Monthly Archives: April 2019

2020 BATTLEGROUNDS: NEBRASKA 2ND

This is the third post in “2020 Battlegrounds”, where I take a deep look at one closely contested 2020 House district. Each post will: 1) Give an overview of the State and District 2) Analyze recent electoral history 3) Give an update on the district’s 2020 race and 4) See what insight the district can give into larger 2020 House race. 

District: Nebraska 2nd
Current Representative: Don Bacon
Cook 2020 Projection: Leans Republican
Sabato 2020 Projection: Toss Up 

OVERVIEW OF STATE & DISTRICT
Nebraska — crimson red and socially conservative — will host one of the most competitive elections for the 2020 House. Squeezed onto its eastern border is the second congressional district, Nebraska Democrats’ only real shot at federal representation.

Because Nebraska splits its presidential electoral votes by congressional district (one of only two states, along with Maine, to do so), the second district is often a target of presidential campaigns. Barack Obama’s campaign manager said Omaha was his “personal favorite target”. In a close presidential election, this one electoral vote could be the tiebreaker — pushing one candidate from 269 electoral college votes to the 270 needed to win. Obama is the only presidential candidate to successfully isolate one of the Nebraska’s electoral votes since the state adopted the Congressional District Method in 1992. In fact, this is the only electoral vote any Democrat has received from Nebraska since Lyndon Johnson carried the state in his 486-52 electoral blowout in 1962. Before that it was FDR in 1936.

Today, the governor and entire federal delegation are Republican. Of the current executive office holders, only one, the District 2 Public Service Commissioner, ran as a Democrat. Nebraska Democrats know that most of the state is out of reach. If they are to win federal representation, their hope is in district two.

The district is centered around Omaha and comprises all of Douglas County and a portion of Sarpy County. Obama’s 2008 victory spurred a Republican redistricting (or gerrymander) of the second district in 2011. They replaced the more liberal city of Bellevue and the Offutt Air Force Base in eastern Sarpy with the more rural, conservative suburbs of western Sarpy. And while this partisan redistricting did help them hold onto the congressional seat in 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2018, there was a lapse in 2014 when Democrat Brad Ashford ousted Republican Terry Lee. A more ruthless Republican party could have gerrymandered the district to give themselves a 96% chance of victory, but that would likely have been struck down in court.

Democrats know it’s going to be a battle if they want to take the district from Republicans. A former director for the state Democratic Party explained the party dynamic in Nebraska to Politico: “Republicans have been very successful in defining Democrats culturally and socially in Nebraska.” “They’ve defined us as snowflakey, that we want to raise taxes and redistribute wealth.”

Demographics
Data: Daily Kos

Eighty two percent of Nebraska’s Second District’s residents are white, compared to 70% of the country. This translates to small black (9%) and Latino (5%) populations, two core demographic groups for the Democratic Party. The district is also well educated — 39% have bachelors compared with 31% of the country. And the district’s high density reflects that it is centered around Omaha City. White, suburban and well educated — NE-02 looks like the districts that has been trending blue and were crucial to Democrats flipping the House in 2018.

RECENT ELECTORAL HISTORY

Presidency

House

Data: Daily Kos

 

Obama carried the district in 2008 by 1.2%, but Romney flipped it in 2012 with a healthy 7.1% margin. The district swung back about 5% in 2012, with Trump only carrying it by 2.2%. Like many suburban, educated districts, NE-02 voters liked Romney in 2012 but swung away from the Trump’s rhetoric and disposition in 2016. And while this swing may not have been enough to tip the district to Democrats, it brought them within about 2%.

The trend is different, though, when looking at House results. While the races have been consistently tight, there is no obvious trend toward one party. In 2014, moderate Democrat Brad Ashford won the district by 3.3% with the district voting 9% more Democratic than the nation overall (measured by the House Popular Vote). Ashford lost the next year to Republican Don Bacon as the district voted in line with the country — favoring the Republican by about 1%. In 2018, Don Bacon won re-election by 2% over proud progressive Kara Eastman — with NE-02 voting 11% more Republican than the nation as a whole.  

What Happened in 2018
Heading into the 2018 midterms, incumbent Republican Don Bacon did not face a primary challenger. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Primary, Kara Eastman and Brad Ashford were running one of the most contentious primaries in the nation.

Eastman, the founder of a local nonprofit and political unknown before the election cycle, ran as (to employ the overused but useful term) an unapologetic progressive. Her platform echoed that of the Bernie Sanders campaign — Medicare for All, free public college for families making under $125,000, a $15 federal minimum wage. Her theory of how to flip the district: turn out the Democratic base and low propensity voters. People do not cross party lines, so don’t waste time and money reaching out to moderate Republicans.

Brad Ashford was the Democratic establishment’s man. He represented the district from 2015 to 2016, but lost the 2016 election against Donald (Don) Bacon. The Party thought that he could appeal to and swing moderate Republicans and independents. Back in his days in the Nebraska Legislature where he served from 1987 to 1995 and 2007 to 2015, he, in fact, was a Republican. He flipped to the Democratic Party in 2010 and then registered as an Independent in 2013. Unlike Eastman, he said Medicare for All was politically infeasible, instead supporting incremental steps like a public option to buy into Medicare. He did not want to fully repeal the Republican tax bill, wanted to slowly raise the minimum wage, reaching $15 by 2026 and highlighted his “ability to find solutions…consensus building instead of partisan politics.”  

The primary was a contest between two wings of the party: the moderate, bipartisan, reach across the aisle, incrementalist wing and the progressive, appeal to the base, big idea, practicality out the window wing.   

Perhaps unsurprisingly (but maddeningly for some), the Democratic Party’s committee to elect House members, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), weighed in on Ashford’s behalf. Eastman says that after weeks of the DCCC telling here they were unlikely to intervene, the committee put Ashford on its Red to Blue program. The program signals to donors who to give to and is a de-facto endorsement. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (then mayor of South Bend, Indiana) supported and fundraised for Ashford. He implied that Eastman was not electable, saying “If you’re a committed progressive, you want to support the most committed progressive who can win”. Meanwhile, the state party and Douglas County Democratic Parties remained officially neutral, scuffled about under the table support for Ashford and a contentious debate over party officials endorsing candidates. 

But while tension grew, it never spilled over into visible animosity between Ashford and Eastman. The primary race was focused more on policy and leadership style. Neither candidate drafted negative ads or hit the opposition too hard. The most contentious part of their debates centered on their different vision for healthcare.

As of the March 31, the last filing deadline before the May 15 primary, Ashford had outraised Eastman $535,000 to $320,000. Nobody really expected that Eastman had much of a shot — on election day, the betting website PredictIt had Ashford as a 90% favorite. But, in an election night that shocked media and election watchers across the nation, Eastman defeated Ashford by about 3%.

Progressives celebrated; strategic Democrats grumbled; Republicans cheered;. Election forecasting site, Sabato’s Crystal Ball wrote “the NRCC got what it wanted and the DCCC didn’t.” The Crystal Ball changed NE-02’s rating from “Toss Up” to “Leans Republican”, apparently agreeing with the committees that Eastman was a less formidable challenger than Ashford.

Eastman received a call from Senator Bernie Sanders the night of her primary victory, helping solidify the narrative that she’s in the Sander’s wing of the party. But the party establishment came around, as did Brad Ashford, giving her their endorsements and placing her on the “Red to Blue list.  

The general campaign was, to put it bluntly, less exciting than the Democratic primary. Eastman continued to broadcast her progressive message and Don Bacon ran as a typical Republican. He emphasized tax cuts and his fight against ‘government takeover of healthcare’, he opposed abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger and, according to FiveThirtyEight, had voted in line with Trump 98% of the time. He argued that Eastman was too extreme for Nebraska’s Second District, saying “These views would work well in San Francisco or New York City but not Omaha.”

Bacon received much more support from the Republican establishment than Eastman did from Democrats. The Congressional Leadership Fund (A Super PAC affiliated with previous Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) spent $1,397,000 on the race, mostly on ads attacking Eastman and the ‘liberal elite. A particularly…um…interesting ad attacked her for studying to be a sex therapist and her college band “Pieces of Fuck”: “While Eastman was dropping F-bombs, Don Bacon was serving in the air force.” Meanwhile, the House Majority PAC (Nancy Pelosi’s PAC) invested $0 and the DCCC contributed $90,000 to a media buy, a paltry sum compared to Republicans nearly $1.5 million. But there was still plenty of money to go around — Eastman pulled $2.6 million, out-raising Bacon by about $10,000. An impressive feat for a first-time candidate in a competitive race against an incumbent.

In the end, though, it was not enough. Going into the election, FiveThirtyEight gave Bacon a 4/7 and Eastman a 3/7 shot at winning the election. Bacon prevailed with a slim 2% margin, defeating Eastman 51% to 49%.

It’s impossible to know if a different, less polarizing candidate could have tipped the scale in Democrats favor. But that’s what election analyst Nathaniel Rakich argued the day after Eastman won the primary, writing that “Ashford would have probably bought Democrats a few extra percentage points” and that “There’s plenty of evidence that candidates closer to the ideological poles do worse than moderate ones.” But Eastman’s team would likely contest this, pointing out that some more gung-ho support from the Democratic establishment could have closed the 2% gap.

2018 Data

Data: NYTimes

Turnout was high for a midterm year, dropping only about 11% from the 2016 presidential race. Eastman was likely correct in her assessment that the Democratic base would turn out. The problem for her, though, is that the Republican base turned out too.

If Eastman’s theory that an unabashed progressive would improve Democratic turnout more than Republican’s, her numbers would have improved more in Douglas Country than in Sarpy County, given that the pool of Democrats is larger in the former. This didn’t happen. Bacon improved upon his 2016 margins in both the more Democratic Douglas County and the more Republican Sarpy County — closing the Democratic lead in Douglas from 3.8% to 3% and widening the Republican advantage in Sarpy from 25.1% to 26%.

