fears to be well founded.

Our federal government’s response to the pandemic has been, and continues to be, disorganized, incompetent, and derelict in its duty to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people. Congress, after a brief interlude of bipartisanship, has retreated to its respective ideological safe zones. The American people are caught in the middle between expiring relief measures and a gridlocked Congress.

As we work our way through and past the pandemic and define a new future for America, we must reject the status-quo of divisive and obstructionist politics. It’s time to replace fear with hope, anger with optimism, divisiveness with unity, obstruction with principled compromise, and gridlock with progress.

It’s time for all of us – whether you’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Democrat, independent, or Republican, to rise up and take back our government, take back our representation, and restore OUR voice in DC.

I pledge to you that as your Congressman, my loyalty won’t be to donors, the party, or the President – whoever that may be. My loyalty  will be to the country, the Constitution, and the people of Central Texas.

Our failure to competently handle the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a political opportunity, it is a clarion call to all of us to repair the foundations of our democracy.

Many people say the divisiveness in Congress simply reflects the mood of the country. I strongly disagree. What many in Congress are doing is exacerbating and leveraging divisiveness to further their own ambitions.

On the campaign trail, I talk about reversing this and getting Congress back to work addressing the issues we face. Of course, I’m asked – “How are you going to do that?” It won’t be easy, but I do have a plan.

​First, I’ll hold in-person, public town hall meetings to communicate with all constituents. Every August recess I will hold town halls in McLennan, Travis, Brazos, and 1 other county. I will also hold a town hall meeting in one of the other counties each calendar quarter – a minimum of 7 town hall meetings every year. The first town hall I hold in 2021 will be in the county that voted most strongly against me.

​Second, I will seek out Republican colleagues and invite them to our town hall meetings, and I will attend town halls in their districts, to spread the cross-partisan communication beyond our district.

Finally, we have to tackle some of the structural problems that have contributed to our current situation through legislative action. I support H.R. 1 – the For the People Act of 2019 which would

  • Expand voter registration and access
  • Improve election security
  • Establish an alternative campaign funding system the included federal matching of small contributions
  • Tightens ethics standards for all three branches of government
  • Reduce or eliminate gerrymandering (most important, in my opinion) by requiring states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.

​I know that it will take a lot more than these first steps to ease our current polarization. But if we don’t start this long journey with a few small steps now, we’ll never get there.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, access to quality health care at a reasonable price is by far the number one issue I heard about from Central Texans. Texas has the highest overall uninsured rate in the nation, and the highest uninsured rate for kids. Both are more than double the national average. We have a rural health care crisis right here in our district. The hospitals in Milam County closed in 2018. Robertson County has only one general practitioner, Falls County only two.

It’s unacceptable and unnecessary. That’s why I support creating a public option to make Medicare available to all who want it.

A public option will:

  • Achieve universal coverage – especially important in rural areas where the uninsured rate is high.
  • Address uncompensated care for hospitals, a significant contributor to rural hospital closures.
  • NOT eliminate private insurance. If you are happy with your employer sponsored insurance, you won’t be forced to give it up
  • Preserve the protections for those with preexisting conditions achieved under the ACA
  • Provide relief from the threat of medical bill-induced bankruptcy – the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.
  • Empower Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

A public option is a practical, achievable next step that will address many of the issues with our health care system.

The pandemic has laid bare the inequities and weaknesses of our health care system. In addition to expanding access to care and decoupling insurance from employment via a public option, I would work to build resiliency into our medical device and pharmaceutical supply chains by modifying the tax code and providing guarantees to encourage manufacturers to maintain a domestic manufacturing capacity capable of meeting demand surges in times of crisis.

My dad was a World War II veteran. He was injured in training towards the end of the war, an injury that ended his military career and that he never fully recovered from. He bore that injury with dignity, and no small amount of pain, for the rest of his life.

As a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I not only had the privilege of my father’s experience, but through him was exposed to so many of The Greatest Generation who were born into the Great Depression, who had served in World War II and Korea, and who had a future vision and a capacity for shared sacrifice that, in the midst of the current crisis, our leadership is unable to inspire in later generations.

Our commitment to our military service men and women, and their families, must last their lifetime. By supporting our veterans, we not only bolster our military, but we also enable them to fully contribute to our economy and our society on their return to civilian life.

