Democratic candidates gather support at Irving debate (with video)

Pramika Kadari


Sydney Rowe

Kim Olson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to Texas’ 24th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, references her experience as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 11. The Irving Arts Center hosted the TX Congressional District 24 Democratic Primary Debate where six candidates spoke their mind on pressing political issues.

Pramika Kadari, Executive News & Enterprise Editor

IRVING – Various shades of blue filled the Irving Arts Center last night for the Texas Congressional District 24 Democratic Primary Debate, hosting all six Democratic candidates running to seize Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant’s spot in the House of Representatives:  John Biggan, Richard Fleming, Jan McDowell, Kim Olson, Candace Valenzuela and Sam Vega. 

The debate was organized by Swing Left, an organization aiming to elect Democrats throughout the government. Moderator and SMU associate professor of political science Dr. Karisa Cloward asked a series of questions, to which each candidate had a set amount of time to respond. 

“I decided to come because I knew two of the candidates, but didn’t know all of the candidates,” Irving resident Jill Martinez said. “Kim Olson stuck out to me because she had specific answers, especially when it came to health care. The debate firmed up my favoring of Olson.”

Like the other candidates, Olson voiced her belief the United States can and should provide affordable, quality health care for all citizens. She also proposes lowering the age to receive Medicare to 55, along with other changes. 

Climate change was also a large topic. Most candidates support the Green New Deal, but Olson pointed out that the legislation is only a set of goals and not a path of how to get there – that path is one they must carve. Fleming supports taxing companies on carbon emissions, as well as investing heavily in flood insurance and other adaptability measures. Valenzuela proposes adding climate components to international trade deals to help combat the issue.

“No one idea is going to fix everything, so we need to try them all,” McDowell said. “We need an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

On reproductive rights, most candidates hope to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Biggan voiced his desire for quality, medically-based sex education; as a scientist with a health care background, his “primary aim is to return scientifically-sound, fact-based decision making to the U.S. Congress.” 

Immigration, voter diversity, gun legislation and the opioid crisis were also deliberated. The candidates discussed what an immigration bill gaining bipartisan support would look like. 

“I won’t compromise on separating families,” Valenzuela said. “No one should compromise on separating families.” 

To Euless resident Sandra Norman, the candidates’ plan for price controls on prescription drugs is the deciding factor in who to vote for. 

“That’s the main reason we’re here tonight – to learn more about the individual candidates’ stands on controlling runaway prescription drug costs,” Norman said. “Because we’re having big issues with that ourselves. I’m retired and on Medicare, and there’s a drug I need to take every day for the rest of my life, and this year the copayment went up to $2,400 for a three-month prescription, and I was just shocked. I did like Olson because we have met her before and she’s come to speak before in our groups, and she’s the only one who had on her mailer something about wanting to support prescription drug price control; that’s a concern of hers.”

Although the event was a debate and the candidates had differences, Martinez and Norman thought the event had a uniting atmosphere. 

“[The event] reinforced my faith in the Democratic party,” Norman said. “I know I’m philosophically in tune with them. One thing we have learned is we know we’re in the right place. It’s been a wonderful thing for us to get to know the candidates, to hear them, see what they’re all about and what they offer. It’s difficult to make a decision and pin it down to one.”

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