Gubernatorial results in Douglas County also run against Eastman’s theory. The Democratic candidate, Bob Krist, campaigned as a moderate focused on bipartisan issues. He won Douglas with 108,235 votes to his opponent’s 96,120 — a margin of 6%. His vote total was about 3,000 greater than Eastman’s and his margin was about 3% wider. It looks like about 3,000 voters in Douglas County voted for Krist and not for Eastman. Perhaps a more moderate candidate like Brad Ashford could have won over these voters and closed the gap.  

 Finally, relative to the National House Popular Vote, 2018 was a particularly bad year for NE-02 Democrats. The district voted 10.6% more Republican than the nation. Compare this to 0.4% more Republican in 2016, 9% more Democratic in 2014 and 2.8% more Republican in 2012. 2018 featured a heavy swing toward the Republican relative to the national environment. It could have been Eastman’s style; it could have been national Democratic antipathy; it could have been baked in by partisanship. We’ll never know for sure, but the upcoming 2020 race will be illuminating.

2020 UPDATE
The 2020 primary will again feature Eastman and Ashford. This time, though, Eastman’s opponent is Ann Ashford, a local “attorney, human resources professional, and healthcare leader” and the wife of Brad Ashford. Like her husband, Ms. Ashford is a recent convert to the Democratic party, making the switch in 2016 because “they truly became the big tent party”. Though her website doesn’t have a policy platform, it looks like she will be running as a moderate, telling The Omaha World Herald, “I think that today’s environment has become so splintered because everybody says, ‘I’m going to fight,’ and I don’t understand that.” “If we continue to fight, we’re going to see the same non-results that we see today.”

If she does run as a consensus seeking moderate, the race may have a similar dynamic to that of 2018. Democratic primary voters will again have to decide which candidate best represents their values and which has a better chance of winning the general. And, if these are in conflict, which priority outweighs the other. In 2018 primary voters voted against the national party’s practicality, but Eastman’s 2018 loss may have changed the calculus for some voters.

Another possible boost for Ashford is the state Democratic Party’s decision to switch from a presidential caucus system to a primary. Presidential primaries draw out a more moderate constituency than caucuses, as only the most invested voters (who are often the most partisan) show up for an hours long caucus. And as these primary voters would also be voting on down ballot races, notably NE-02. This more moderate voting pool could tip Ashford over the edge in a close primary.

Incumbent Don Bacon has also filed for re-election and, as of now, does not face a primary challenge. That means that while Democrats are tussling and spending their money in the primary, Representative Bacon will be stockpiling his cash. If the Democratic primary is expensive and contentious, Bacon will enter the general election with a bruised opponent and a full bank account.

The first quarter fundraising numbers, which report fundraising through March 31, look best for Bacon. He raised $371,000 and has $296,000 Cash on Hand. Eastman raised only $40,000 and has $72,000 cash on hand. Ann Ashford raised $36,000 with $24,000 cash on hand. Fundraising is only one sign of support and its importance is generally overstated, but the Democratic numbers don’t show either candidate pulling away or point to much voter enthusiasm.  Below is a chart comparing NE-02 fundraising to the rest of the 2020 battleground districts.

Data: FEC

The national parties both have their eyes on NE-02. The DCCC named it among its top targets for 2019-2020” and the NRCC put it on its “Patriot Program”, indicating that both parties will likely be giving their candidate significant support come the general election.  The NRCC has already started going after Bacon’s possible opponents, attacking Eastman for supporting “AOC’s cow ban” and calling Ashford’s fundraising haul a “LOL-inducing 36k”.  

This trollish behavior indicates that the NRCC knows Representative Bacon is in danger. But they may be getting ahead of themselves. Before the general, there is a year’s worth of Democratic primary that will be another insightful peek into the Democratic Party — exposing the Party’s priorities, divisions and the message it will deliver to 2020 voters.  

LESSONS FOR THE 2020 HOUSE

The Party Still (Usually) Decides
Of the 41 Congressional primary candidates the DCCC endorsed in 2018, only 2 lost their primaries — a success rate of 95%. Compare this to two prominent progressive groups, Our Revolution and Justice Democrats, who had primary success rates of 37% and 31%, respectively. The DCCC’s candidates also had a much better track record in general elections, winning 46% compared to Our Revolution’s 14% and Justice Democrats’ 5% success rates. Notably, the two Congressional candidates — Kara Eastman from NE-02 and Dana Balter from NY-24 — who snuck by the DCCC in the primaries both lost their general election. The big caveat here is that the DCCC usually endorses the strongest candidate in the field while Our Revolution and Justice Democrats are more likely to endorse candidates who align with their policy objectives even if their path to victory looks more challenging.

Demographics Are Not Always Destiny
NE-02 is a wealthy, suburban, white community. It looks like the archetypal district that has been steadily trending blue in recent years. But recent elections show that NE-02 has bounced around, not showing a clear drift towards either party. Maybe that’s because Eastman was too liberal, maybe it’s because Bacon is especially popular, maybe Trump is popular in the district. No matter the reason, it’s safe to say that just because a district’s demographics look like it should be trending towards one party does not mean it always will.

Structural Changes Deserve Attention
Nebraska Democrats’ decision to change the Presidential nomination process from a caucus to a primary could determine close down ballot elections. Other upcoming structural changes like the upcoming census and corresponding redistricting will change how the 435 House seats are apportioned among the 50 states and how they are divided within those states. States with a growing population (California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Texas)  will likely gain seats while states with a shrinking or stagnant population (Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia) may lose seats. These changes will alter both the composition of the House of Representatives and the distribution of Electoral College votes and deserve more attention.

 

POLITICAL FUNDRAISING IS OVERRATED

Congressional candidates have started to shake their collection tins. Most candidates see fundraising as a top priority, as an unfortunate necessity so they can pay staff, run polls, travel and, most of all, run advertisements. The media fixates similarly on money — analyzing fundraising hauls, ranking candidates and pontificating on what it all means.

It’s all overblown. When you ask, “Is anybody actually persuaded by these political ads?” The answer is: not really. There’s plenty of research showing that money has little effect on the outcome of congressional races. Voters hold their political affiliation tightly and their grip is unlikely to be broken by a congressional campaign, no matter how much money it has raised. Split ticket voting is increasingly rare — meaning that the national environment and upper-ballot races are far more important than any congressional candidate’s political messaging.

While political ads might not sway the outcome of a general election, they are useful:

  1. When a candidate is unknown. Political ads are good at telling voters that a candidate exists. They can build name recognition and give voters a first impression. Political ads are bad at persuading voters to change their mind about a candidate they already know. These dynamics make fundraising more important for lesser known candidates . This means that advertisements are more important for challengers than for better known incumbents. Once candidates have raised enough money to build name recognition, their efforts have diminishing returns. Similarly, in races heavily covered by the media where candidates are well known, political ads don’t have much effect.
  2. In primaries. Unlike in the general election, primary voters are choosing between candidates only from their team1Unless it’s an open primary, in which case there will be some non-party members.. They don’t have their minds made up along partisan lines and are more willing to swing between candidates. Additionally, primary candidates are usually less well known than general election candidates and, as discussed in #1,  ads are more effective for political unknowns.
  3. As an election indicator. While fundraising may not be that important in actually persuading voters or determining the election outcome, it is a sign of grassroots support. It also indicates who donors think will win. Donors want to tie themselves to the winning horse, so the strongest candidates are also more likely to tally big fundraising numbers.
  4. In building a media narrative. The media loves to cover political advertisements — just look at the coverage of the 2018 Georgia Gubernatorial election. Brian Kemp’s ads got national and local press — likely reaching more voters than the advertisements themselves. Candidates can put out ads in order to establish a media narrative — and it works. Mark McKinnon, a media advisor to several Republican presidential candidates, said in an interview with NPR “sometimes, we just put out an ad, and it’ll only be up for a day. And we knew that it wouldn’t get seen by voters, but it would get coverage by reporters.”

So, what does this mean for first quarter fundraising totals (all of which became available April 15)? The big picture: look for totals outside the normal range as these could be signals that an incumbent is vulnerable or that a challenger is particularly formidable. For battleground incumbents, a haul of about $250,000 to $500,000 looks normal. For challengers (non-incumbents), than number is about $50,000 to $100,000. For most congressional races, though, their hours and hours of ‘phone time’ are trivial. Come the general, candidates from both parties will be flush with cash and have no problem establishing name recognition.

Later this week we’ll dig into these Q1 fundraising numbers for the 2020 battleground
districts2Those rated “Toss Ups” by either Sabato’s Crystal Ball or The Cook Political Report and what it means for the candidates and races there. Sneak peak: The biggest fundraiser in any of these races was Antonio Delgado from NY-19 with a whopping $755,000.

CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

Two changes3To clear up any confusion, the title is a reference to this. are taking place here at ESY.

1) Candidate interviews & district analyses are taking the front seat. I will be conducting interviews with candidates in the most competitive 2020 House Districts — those deemed “Toss Ups” by either Sabato’s Crystal Ball or The Cook Political Report. I am posting transcripts of these interviews rather than writing profiles to give an unfiltered view of the candidates.

2) “Big Picture” analyses will be shorter (~600 words or less), more frequent and rawer. If you want beautiful, extended pros, there is always The New Yorker.

Thanks for reading and send me an email (s.k.moskowitz@gmail.com) or reach me on Twitter (@skmoskowitz) with questions, comments, suggestions, interview requests, etc.

CANDIDATE INTERVIEW: WILL FISHER

Will Fisher is a Democratic candidate for Texas’s 24th District. He ran for the Democratic nomination in Texas’s 26th District in 2018 but has decided to run in the 24th this cycle. Cook Political Report has rated the district a “Toss Up” for 2020. Between 2016 and 2018, the Democratic margin shrunk from -17% to -3%. Read the “2020 Battlegrounds” post to get an overview of the district, the 2018 election and the upcoming 2020 race. This interview was conducted on Wednesday, April 3, 2019.

The following interview has been condensed and edited to remove unnecessary words, phrases and questions for clarity. If you want the full, messy, extended version, you can find it in under Candidate Interviews –> Extended Interviews.