To that end, I will:

  • Oppose efforts to privatize the Veterans Affairs department – many of the services veterans require are specific to their service and best served by a veteran-centric organization
  • Improve timeliness and quality of services provided by the Veterans Health Administration by streamlining access through use of technology and flexible service delivery options, no matter where veterans may live
  • Assure access to a full range of mental health services to end the epidemic of veteran suicides
  • Ensure that military spouses have access to educational opportunities and employment support and that children of military families have access to quality education 
  • Wherever possible, redefine VA metrics to focus on successful outcomes for our veterans rather than sheer number of veterans served and volume of services delivered.

I’m a parent, and concern for my children’s future is one of the primary reasons I am running for Congress. Climate change is no longer a theoretical prediction. Whether it’s historical flooding of our farms in the Midwest or cities like Houston, regular tidal flooding of coastal cities like Miami, increasing frequency of devastating hurricanes like Maria, Harvey and Michael, longer and deadlier wildfire seasons, or the fact that the 2010’s were the hottest decade on record, we are witnessing the changes that climate scientists have been predicting for decades.

The time to argue over the validity of the predictions is over. The time to act is now.

As your Congressman I would support a carbon dividend and fee policy similar to the one proposed by the Climate Leadership Council. Such a plan would provide market incentives to businesses and individuals to reduce carbon emissions and provide funding for research into clean energy alternatives – research that will lead to technology improvements that would make utility scale clean energy production more economically feasible right here in Central Texas.

The challenge is massive in scale and complexity. It will require multiple solutions. We must research and be prepared to implement other technology solutions like large scale carbon sequestration as well as explore the potential role nuclear energy might play as a bridge to an all-renewable future.

It is in our national interest to ensure that every child, regardless of their family’s wealth or the zip code they’re born in, has access to quality, affordable education. If we are going to continue to be the world’s leading economy throughout the 21st century, we have to be educating a workforce capable of executing 21st century jobs. Investments in our public schools, our teachers and school staff are investments in our future.

Not all Americans go to college, but we all go to first grade. That’s why as your Congressman I will strongly advocate for universal pre-kindergarten. Many studies show that every dollar invested in pre-k education returns $2 to nearly $4 in economic benefits, and conservative Oklahoma has adopted a pre-k system that is recognized as one of the best in the country.

We also need to invest in vocational programs. Associates degrees and certificates from institutions like the Texas State Technical College in Waco can lead to secure, high-paying union jobs.

Millions of Americans are struggling with student loans. The cost of tuition has increased by as much as 400+% over the last twenty five years, and the total amount of student debt has risen to over $1.5 trillion – more than total credit card debt. More than half of Texas graduates have debt – an average of $27,000 each. This inhibits their ability to fully participate in the economy. We must reduce the overall student loan burden by:

  • Lowering interest rates on student loans – the federal government should not be profiting from student debt
  • Expanding service based loan forgiveness programs to encourage people to work or establish businesses in rural areas or serve underprivileged groups.
  • Publishing statistics on all institutions (public, private, and for-profit) on loan default rates and employment placement success to give students and families the information they need to make decisions.
  • The hardest hit population is students who took on debt, but did not complete their degree. We must establish a process to forgive or reduce their outstanding debt or help them complete their degree.
  • Allowing student loan debt to be discharged through bankruptcy so that lenders will have to negotiate in good faith with borrowers to find workable repayment options.

Repairing and replacing our older infrastructure, as well as deploying high speed internet access, is essential not only to maintaining our global economic advantages in our urban and suburban areas, but to enabling our rural communities to attract and retain 21st century jobs. I break down our infrastructure needs into the categories of connectivity, mobility, and utilities.

Connectivity – Internet access has become essential to participating in almost every aspect of American life, and high-speed internet access is a critical component of most businesses. Yet even now when I cross Central Texas, I lose basic cell phone service in many parts of our rural counties. The situation is similar to the 1930s, when, according to Senator George Norris of Nebraska, rural Americans were “growing old prematurely, dying before their time; conscious of the great gap between their lives and the lives of those whom the accident of birth or choice placed in towns and cities.” I support an effort akin to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 – to bring high speed connectivity to every American home and business.

Mobility – Mobility is also an essential part of American life – woven into both our economy and our society. While high speed internet access will allow for remote work from, and delivery of remote services to our rural communities, Americans will always be on the move. Mobility improvements are key not only to supporting the growth of our metro areas, but to making rural communities attractive places to live. Any infrastructure plan must address the diverse mobility challenges we face across Central Texas

Utilities – A critical aspect of revitalizing our rural economies is assuring that these communities can deliver the necessities needed to make them attractive places to both live and locate businesses. Many of our smaller communities are struggling with the costs of updating aging infrastructure, especially with water delivery systems. An infrastructure plan must provide funds to assist communities in bringing these sometimes century-old systems up to date.