Seth: I wanted to start off just by hearing about your day to day life on the campaign trail.
Fisher:
The focus right now is fundraising which means I spend a lot of time on the phone. We’re not running a campaign based on corporate tax donations so it means making a lot of phone calls. I had a teacher in high school and he would ask us to clean up the room at the end of the period he would say, “if everybody does a little, nobody does a lot”. And that’s what I apply to campaigning. When you can get a lot of people together united working together, everybody pitches in, 20 or 100 dollars, what they can do, that to me is how you run a race. It’s also helpful that you’re not beholden to these big corporate PAC interests. And so that’s where I’m at right now. 

Seth: Have you seen that the your supporters and volunteers from the 26th district are planning to help you out in the 24th district? Or will you have to build a new base of support, specifically volunteers and people helping you knock on doors and give phone calls. 
Fisher: 
The signs so far are that those who supported me in the 26th race are supportive both in vocal support as well as in fundraising. It helps to be able to return to that base of support for this race and undoubtedly that’s an advantage or a benefit I have going into this race.

But I would say the more important carry over from the 26th race that I ran was the name recognition and the experience of running a race. The reason I ran in 2018 was we had just elected a racist and authoritarian, in my eyes, to the White House and it’s one of those moments where we realize the Democratic Party does not have a strong base and it takes people with my resume and experience — I have experience writing law. I have experience interpreting and applying it — to run for office and to try and establish a base of support and I did that in 2018. So that was the analysis at the time and the analysis now is “how do I take that support and that experience that I developed and now apply it for the most effect? How do you create the most good?” And to me, that’s using that experience to flip the 24th Congressional District. 

Seth: How long after the 2018 primary did you decide that you wanted to run for office again? Why did you decide that you wanted to run in the 24th district? 
Fisher: 
Timing…to be honest I don’t know. It wasn’t immediate by any means. I would say it was certainly after the general when I made the decision to run in the 24th. The 24th needs to flip. And to me that’s a non-negotiable point. We cannot go another cycle leaving Kenny Marchant in office. This is a guy who almost single handedly authored the gerrymandering redistricting plan for North Texas. He essentially created this district for himself when he was in the Texas Legislature. I looked, after the dust had settled from the general and said “where can I do the most good this coming election cycle? I felt like the most effective way for me to use my experience and support was to ensure or help ensure that the 24th congressional district flipped. Right now, that means I’m a candidate. If the voters decide that I’m not the candidate they want in the general, then after the primary I’ll turn my focus on: who is that candidate and how do I best support making ensure that they flip the district?

Seth: What about your candidacy will help you stand out from the field of Democrats who you likely agree with on a lot of the policy substance? 
Fisher: 
What it takes to win the district in the general is somebody who, without giving up their progressive principles, in fact holding onto those is incredibly important, can still message and talk to those voters. Beto O’Rourke did this very well. It’s one thing that I think made him a very strong candidate. He was able to be very non-exclusive in the way that he presented his policies. Speak to large big picture more morality type issues. Who are we as Americans? A very uniting message and I think that’s the type of candidate that it requires to flip this district. It will be up to the voters to decide how strategic they want to be in the primary. And then my job is to get behind the voice of the electorate. And whoever that candidate is that comes out of the primary, fight to make sure they are our representative for 2020.  

Seth: How do you feel like you’re going to be structuring your campaign and what’s your message going to be in the primary to the Democratic voters? 
Fisher: I try not to fall into the trap of overthinking what the voters are looking for. I think the key is to be genuine and focus on issues that affect you personally. So, number one for me is health care because it’s a personal issue to me. My daughters have some challenges that it’s critical when they become adults that they have access to the healthcare. I want to see expanded healthcare access for every single American. I think we do that through a universal system. There are a lot of different ways to get there but the goal being that every single American should have health care when and where they need.

Number two on that list for me is that we need to expand and make cannabis legal. My mother, she passed away several years ago from Parkinson’s and was willing to try any legal remedy or process or treatment that was recommended and available. It’s frustrating to me that we have an opioid crisis and at the same time we have people suffering that could benefit from cannabinoid-based medication. And we continue to make it illegal in this country. I intend to support that and fight for legalization at the federal level. While it may seem shocking that in Texas a candidate who proclaims to be more palatable for general election voters is loudly out there on Cannabis to me that actually that tells you where the general public is. I actually think the general public is in support of legalizing Cannabis.  

Seth: The House seems to be divided between moderates in red and purplish districts and the progressive from deeper blue districts that are a little bit louder and running to the left like AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar. Do you see yourself aligning with one of those two camps
Fisher: 
That’s a really tough question. The problem is I don’t see myself aligning cleanly with any particular camp. Part of that could be points on messaging. I believe strongly in not ignoring one side of the aisle, you can do that without coming off of your values. So, I agree on policy issues…I agree on Medicare for All. Right now, I think the way we get there is through a public option. What we should be debating on right now is how we get there. Because so often I see us debating as Democrats on what should be the ultimate goal. The more important question right now is how we get there. I think the smartest way to get there is through a public option. One, you’re pretty quickly increasing the coverage rate. The amount of people that don’t have access to medical insurance is dropping, especially if you expand Medicaid, which I support. Number two, you’re forcing private insurers to start to compete with he public option, which, one of the biggest differences between those two camps is one is paying bonuses to their executives. One is paying dividends to shareholders, and the other is not. So those private insurers are going to have to figure out how to be more competitive. Well, maybe they reduce their bonuses to their executives. Too bad.

Seth: This does sound different than the messaging that would be coming from Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez because I don’t know that they would be willing to talk about taking votes for anything short of a full single payer system and be willing to have a conversation as openly as you are about this more incremental approach. So, do you feel like you being willing to have this conversation and talk about that more step by step approach sets you apart from those kinds of politicians and that coalition within the party?
Fisher: 
No and let me tell you why. I would vote tomorrow for a full single payer answer. If we had a chance of getting it through the Senate. I love the idea of getting out there and fighting for something big and impactful in terms of rallying Democrats. But when we’re not talking about the best policy approach to save more lives, then I start to think about the structures that we’re within and what do we do about dealing within the limitation of those structures. Now are we talking about getting rid of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate? If you want to look at what the presidential candidates are arguing for and the positions that they’re setting forth, the number one question I have for them is “how are you going to get that through the Senate?” That’s not arguing for an incremental approach that’s saying give me a plan for how we get these big ideas that I agree with on a policy level, how do we get them through the Senate. 

Seth: How do you feel about those more systematic changes like getting rid of the 60 vote threshold, eliminating the Electoral College, adding justices to the Supreme Court
Fisher: 
I liked some of the ideas that I’m hearing about from Pete Buttigieg. Expanding the size of the Supreme Court but not through court packing. I don’t think court packing is the way to do it. I like the idea of it becoming less of a nuclear event every time there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. One that strikes me as really interesting is expanding the size by bringing in some temporary judges off the Appeals Court, but requiring a unanimous consent vote on the current justices. I’m open to the idea of getting rid of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate but I recognize the cost of doing that are that you are likely to have a swing of policy depending on who is in power, which also would not be good. Before I would be able to buy into that I would want to start to think through and hear particularly the leaders in the Senate, who are in control of this issue, think through how are we are going to deal with what might be the ramifications of swinging policy every four or eight years. 

We are so divided as a country and voter turnout is so low, if you asked me what is more likely to avoid those kinds of swings it’s to fully expand voter access in the country. Automatic voter registration, election day being a holiday, ensure that people who even have to work holidays have access to vote. Mail in ballots. 

I think if we strengthen the Voting Rights Act and make sure that we are really making an effort as a country to get everybody out to vote then I think you’re going to see less swings. Because people are more consistent on a one by one basis than the electorate is on a macro basis. 

Seth: If you’re in the general election would your strategy be to turn out the base of the Democratic party through progressive policies and policies that the Democratic party base supports, or try to be that candidate that can flip conservatives, continuing the trend of flipping white suburban voters to the Democratic party? And how do you see yourself being able to do that?
Fisher: You’ve got to be able to do both. As difficult as that sounds, I don’t think there is a one approach strategy that works. You have to be able to reassure your progressive voters that you’re there with them on progressive policies. Then you have to be able to message those policies to scared moderate voters who see the writing on the wall, see what’s going on in the White House, who see that Kenny Marchant is either a complete copycat of Donald Trump with the bigotry and authoritarianism, or he’s a coward. I realize that these issues are sometimes complex and that messaging complex issues to voters can be a challenge. But that’s the challenge of a successful candidate. Can you talk about progressive issues, making sure every single American has health care when and where they need it, in a way that resonates with you? 

Seth: You’re aiming to strike this balance between campaigning on these big ideas but also digging into the policy and telling voters the substance of the policies that you want to enact. 
Fisher: 
Getting turnout among progressives and the left is about focusing on bigger ideas and reassuring them that you’re going to be a fighter for those ideals. But when your campaigning in the white suburban district, or the white suburban areas of the district. Right now, this is my analysis. I’m not going to go out there and win the Tea Party vote. I’m not even going to aim for it. And the people on the margins who are looking at the White House saying, “I can’t support that but there’s a Democrat over here talking about Single Payer Health Care and that freaks me out.” So that’s where policy discussions and policy messaging become really important. Because there you’re reassuring them that “I am not fear. I am not bigotry. I am not hatred and I’m not an authoritarian. But I know you have your concerns about XY and Z. Let me help you understand why XY and Z are better for your family.”

Seth: I’ve heard you say that “Donald Trump is an authoritarian in the White House.” I’m curious to hear a little more about what you mean by that and exactly what kinds of things you’re thinking about when you use that term. 
Fisher:
Look who he cozies up to. he cozies up to Putin. And Kim Jung Un. He loves these dictators. You can tell he admires them. He wants to be them. Just today he’s talking about closing the southern border. And he says, “we may have to get rid of the judges”.I can’t tell you what is more authoritarian than talking about getting rid of judges. So, the assumption of executive power going over the heads of the legislature and particularly talking about reducing the power and influence of the judicial branch is textbook authoritarianism. 

Seth: Is that something that you think that Democrats in the House of Representatives should consider impeachment? 
Fisher: 
I want to see the Muller report. Certainly, he has said and done things that I think are impeachable offenses. From a legal point of view, The Constitution does not define “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”. There’s common law guidance that we have here from English law about what that means. But at the end of the day, it’s essentially a political remedy to a political problem. If I were a Representative, I would want to see and read the Mueller Report. And I’d be fighting for that because we’ve gone through this two-year investigation to understand what has actually been done. And I don’t accept a four-page book report from Bill Barr. I want to see the actual hundreds page report or however long it is that goes into the details. Before I can say whether I would vote for impeachment or not, that’s a prerequisite. 

Seth: Are there any issues in the Democratic orthodoxy or the Democratic platform that you have second guesses about?
Fisher:
Up until very recently, the Democratic Party has been more willing to take Corporate PAC money. That’s been disturbing because what you end up with is Senators in Congresspeople on the one hand who say all these great things but then when it comes to a really hard vote that might upset one of their Corporate PAC donor, they get a little more skittish. I’m not going to throw stones at any presidential candidate right now, but there’s a few that come to mind on particular important votes regarding prescriptions and things like that that are worrisome. It also gets back to the 60-vote threshold issue. That I want to see somebody tackle in a meaningful way because we have a tendency to talk about big, big issues but then voters become really frustrated if you can’t do anything about it and so what I want to see is the Democratic Party take the lead on…I was happy with HR1 for example. I want to see [the bill] move forward because we don’t ever actually implement any of these big important issues unless we have the politically support to do it and while public opinion is one thing you’ve got to have those votes in the ballot box to make sure you can accomplish those things. I guess my critique would be, in the past we’ve been willing to take…not me because I don’t throw myself in that boat… but a lot of Democratic Representatives have been willing to take money from unsavory donors which colors their vision when it comes to taking tough votes and then also promising things without actually having a plan to be able to get them through the Senate. This is probably, if you ask me, the number one issue I’m looking for leadership from presidential candidates. Dealing with that 60-vote threshold issue. How do you get your policies in place given those restrictions?

Seth: It does seem like it’s somewhat of a binary thing. Where it’s either go for the bipartisan compromises where you win some Republican votes or eliminate the Filibuster or do some other more structural changes like D.C or Puerto Rico statehood and giving them representation in the Senate.
Fisher: 
It could be a little bit of both. D.C. Puerto Rico, Guam, these are people who I think deserve representation. So that’s its own issue that can be a help towards resolving this problem we’re talking about, but I think also dealing with is it the right policy to have such a high threshold. And maybe it’s something other than 50%. Maybe its 55. There are some other ways to get us closer to being able to pass these policies while still requiring something more than a majority.
Seth: It is a good example of norms and which ones are important to uphold and which ones are okay to break down.
Fisher: 
Norms are important. They’re critical to make sure that the system doesn’t get flipped in the night. I guess one critique of Democrats is that we often hold to these norms in a way that the other side doesn’t and it puts us at a huge disadvantage to actually help people because the other side throws norms out the window. We need to be able to balance valuing these norms while also recognizing that the other side has been corruptly gerrymandering and restructuring the system to benefit their donors for years. So, I don’t want us to fall into the trap of holding these norms and squeezing them tight like something precious to you while all it’s doing is ensuring the policies you believe in, that will help American families, never gets passed. And what good does that ever do? It questions whether you are even accomplishing what you set out to try and accomplish in the first place. Are you actually doing what you said you were going to do?

Seth: Where will you and will you not take money from in your 2020 campaign?Fisher: I won’t take money from Corporate PACs. If Planned Parenthood wants to donate to my race, I am ideologically aligned there so there is no issue from my perspective. These kinds of organizational PACs that are designed to help Democrats and progressive policies be enacted. I don’t have any issues. None at all. 

Seth: What kind of things you and your team have been thinking about that you’ll have to differently, given that you’re changing form the 26th to the 24th.
Fisher: 
My campaign ethos has always been to put yourself out there in as many locations as often as possible. And that’s not going to change, but with one recognition. And that recognition is that turnout will be astronomically higher given that it’s a presidential year. Donald Trump is on the ballot. Turnout is going to be very high. So, reaching voters in mass is going to be much more important than perhaps it was in my prior race. In an election cycle like this one, big media has to be involved.  

Seth: Have you been seeing the other primary candidates in the district campaigning? What kind of interactions have you had with the other candidates?
Fisher: 
All the other candidates that I know I have great relationship with and I deeply respect them. Nothing ill to say at all. So far there’s not been a lot of community campaigning by any of the candidates that I’ve seen so far. It’s just too early. 

Seth: Are you going to support the Democratic nominee?
Fisher: 
Yes and I trust the voters to not make a decision there that is somebody that you couldn’t put your support behind. 

Seth: Am I right that you endorsed or supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary?
Fisher: I voted for Bernie in the primary. That’s right.
Seth: Do you have a candidate in the presidential race that represents your values or that you’ll vote for?
Fisher:
 It’s too early. I’m just spending a lot of time listening. I’ll tell you those that are sticking out for me. Beto — I admire the way Beto is able to talk about progressive policies in a way that doesn’t in my opinion scare off independent moderates. I admire that. I think it’s important that we don’t exclude people from any side of the political spectrum. That they have the ability to come and hear you and take something away that may be a nugget that develops in them the ability to maybe see the hope and the possibilities in progressive policies. I really have enjoyed listening to Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He sort of fills that professor role in terms of the candidates that are currently in the race and I like that. I love policy. I consider myself a bit of a wonk and so I like to hear him speak I like to hear candidates get into the details because details matter. For a lot of voters, that may not be the case. So that’s something that I’m following very closely. Kamala, Cory, Elizabeth Warren. I love the big ideas that Elizabeth Warren has. Look, what excites me about Bernie is his fight for Single Payer. That’s what inspired me in the 2016 primary. I love the passion that he brings to that debate and the effects that he has had on the Democratic electorate of moving it more progressive, particularly on the issue of health care legislation.  

Seth: I think he’s the one candidate that hasn’t spoken about being willing to vote for an incrementalist approach so it is interesting to hear the things that you value about his candidacy. 
Fisher: 
I’m a negotiator by trade. And when you negotiate you often don’t start out in the middle. You start out asking for more than you’d be willing to accept in the end. And I think Democrats made a mistake with the ACA negotiations where the Public Option was the big thing that they were then willing to give up in order to get it passed. If there had been a public option you wouldn’t see the crumbling of so many of the healthcare markets. Bernie’s approach is, “hey let’s go out there and fight for the big thing.” Tt the end of the day, if he were negotiating legislation, maybe he’ll take something less than that. And I admire that fully. I will tell you that while that may be effective on a national stage, I’m thinking about my district. It’s going to take to get them on board with moving in that direction. Because these are not Brooklyn voters. You have to recognize there’s a difference. And I think a public option is what we need right now in order to move in the direction of things there. 

Seth: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’re interested in talking about?
Fisher: Two of the other issues I want voters to know I’m passionate about: One is criminal justice reform. The particular focus that I want to have is on white collar corruption, which is incredibly costly and damaging to our system and we see it right now with the Trump administration. There’s a lot of opportunity we have to make our system more equitable in part my ensuring that those who commit white collar crimes are prosecuted and receive appropriate penalties in line with the crimes they commit. It’s important to me that we have people accused of Marijuana possession that end up with more jail time than somebody who commits bank fraud, for example. Something that significantly hurts our system, increases the costs of products for everyone. And that’s something that we have to tackle because at the end of the day I think that there’s racial inequity involved there and our entire criminal justice system needs overhaul in order to address some of those racial inequities. And the other one is firearms legislation. We need to ensure that the universal background check bill that recently passed that that gets through. So we need to keep fighting for that in the House until we have a Senate that can pass it. And a part of that that’s really personal for me. Personal experience with folks who ended their lives where a mandatory waiting period may have given us a chance to intervene. So I’m going to fight for three day waiting periods nationally. 

When it comes to this particular issue, a strong majority of Americans support Universal Background Checks. Now Mandatory Waiting Periods is not a policy that’s gotten as much, I certainly don’t hear it as much in the political milieu, punditry type discussions. So that one will be, let’s see how voters react to it. To me it’s a personal issue. And it’s something I feel passionate about. My sense is that it’s not offensive to gun owners. The misconception on this issue many times is that Democrats don’t own gun. That people who support Universal Background Checks don’t own guns. I think that’s just not true. That’s NRA messaging, “the Democrats are there to take away your guns”, which is just not true. I find that popular opinion on those issues are, kind of across the board, positively received. 

Seth: Do you have any requests of me? 
Fisher: 
I’m very cognizant of the divisions right now in the Democratic Party. I’m hesitant personally to be classified in any of these camps. I agree with Representatives like AOC who are fighting against incrementalism. My concern is short term. I want to make sure we’re not promising things that we can’t follow through on because right now were in this moment of brief excitement. I don’t want that followed by a moment of great disappointment. And I foresee that being a risk. And I realize that by saying that, that may have someone classify me as a moderate, which I don’t think I am. I don’t use that label myself. I think I’m a practical progressive: someone who aspires to practical policies that works within the limitations we have and says “how do we get as close as possible to that?” So, take that for what it is. My goal in life is not to be labeled as “Well, Will is the moderate in the race”. I just don’t think that would be accurate either. 

Seth: I know you’re busy as a candidate and as a lawyer so I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me over the phone. 
Fisher: No worries. Thanks Seth. 

CANDIDATE INTERVIEW: WILL FISHER (EXTENDED)

Will Fisher is a Democratic candidate for Texas’s 24th District. He ran for the Democratic nomination in Texas’s 26th District in 2018 but has decided to run in the 24th this cycle. Cook Political Report has rated the district a “Toss Up” for 2020. Between 2016 and 2018, the Democratic margin shrunk from -17% to -3%. Read the “2020 Battlegrounds” post to get an overview of the district, the 2018 election and the upcoming 2020 race. This interview was conducted on Wednesday, April 3, 2019.

The following interview has been very lightly edited. No substantial content was removed or added. The only edits were taking out unnecessary words or phrases like “I mean”, “Well”, “So” and “Um” for clarity. If you want a condensed version, you can find it in under Candidate Interviews -> Condensed within one day of this extended interview being posted. 


Seth: Hi Will, this is Seth
Fisher: Hey, how are you?
Seth: Hi I’m good thank you so much for waiting for one minute there was a huge storm. There was a big storm and I ran through the rain to get home.