The United States incarcerates more people per-capita than any other country in the world. Roughly 2 million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S. – the majority of whom are non-violent offenders. A shocking 74% of those detained in local jails have not been convicted of a crime.

Mass incarceration has decimated entire communities. Our system does not provide equitable treatment under the law – especially for those who cannot afford representation.

To reform our criminal justice system, we must:

  • Implement state of the art training for law enforcement in areas like de-escalation, crisis intervention, use of force and officer wellness.
  • Provide federal funding for body cameras for all law enforcement agencies
  • Stop criminalizing poverty through bail reform and expanded resources for legal representation.
  • Reform mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenses
  • End profit incentives to incarcerate by ending federal contracts with for-profit prisons and detention centers  
  • Break the school to prison pipeline by replacing punitive disciplinary policies with support interventions and counseling
  • Stop the war on drugs, start a war on addiction – treat addiction and mental health issues as public health issues, not criminal justice issues.
  • Provide a pathway to successful re-entry to society by investing in job training programs for the formerly incarcerated, banning federal employers and contractors from asking applicants about their criminal record, and most importantly restoring voting right to those who have served their sentences. 

“If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.”

– David Frum

The last time Congress addressed our immigration laws, Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The world has changed dramatically in the last 33 years, our immigration policies have not.  It’s time to stop exploiting this issue for political gain and implement a comprehensive revision of our immigration system that both meets our economic and security needs and reflects our values as a society. The pillars of such a plan would be:

  • Treat all asylum seekers with basic human dignity and respect and process their claims in a timely manner
  • Secure our borders and ports of entry with a portfolio of technology and human resource based solutions
  • Emphasize interior enforcement through mandatory pre-hiring E-Verify checks and prosecution of employers who fail to comply
  • A path to citizenship for many of our 10.5 million undocumented residents who have lived among us for more than a decade, that focuses on security and brings them fully into the fold of our communities
  • A comprehensive plan to address the security and economic issues across our hemisphere that are driving migration

It’s time to elect responsible leaders willing to make the hard choices necessary to resolve our immigration issue.

It is critical to secure our borders and our ports of entry, to know who is entering our country and for what purpose, and to interdict illicit activities such as drug smuggling and human trafficking. But there is no reason why the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nation in  history  should have to resort to ineffective, 5,000 year-old Chinese technology to do so.

We need to secure the border with barriers where appropriate like densely populated urban areas, and with modern technology and manpower where that is more appropriate. If you’ve ever seen the Santa Elena Canyon, you know that a 30 foot wall atop the 1,500 foot vertical cliffs is entirely unnecessary.

More importantly, we need to understand why people are trying to cross and address the underlying root causes. Today this falls into three broad categories – economic migration, illicit activities, and asylum seekers.

For economic migration, we have to crack down on employers who exploit migrants. We must require employers to use E-Verify to verify employability of all hires. If people can’t find work without proper documentation, they are far less likely to try to cross the border. Being mindful that many industries need to be have access to a migrant workforce, especially in times of low unemployment, we must institute a manageable guest-worker program.

The same principal applies to drug trafficking. As long as there is a lucrative market for illicit drugs here in the US, smugglers will go to extraordinary lengths to move their supply across the border.  If we reduce the demand for illicit drugs, either by legalization in some cases (e.g. marijuana), or by treating addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue, we can reduce the stress on our border and weaken the cartels, helping our friends to the south maintain the rule of law.

As a parent, I would do anything to keep my kids safe and give them the opportunity for a brighter future. That is what many of the asylum seekers who reach our borders are trying to do. First and foremost, we have to treat all asylum seekers with basic human dignity and respect, and process their claims in a timely manner. We also have to update our asylum laws, which are currently based on a post World War II assumptions. Our current reality is that many are not fleeing state sponsored persecution, but persecution from actors who the state is unable to police.   Finally, we have to develop a comprehensive plan to address the security and economic issues across our hemisphere that are driving migration.

Principled compromise is essential to the political process. I am a centrist, not deeply ideological, and so am open to any and all ideas that stem from an evidence/fact based approach to solving our problems and don’t violate basic tenets of equal rights and equal opportunity.