Fisher:
So, you’re living and working in Sudan right now? Is that what you said? Or Rwanda?
Seth: Rwanda. I’m in Rwanda. So, I’m about an hour outside of Kigali
Fisher: Wow. and what are you doing over there?
Seth: There an organization called Agahozo Shalom Youth Village and it’s kind of a combination between a school and a community for kids in high school to come live. They accept and recruit the most vulnerable students from throughout the county and they bring them to the school and give them “family” with a ‘big brother’ and a ‘mama’ and I’m a ‘cousin’. So it’s a way for these kids to come and heal. And I’m here for the year.
Fisher: That sounds really admirable and interesting. How long have you been there?
Seth: I came here in 2016 while I was in university and then I’ve been here since the end of December with my current job.
Fisher: How interesting. Good for you. 

Seth: And I think I listened to a podcast that you were on and I think I heard that you spend a few years traveling around in Brazil as a missionary.
Fisher: Yeah. That’s right. Man, that was years ago. It feels like another life. That was back in…in fact I was there when 9/11 happened. Which was interesting being overseas. Traumatizing in a different way, but perhaps not the same as being…my wife is from New Jersey and she was in high school at the time in New Jersey. And we had very different experiences both equally traumatic…just terrible. That was such a long time ago. 

Seth: It is different being in a place where you’re so disconnected from your community that’s grieving it’s so challenging in a different way than being in the thick of it. It’s just a different type of challenge. But I listened and you said that you ate a lot of beans and rice and I felt like we had a connection there because its beans and rice everyday here. 
Fisher: I’ll take it man. I love beans and rice. 

Seth: I wanted to start off just by hearing about what your day to day life is like on the campaign trail. It’s still really early in the cycle obviously so I’m just curious about…from the perspective of campaigning…what are you doing day to day or week to week?
Fisher: So, I’m also an attorney. I run my own practice based in Irving and so my day to day involves campaigning and running my practice. It is early, so the focus right now is fundraising which means I spend a lot of time on the phone. We’re not running a campaign based on corporate tax donations…so it means making a lot of phone calls. Asking for a hundred bucks. And to be completely frank…asking “can you do a 20-dollar reoccurring donation?” And having run before I know just from this area and having fundraised in a prior congressional race that those individual donations add up and if you get enough people to come together and be united under one idea, one campaign, one race, everybody puts in a little bit. That really can become meaningful. I was asked in an interview a couple weeks ago, I don’t remember the exact question but it was something like, “what’s a saying that resonates with you?” Or “what’s some advice that resonates with you?” I had a teacher in high school and he was kind of annoying…and would ask us to clean up the room at the end of the period he would say, every time to the point where students were annoyed, he would say “if everybody does a little, nobody does a lot”. And that’s what I apply to campaigning. When you can get a lot of people together united working together, everybody pitches in, 20 or 100 dollars, what they can do, that to me is how you run a race. It’s also helpful that you’re not beholden to these big corporate PAC interests. And so that’s where I’m at right now. That’s where my head is at working on fundraising and at the same time tending to my practice. Making sure that, an important part of being able to run a race like this is to continue providing for my family.

Seth: I have two questions on that. One is more about the fundraising and one is more about volunteers. I’m going to do them individually. I know that last campaign you had a lot of volunteers and people working for you, walking the block on a volunteer basis and I’m curious if you’ve seen that a lot of the people who supported you in the 26th district are planning on volunteering and helping you out in the 24th district or if you feel like you’re going to have to build a new base of support, specifically volunteers and people helping you knock on doors and give phone calls. 
Fisher: Good question. I don’t know if we know yet. The 24th and 26th Congressional districts, I live basically on the border of both. The 24th is not a very large district geographically so the size, I don’t see that being a challenge. The signs so far is that those who supported me in the 26th race are supportive both in vocal support as well as in fundraising. It helps to be able to return to that base of support for this race and undoubtedly that’s an advantage or a benefit I have going into this race. But I would say the more important carry over from the 26th race that I ran was the name recognition and the experience of running a race. Those two things can’t be understated. The reason I ran, I may be going on a tangent here. The reason I ran in 2018 was we had just elected a racist and authoritarian, in my eyes, to the White House and its one of those moments where we realize the Democratic Party does not have a strong base and it takes people with my resume and experience — I have experience writing law, I have experience interpreting and applying it — to run for office and to try and establish a base of support and I did that in 2018. So that was the analysis at the time and the analysis now is “how do I take that support and that experience that I developed and now apply it for the most effect? How do you create the most good?” That should be the question anyone is asking themselves as they make big decisions like this. “How do I create the most good?” And to me, that’s using that experience to flip the 24th Congressional District. So, I think that experience and the name recognition that comes along with it are the two most important carryovers from that primary. 

Seth: How long after the 2018 primary did you decide that you wanted to run for office again and how and why and when did you decide that you wanted to run in the 24th district? I’m sure this is a question you’re going to be getting a lot. But I’m interested to hear from you and curious about your response. But it is a question I’m sure you’ve been thinking a lot about and one that you’re going to be asked over the next year. 
Fisher: Timing…to be honest I don’t know. There wasn’t like a day and it wasn’t immediate by any means. I would say…it was certainly after the general when I made the decision to run in the 24th. The 24th needs to flip. And to me that’s a non-negotiable point. We cannot go another cycle leaving Kenny Marchant in office. This is a guy who almost single handedly authored the gerrymandering redistricting plan for North Texas. He essentially created this district for himself when he was in the Texas Legislature. I don’t know if I’m telling you something you already know, but I won’t go on in more detail there unless you’re curious. But he was in the Texas legislature after the 2010 census. When the redistricting happened, he created a district essentially for himself, ran in it, and now it’s supported his being in office. It is as tight of a district as you see pretty much in Texas. I’m not sure that there’s a more competitive district this cycle that’s currently held by a GOP representative. It’s one that has to flip. I sat back and I looked, after the dust had settled from the general and said “where can I do the most good this coming election cycle? Is it being a cheerleader for someone else? Is it helping someone fundraise?” And I felt like the most effective way for me to use my experience and support was to ensure or help ensure that the 24th congressional district flipped. Right now, that means I’m a candidate. If the voters decide that I’m not the candidate they want in the general, then after the primary I’ll turn my focus on who is that candidate and how do I best support making ensure that they flip the district?

Seth: What are you planning to highlight or do in the primary…because it’s going to be a packed primary, I’m sure especially now that it was so close, unexpectedly close in 2018. What are you expecting to do, what do you think it is about your candidacy that will help you stand out from the field of what I’m sure is going to be a lot of impressive other Democrats who you likely agree on a lot of the policy substance? 
Fisher: Yeah, I’m sure that’s the case. That’s a big question, I guess. I’ll focus on a couple of things. One, the parts of the district…Beto O’Rourke was the Senate candidate from Texas…he won enough votes that he won that district actually. He earned enough votes in that district that if he had been the congressional candidate he would have won. So, the votes are there. The areas where the congressional candidate last cycle didn’t win are the western sides of the districts. This is the area of the cities of Colleyville, Southlake, Grapevine. My law practice is in Irving. And even people that I’ve worked with, my clients, are from Colleyville, Southlake, Grapevine. It’s a little bit more of a wealthy area, probably more conservative. What it takes, I think to win the district in the general is somebody who, without giving up their progressive principles, in fact holding onto those is incredibly important, can still message and talk to those voters. And Beto O’Rourke did this very well. It’s one thing that I think made him a very strong candidate. He was able to be very non-exclusive in the way that he presented his policies. Speak to large…big picture…more morality type issues. Who are we as Americans? A very uniting message and I think that’s the type of candidate that it requires to flip this district. It will be up to the voters to decide how strategic they want to be in the primary. In the current era we’re in, voters are looking for certain things in a candidate, and we want to make sure that our elected representatives are, in fact, representative of America. We will see what voters decide to do in the primary. Whether they are strategic in terms of thinking who gives us the best chance of flipping the district, or whether they take a different approach. And that will be up to the voters to decide. And then my job is to get behind the voice of the electorate. And whoever that candidate is that comes out of the primary, fight to make sure they are our representative for 2020.  

Seth: And do you see yourself as running the kind of a campaign that is aiming towards being more electable in the general and aiming for primary voters who are thinking practically like that or do you have an ideology that you’re following? How do you feel like you’re going to be structuring your campaign and what’s your message going to be in the primary to the Democratic voters? 
Fisher: My approach there is, I try not to fall into the trap of overthinking what the voters are looking for. I think the key is to be genuine and focus on issues that affect you personally. So, number one for me is health care and that’s not just because a lot of the public opinion is that we need to reform our healthcare system. Number one is because it’s a personal issue to me. So, my daughters have some challenges that it’s critical when they become adults that they have access to the healthcare they need, particularly prescriptions to make sure they can live happy and successful lives. And I don’t want to be in a situation where they are now adults and we are still dealing with the fact that if you get sick you can go bankrupt. Or because you don’t have employer provided insurance you can’t afford your prescription. Because that would be devastating for the lives of my daughters, who I care about more than anything. So, number one on that list is healthcare. It just so turns out that that is also the issue that impacts most voters and that most voters care about. So, I want to see expanded healthcare access for every single American. I think we do that through a universal system. There are a lot of different ways to get there but the goal being that every single American should have health care when and where they need. Number two on that list for me is that we need to expand and make cannabis legal. My mother, she passed away several years ago from Parkinson’s and was willing to try any legal remedy or process or treatment that was recommended and available. It’s frustrating to me that we have an opioid crisis and at the same time we have people suffering that could benefit from cannabinoid-based medication. And we continue to make it illegal in this country. I like the direction the public policy is going on this issue and I intend to support that and fight for legalization at the federal level. So that’s a personal issue for me as well. I think it will resonate to voters. While it may seem shocking that in Texas a candidate who proclaims to be more palatable for general election voters is loudly out there on Cannabis to me that actually that tells you where the general public is. I actually think the general public is in support of legalizing Cannabis. 

Seth: I think you’re right there. I think the tides have shifted on medical marijuana and recreational marijuana to a lesser degree. But I think the tides are shifting there. I have a question about your position on Medicare for all and the Green New Deal and the more progressive and far left issues that are coming up in the House of Representatives and in politics in general. Specifically, the House seems to be divided between moderates in red and purplish districts like Abigail Spanberger in Virginia 7, Max Rose in New York 11, Ben McAdams in Utah 4th. And the progressive from deeper blue districts that are a little bit louder and running to the left like AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar. And I’m curious if you see yourself aligning with one of those two camps either in the way that you communicate with voters or in your policies and if you have one of those two coalitions in the Democratic Party that you see yourself aligning more closely with. 
Fisher: That’s a really tough question. The problem is I don’t see myself aligning cleanly with any particular camp. Part of that could be points on messaging. I believe strongly in not ignoring one side of the aisle, you can do that without coming off of your values. So, I agree on policy issues…I agree on Medicare for All. Right now, I think the way we get there is through a public option. Some of this may be…I take it that you’re interested in the details so let’s get into the details… my idea is that Medicare for All is the goal. That’s the end goal. What we should be debating on right now is how we get there. Because so often I see us debating as Democrats on what should be the ultimate goal. The more important question right now is…I think we all agree that eventually a system that ensures every single American is good…that should be what we’re fighting for. The question is how we get there. I think the smartest way to get there is through a public option. One, you’re pretty quickly increasing the coverage rate. The amount of people that don’t have access to medical insurance is dropping, especially if you expand Medicaid, which I support. Number two, you’re forcing private insurers to start to compete with he public option, which, one of the biggest differences between those two camps is one is paying bonuses to their executives. One is paying dividends to shareholders, and the other is not. So those private insurers are going to have to figure out how to be more competitive. Well, maybe they reduce their bonuses to their executives. Too bad. I think that’s a situation where there is some real opportunity to reduce the cost of care in this country, which is just ridiculous. I don’t need to share the data with you, but the cost of care is skyrocketing. It’s unreasonable and keeps people completely from having access to healthcare. So, I want to see that level of competition initially and I also think it’s something that we can adopt in the short term. 

Seth: Even hearing you speak about the more incremental approach and hearing you speak about being willing to vote for public option does sound different than the messaging that would be coming from Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez because I don’t know that they would be willing to talk about taking votes for anything short of a full single payer system and be willing to have a conversation as openly as you are about this more incremental approach. So, do you feel like you being willing to have this conversation and talk about that more step by step approach sets you apart from those kinds of politicians and that coalition within the party?
Fisher: No and let me tell you why. I would vote tomorrow for a full single payer answer. If we had a chance of getting it through the Senate. I love the idea of getting out there and fighting for something big and impactful in terms of rallying Democrats. But when we’re not talking about the best policy approach to save more lives, then I start to think about the structures that we’re within and what do we do about dealing within the limitation of those structures. Now are we talking about getting rid of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate? Because that to me…I mean we can pause all of this. If you want to look at what the presidential candidates are arguing for and the positions that they’re setting forth, the number one question I have for them is “how are you going to get that through the Senate?” That’s not arguing for an incremental approach that’s saying give me a plan for how we get these big ideas that I agree with on a policy level, how do we get them through the Senate. 

Seth: And how do you feel about that discussion…those more systematic changes that the Democratic Party and some of the Presidential candidates and some of the Representatives and Senators have been speaking about like getting rid of the 60 vote threshold, eliminating the Electoral College, adding justices to the Supreme Court, which is something that Pete Buttigieg has spoken a little about. I’m curious how you feel about those more systematic changes to the way that our government functions. 
Fisher: To the extent that the goal is to make legislation more representative of what Americans want, I’m in support. I’m not in support of the corrupt reorganization of our system to keep minority ideas and minority parties in power. Which is what Republicans have done now for decades. 
Seth: And I know this is a complicated issue and you might not have thought this exact thing through, but I’m curious if you think that any of those systematic changes are more in line with that ideal and if there are others that you wouldn’t put in that bucket. And if you can speak about which ones you might be more in support of or if that’s something you haven’t fully thought through and need some more time to think about. 
Fisher: I’ll give you my sense. I liked some of the ideas that I’m hearing about from Pete Buttigieg. Expanding the size of the Supreme Court but not through court packing. I don’t think court packing is the way to do it. I like the idea of it becoming less of a nuclear event every time there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. I don’t know if you’ve delved into some of those proposals. One that strikes me as really interesting is expanding the size by bringing in some temporary judges off the Appeals Court, but requiring a unanimous consent vote on the current justices. That to me is really interesting because we need an era of consensus of who is coming on the Supreme Court and I think that could be really helpful to make sure next time there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court it’s not a big nuclear event. What were the others?
Seth: The Electoral College – turning it into a popular vote. And the Filibuster, the 60-vote threshold. 
Fisher: None of those are simple issues. None of those are issues that don’t have consequences. I’m open to the idea of getting rid of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate but I recognize the cost of doing that are that you are likely to have a swing of policy depending on who is in power, which also would not be good. Before I would be able to buy into that I would want to start to think through and hear particularly the leaders in the Senate, who are in control of this issue, think through how are we are going to deal with what might be the ramifications of swinging policy every four or eight years. 

Seth: Something interesting that I’ve heard people talk about regarding the 60-vote threshold and the extreme nature of policy swings and pent up frustration is that, in the short term, eliminating the 60 vote threshold might make swings more common and more radical policies happen. But in the long term, because people aren’t getting frustrated that none of their legislation can ever pass and none of their big goals and policies can ever pass and in the long term that can radicalize voters because they see nothing has happened because we can’t get to the 60 vote threshold. Nothing happens for longer periods of time, so people become more radicalized in the long term, while in the short term, the policy swings might be less severe. So that’s an interesting perspective on it that I’ve heard about. 
Fisher: That is interesting. I would like to see if there are any examples of that in other developed democracies where a change like that has happened. We are so divided as a country and voter turnout is so low, if you asked me what is more likely to avoid those kinds of swings it’s to fully expand voter access in the country. Automatic voter registration, election day being a holiday, ensure that people who even have to work holidays have access to vote. Mail in ballots. Those are the types of things where then I think you reduce the risk of swing because one of the reasons we already flip flop is because voter turnout. Texas is the second lowest state in terms of voter turnout in 2016. Being such a huge state, numbers of voters. Texas itself could swing back and forth just depends on who’s showing up to vote in a particular election. So that’s something that I think if we strengthen the Voting Rights Act and make sure that we are really making an effort as a country to get everybody out to vote then I think you’re going to see less swings. Because people are more consistent on a one by one basis than the electorate is on a macro basis. 

Seth: You talk about voter turnout. And I know that there was a strong Beto effect last year and he, like you said, carried the district by about 3% and Jan McDowell lost the district by 2-3%. And I’m curious if you think that is going to be a problem for the eventual democratic candidate if there isn’t such an exciting figure at the top of the Texas ticket. If you think that could cause some problems for the downstream Democratic candidates, specifically for your district in the 24th. 
Fisher: And you’re talking about during the general?
Seth: Yeah, I’m talking about during the general. 
Fisher: It’s a presidential year, Donald Trump is likely to be on the ballot. I don’t foresee turnout being low. I foresee it being a record turnout election. Whether all those voters vote down the ballot is another issue. My sense is that, I don’t think we have the data. My sense is that for a lot of voters who showed up in the last election to vote for Beto, vote that one race. I hope that’s not the case in 2020. It’s possible though. Being a presidential year, I don’t see turnout being lower than it was in 2018 by any means. 

Seth: If you’re in the general election, you’re the general election candidate, do you see yourself as your strategy being turn out the base of the Democratic party through progressive policies and policies that the Democratic party base supports, or trying to be that candidate that can flip conservative, continue the trend of flipping white suburban voters to the Democratic party? And how do you see yourself being able to do that?
Fisher: You’ve got to be able to do both. As difficult as that sounds, I don’t think there is a one approach strategy that works. You have to be able to reassure your progressive voters that you’re there with them on progressive policies. Then you have to be able to message those policies to scared moderate voters who see the writing on the wall, see what’s going on in the White House, who see that Kenny Marchant is either a complete copycat of Donald Trump with the bigotry and authoritarianism, or he’s a coward. You’ve got to be able to message that your progressive policies are better for their families. And it helps everybody in America when we have a strong base, a strong safety net for everyone because, let’s talk about health care for example. One of the greatest causes of increases in property taxes in Dallas County for example is the cost of Parkland Hospital, which is the public hospital. Why is that? Well because people are showing up uninsured. I realize that these issues are sometimes complex and that messaging complex issues to voters can be a challenge. But that’s the challenge of a successful candidate. Can you talk about progressive issues, making sure every single American has health care when and where they need it, in a way that resonates with you? And if I’m in Southlake, if I’m in Colleyville, I’m talking about how making sure everybody has insurance ensures that nobody is showing up to the hospital uninsured. Because who then pays for that? It’s you and me. It’s everybody else who shows up that does have the resources to pay their bills. It’s just that their bills are now twice the cost because we’re offsetting the expense for everybody else. I put out a video last cycle using jellybeans to show how the concepts under a single payer reduce the cost of care for everyone. Have you had a chance to watch that?  
Seth: Yeah, I watched it. 
Fisher: And those concepts resonated with those types of voters. 

Seth: It’s interesting, this balance you’re striking. Because for me, I felt like the lesson the Democratic Party took, well there’s many coalitions in the Democratic Party, but one lesson that a lot of people took from the 2016 Presidential race was to campaign in bigger ideas rather than focusing on the policies. Because a lot of people thought that Donald Trump won because of this vision or idea that he had for America and Hillary Clinton maybe got bogged down in the policy sometimes. So, it’s interesting to hear that you’re aiming to strike this balance between campaigning on these big ideas but also digging into the policy and telling voters the substance of the policies that you want to enact. 
Fisher: Well it’s both though right. Getting turnout among progressives and the left is about focusing on bigger ideas and reassuring them that you’re going to be a fighter for those ideals. But when your campaigning in the white suburban district, or the white suburban areas of the district. Right now, this is my analysis. I’m not going to go out there and win the Tea Party vote. I’m not even going to aim for it. And the people on the margins who are looking at the White House saying, “I can’t support that but there’s a Democrat over here talking about Single Payer Health Care and that freaks me out.” So that’s where policy discussions and policy messaging become really important. Because there you’re reassuring them that “I am not fear. I am not bigotry. I am not hatred and I’m not an authoritarian. But I know you have your concerns about XY and Z. Let me help you understand why XY and Z are better for your family.” 

Seth: I’ve heard you say authoritarianism, that “Donald Trump is an authoritarian in the White House.” I’m curious to hear a little more about what you mean by that and exactly what kinds of things you’re thinking about when you use that term. Because it’s a pretty strong and severe term to use for the President of the United States. 
Fisher: I mean look who he cozies up to. I mean he cozies up to Putin. And Kim Jung Un. He loves these dictators. You can tell he admires them. He wants to be them. Just today. Just today. You know one of the first things I do when I get up in the morning, I look at the headlines. What’s the news for the day? He’s talking about closing the southern border. And he says, “we may have to get rid of the judges”. I heard that this morning from him. In his own voice. “We may have to get rid of the judges.” I can’t tell you what is more authoritarian than talking about getting rid of judges. So, the assumption of executive power going over the heads of the legislature and particularly talking about reducing the power and influence of the judicial branch is textbook authoritarianism. 

Seth: Is that something that you think that Democrats in the House of Representatives should consider…impeachment seems like it’s kind of off the table…but do you think that the things that he’s said and, like you said, the authoritarian actions that he’s taken, are reason to consider impeachment? Or is that something that should be left up to the voters in 2020 to decide?
Fisher: Is your question should we be looking at impeachment or letting voters decide in the election? Is that the question?
Seth: Yeah
Fisher: What I’ve said all along to this question is I want to see the Muller report. Certainly, he has said and done things that I think are impeachable offenses. From a legal point of view, The Constitution does not define “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”. There’s common law guidance that we have here from English law about what that means. But at the end of the day, it’s essentially a political remedy to a political problem. So, it becomes a question of whether Congress feels that something has been done that’s so egregious that warrants removal. For me, if I were a Representative, I would want to see and read the Mueller Report. And I’d be fighting for that because we’ve gone through this two-year investigation to understand what has actually been done. And I don’t accept a four-page book report from Bill Barr. I want to see the actual hundreds page report or however long it is that goes into the details. Before I can say whether I would vote for impeachment or not, that’s a prerequisite. 

Seth: Okay well I’m interested to 1) see if it comes out and we can read it and 2) I’ll be…if it comes out…I’ll be following what you say and listening to the things that happen in House races across the country. I have another specific question. I have a quote from you from “The Dentonite”. You said that “The Democratic Party has warts. I could sit on the outside of it and throw rocks and hope it changes but I don’t think that’s very effective.” Can you think of anything off the top of your head, or things you’ve been thinking about, that you would like to change about the Democratic Party or issues that you don’t necessarily fall in line with the Democratic orthodoxy on?
Fisher: I’m trying to remember the context of that question. 
Seth: You don’t have to refer to that quote. It was just to give context. I guess the crux of the question is: Are there any issues in the Democratic orthodoxy or the Democratic platform that you have second guesses about, or that you don’t necessarily fall in line on, or that you think the Party should reconsider? 
Fisher: Certainly in the past, up until very recently, the Democratic Party has been more willing to take Corporate PAC money. That’s been disturbing because what you end up with is Senators in Congresspeople on the one hand who say all these great things but then when it comes to a really hard vote that might upset one of their Corporate PAC donor, they get a little more skittish. I’m not going to throw stones at any presidential candidate right now, but there’s a few that come to mind on particular important votes regarding prescriptions and things like that that are worrisome. And that’s a problem. It also gets back to the 60-vote threshold issue. That I want to see somebody tackle in a meaningful way because we have a tendency to talk about big, big issues that are critical. The Green New Deal. We have to deal with climate change and talking about it only does so much. It’s important to talk about it because that’s how you raise awareness…that’s how you get political buy in from the various groups and the electorate that you need. But then voters become really frustrated if you can’t do anything about it and so what I want to see is the Democratic Party take the lead on…I was happy with HR1 for example. I think that was a critical, critical bill that I want to see move forward because we don’t ever actually implement any of these big important issues unless we have the politically support to do it and while public opinion is one thing you’ve got to have those votes in the ballot box to make sure you can accomplish those things. I guess my critique would be, in the past we’ve been willing to take…not me because I don’t throw myself in that boat… but a lot of Democratic Representatives have been willing to take money from unsavory donors which colors their vision when it comes to taking tough votes and then also promising things without actually having a plan to be able to get them through the Senate. This is probably, if you ask me, the number one issue I’m looking for leadership from presidential candidates. Dealing with that 60-vote threshold issue. How do you get your policies in place given those restrictions?

Seth: Because it does seem like it’s somewhat of a binary thing. Where it’s either go for the bipartisan compromises where you win some Republican votes or eliminate the Filibuster or do some other more structural changes like D.C or Puerto Rico statehood and giving them representation in the Senate. So, it seems like it’s one of two possible responses. 
Fisher: It could be a little bit of both. D.C. Puerto Rico, Guam, these are people who I think deserve representation. So that’s its own issue that can be a help towards resolving this problem we’re talking about, but I think also dealing with is it the right policy to have such a high threshold. And maybe it’s something other than 50%. Maybe its 55. There are some other ways to get us closer to being able to pass these policies while still requiring something more than a majority. I’m running for the House of Representatives, I’m happy to share my thoughts on this, but to be frank, it’s not an issue that the House of Representatives needs to deal with. It’s something that the Senate and the presidential candidates need to be really wrestling with and providing leadership on. 

Seth: It is just interesting… it is a good example of norms and which ones are important to uphold and which ones are okay to break down. Because it does feel like that Filibuster has been slowly chipped away at. And just knocking it down to 55 would be another chip in the wall that would eventually lead to it being at 50 sometime in the future. It kind of feels like it’s a slippery slope where it’s going to end there anyways.  
Fisher: Well but let me make a comment about that. Norms are important. They’re critical to make sure that the system doesn’t get flipped in the night. I guess one critique of Democrats is that we often hold to these norms in a way that the other side doesn’t and it puts us at a huge disadvantage to actually help people because, why are we doing this? We’re doing this to help people. We’re doing this to make sure that that family has health care. That if you disabled child that Medicaid is something you’re able to access and use to benefit your child’s life. Those are the things we’re fighting for. But the other side throws norms out the window in order to make sure that the Federalist Society candidate gets on the Supreme Court. We need to be able to balance valuing these norms while also recognizing that the other side has been corruptly gerrymandering and restructuring the system to benefit their donors for years. So, I don’t want us to fall into the trap of holding these norms and squeezing them tight like something precious to you while all it’s doing is ensuring the policies you believe in, that will help American families, never gets passed. And what good does that ever do?
Seth: If only one side is playing the game fair, or you think that one side is playing the game fair, it is not an incentive to keep playing it that way. 
Fisher: It’s not only that, it questions whether you are even accomplishing what you set out to try and accomplish in the first place. Are you actually doing what you said you were going to do?

Seth: You spoke a little bit about campaign finance and how that’s an issue that’s important to you. What pledges or decisions have you made about where you will accept money from and where you won’t accept money from for your campaign. Will you accept money from Corporate PACs? Will you accept money from a Super PAC? Where will you and will you not take money from in your 2020 campaign?
Fisher: I won’t take money from Corporate PACs. If Planned Parenthood wants to donate to my race, I am ideologically aligned there so there is no issue from my perspective. If Sierra Club wants to donate to my race, great. Fantastic. So, these kinds of organizational PACs that are designed to help Democrats and progressive policies be enacted, I’m fully supportive there. I don’t have any issues. None at all. 

Seth: A big question I’ve been thinking about from candidates that decided to run in a different district or for a different seat is how they see their campaigns changing from the previous cycle. I’m curious about what kind of things you and your team have been thinking about that you’ll have to differently, given that you’re changing form the 26th to the 24th. Whether it’s something tangible on the ground where you’ll be spending less money on gas or you’ll be spending more money on people knocking on doors rather than phone calls because it’s a more condensed district to policies you’re going to be highlighting because it’s something these voters might feel more passionately about. And I’m curious where you are on that: what kind of things you’re going to be changing or need to change from last cycle to this cycle given that you’re changing districts.
Fisher: My campaign ethos has always been to put yourself out there in as many locations as often as possible. And that’s not going to change, but with one recognition. And that recognition is that turnout will be astronomically higher given that it’s a presidential year. Donald Trump is on the ballot. Turnout is going to be very high. So, reaching voters in mass is going to be much more important than perhaps it was in my prior race where those door to door coffee shop meet-ups, organizational type meetings, showing up to a community event, those things are going to still be important, but in an election cycle like this one, big media has to be involved. Things like mailers, effective mailers I should say, have to be involved. So, it’s a very different race from that perspective.  

Seth: Have you been seeing the other primary candidates, whether the declared ones or the ones that are on the fringes and might not have officially jumped in. Have you been seeing them in the district campaigning? And what kind of interactions have you had with the other candidates? I saw that Kim Olson launched her website I think two days ago on Monday. And I talked with Jan McDowell. And I’m curious what kind of interactions or where you’ve been seeing other candidates around. 
Fisher: All the other candidates that I know I have great relationship with and I deeply respect them. Nothing ill to say at all. I think I’ve had good interactions. I know almost all of them just from having all of us…well there’s one candidate in the race that I don’t know. Or two. But the others I’ve interacted with at many other events and have and very positive interactions. It’s too early. I haven’t seen people out in the community campaigning. There was an event that an Indivisible group held that it wasn’t all the candidates, it was those who were in town and available spoke at. And a good turnout at a Texas 24 Indivisible group that held a town hall for their missing representative. Kenny Marchant. I don’t know if you know, he hasn’t held a town hall in over seven years. Very, very frustrating. So far there’s not been a lot of community campaigning by any of the candidates that I’ve seen so far. It’s just too early. 

Seth: I saw a debate that you had last year and you pledged to support the Democratic nominee. Do you feel the same way this year, that whoever the Democratic nominee, at least form the candidates who have declared or that you’ve been around, are you going to support the Democratic nominee? Whether it’s…obviously you…or somebody else in the field. 
Fisher: Yes and I trust the voters to not make a decision there that is somebody that you couldn’t put your support behind. So, I have no concerns there that whoever comes out of the primary is going to have my full support. 

Seth: This is a little bit different, but am I right that you endorsed or supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary?
Fisher: I voted for Bernie in the primary. That’s right. 
Seth: It’s obviously a very different election with so many candidates, but do you have a candidate in the presidential race that you are following or tracking that you feel like represents your values or that you’ll vote for?
Fisher: It’s too early. I’m just spending a lot of time listening. Trying to follow as much as I can of their leadership. I’ll tell you those that are sticking out for me. Beto — I admire the way Beto is able to talk about progressive policies in a way that doesn’t in my opinion scare off independent moderates. Now, I’m not an independent moderate so that’s just my perception, but I admire that. I think it’s important that we don’t exclude people from any side of the political spectrum. That they have the ability to come and hear you and take something away that may be a nugget that develops in them the ability to maybe see the hope and the possibilities in progressive policies. I really have enjoyed listening to Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He sort of fills that professor role in terms of the candidates that are currently in the race and I like that. I love policy. I consider myself a bit of a wonk and so I like to hear him speak I like to hear candidates get into the details because details matter. For a lot of voters, that may not be the case. So that’s something that I’m following very closely. Kamala, Cory, Elizabeth Warren. I love the big ideas that Elizabeth Warren has. Look, what excites me about Bernie is his fight for Single Payer. That’s what inspired me in the 2016 primary. It’s so critical to me that my daughters have healthcare as they turn into adults that we have to resolve the problems in our health care system soon. Right away, as soon as we can. So, I love the passion that he brings to that debate and the effects that he has had on the Democratic electorate of moving it more progressive, particularly on the issue of health care legislation.  

Seth: It’s interesting because I think he’s the one candidate that hasn’t spoken about being willing to moderate, not his positions, but being willing to vote for an incrementalist approach so it is interesting to hear the things that you value about his candidacy and what he’s doing on the national stage. 
Fisher: Let me give you my theory of the case. I’m a negotiator by trade. And when you negotiate you often don’t start out in the middle. You start out asking for more than you’d be willing to accept in the end. And I think Democrats made a mistake with the ACA negotiations where the Public Option was the big thing that they were then willing to give up in order to get it passed. Well, that was a mistake. I think we can safely say, looking back, if there had been a public option you wouldn’t see the crumbling of so many of the healthcare markets. And now the Republicans have done so much to undermine it, it’s hard to say for sure. What I see smart in Bernie’s approach is, “hey let’s go out there and fight for the big thing.” In that, at the end of the day, if he were negotiating legislation, maybe he’ll take something less than that. And I admire that fully. I will tell you that while that may be effective on a national stage, I’m thinking about my district and I think about what the voters in Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake, what it’s going to take to get them on board with moving in that direction. Because these are not Brooklyn voters. You have to recognize there’s a difference. And I think a public option is what we need right now in order to move in the direction of things there. 

Seth: Something that’s been interesting to me is I remember all the talk about how important and fundamental the Individual Mandate was to “three-legged stool” and keeping the bill in place. And now that the Individual Mandate has been eliminated, the bill hasn’t really come crumbling down and people are still getting heath care through he exchanges and ACA. I don’t have a question about it, but it’s just something that has been interesting to me considering how much attention that got. 
Fisher: It hasn’t crumbled, you’re right. But there’s so much potential there that’s being unmet. While the Individual Mandate is important, I think Medicaid expansion is equally important and that’s where I’ve been really disappointed in leadership. State level leadership here in Texas and other states, where they refuse and continue to refuse to expand Medicaid. They’re throwing money away. They’re losing an opportunity to reduce the cost of those who are buying into the exchanges significantly. Which just hurts families. It’s a brazen policy that ends up just hurting people. Which is very, very frustrating from my perspective. To me, the Medicaid expansion, in addition to the Individual Mandate, but in my mind particularly the expansion, is how you get the most expensive users out of the exchanges and unless you’re doing that, you leave them sitting in those exchanges increasing the cost for that risk pool. And that’s very, very damaging to the ACA. 

Seth: Is there anything that you feel like we haven’t gotten the opportunity to talk about or anything that you want to let me know that you think would help benefit the interview and the piece? Anything that is on your mind. Or do you think we’ve covered everything that you’re interested in talking about?
Fisher: One thing we haven’t talked about is, two of the other issues I want voters to know I’m passionate about: One is criminal justice reform. The particular focus that I want to have is on white collar corruption, which is incredibly costly and damaging to our system and we see it right now with the Trump administration. There’s a lot of opportunity we have to make our system more equitable in part my ensuring that those who commit white collar crimes are prosecuted and receive appropriate penalties in line with the crimes they commit. It’s important to me that we have people accused of Marijuana possession that end up with more jail time than somebody who commits bank fraud, for example. Something that significantly hurts our system, increases the costs of products for everyone. And that’s something that we have to tackle because at the end of the day I think that there’s racial inequity involved there and our entire criminal justice system needs overhaul in order to address some of those racial inequities. And the other one is firearms legislation. We need to ensure that the universal background check bill that recently passed that that gets through. So we need to keep fighting for that in the House until we have a Senate that can pass it. And a part of that that’s really personal for me is fighting for mandatory waiting periods. I’m not going to get into too much of the details, this is particularly important to me. Personal experience with folks who ended their lives where a mandatory waiting period may have given us a chance to intervene. So I’m going to fight for three day waiting periods nationally. I don’t think that’s too much. I think that’s something that we, of course without the NRA involved, which can be challenge because they have such a stranglehold on messaging on this issue. At the end of the day, like I told you at the beginning of the interview, my approach to campaigning is campaign on issues that are important and personal to you and that that’s what’s important more than anything. So those are the issues I’m going to focus on. 

Seth: There’s kind of a contrasting image in my head because on the one hand the district is very suburban and it’s the kind of district where gun legislation has been very popular and on the other hand Texas is a state that’s seen by much of the country as very pro Second Amendment and in favor of gun rights. I’m curious about what the people you’ve spoken to have been saying about that and how that contrast between Texas and the suburban district have come into play when you’ve been meeting voters and hearing what they believe. 
Fisher: I’ve looked at polling on those issues, more out of curiosity. I don’t really campaign on polling, but I’m curious what voters feel about this issue. It’s important. A strong majority of Americans support both policies. I haven’t seen polling from my particular district, but it’s quite representative. The Dallas area is a lot of transplants from outside of Texas. Then again transplants can end up from all over the political spectrum. They’re not just all from California. But I find that North Texans are pretty representative of a lot of parts of the country. And when it comes to this particular issue, a strong majority of Americans support Universal Background Checks. Now Mandatory Waiting Periods is not a policy that’s gotten as much, I certainly don’t hear it as much in the political milieu, punditry type discussions. So that one will be, let’s see how voters react to it. To me it’s a personal issue. And it’s something I feel passionate about. My sense is that it’s not offensive to gun owners. The misconception on this issue many times is that Democrats don’t own gun. That people who support Universal Background Checks don’t own guns. I think that’s just not true. That’s NRA messaging, “the Democrats are there to take away your guns”, which is just not true. I find that popular opinion on those issues are, kind of across the board, positively received. 

Seth:
I’m obviously sorry that you had that experience with gun violence. And it is interesting when you look at the numbers that a lot of the gun legislation that Democrats have been supportive of, the vast majority of lives that would be saved, were people that would have re-thought the decision to end their life and the gun just makes it quicker and easier decision. So, it is interesting, and in line that you support the mandatory waiting period and that that’s one of the priorities for you in gun legislation. Do you have any requests of me? When I post this, I can send you an email, I can tag you on Twitter. Anything more housekeeping-esque that you have requests of me?

Fisher: Give me a heads up when you’re going to post it. That would be helpful. I’ll tell you that I’m very cognizant of the divisions right now in the Democratic Party. I’m hesitant personally, I’m not going to tell you how to write the article. But I’m hesitant personally to be classified in any of these camps. I agree with Representatives like AOC who are fighting against incrementalism. My concern is short term. I want to make sure we’re not promising things that we can’t follow through on because right now were in this moment of brief excitement. I don’t want that followed by a moment of great disappointment. And I foresee that being a risk. And I realize that by saying that, that may have someone classify me as a moderate, which I don’t think I am. I don’t use that label myself. I think I’m a practical progressive: someone who aspires to practical policies that works within the limitations we have and says “how do we get as close as possible to that?” So, take that for what it is. My goal in life is not to be labeled as “Well, Will is the moderate in the race”. I just don’t think that would be accurate either. 

Seth: People contain multitudes and candidates do too and I think it’s going to be especially frustrating for a lot of candidates this year, especially with the presidential primaries going on where news pundits and outlets are very excited to label “Amy Klobuchar is a moderate, Joe Biden is a moderate, Bernie Sanders is a progressive.” So, I think it’s probably going to trickle down into a lot of downballot races and I’m expecting something that’s going to be frustrating for people running in the Democratic primary similar to the Sanders-Clinton divide, people are going to be eager to categorize candidates in kind of a binary way like that. With maybe a few more distinctions, but a similar way to candidates as they did in that election. 
Fisher: So, my goal there is that people writing an article about me would give a thoughtful to the way they discuss that issue. That’s a big ask, I know for some. 

Seth: I know you’re busy as a candidate and as a lawyer so I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me over the phone. 
Fisher: No worries. Thanks Seth.  

PARTY TIME: INDEPENDENTS

This is the fifth post in the series “Mercurial Nation”, which looks at the elements that make up the political climate (the ‘mood’ of the country) and how they will affect the 2020 House Race. For three weeks we have focused on the major voting coalitions — Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Party affiliation is the strongest single indicator of voter choice. It can determine feelings about the economythe direction of the country and even financial wellbeing.

RECAP FROM THE LAST TWO WEEKS
Twenty-six percent of Americans consider themselves Republican, 31% percent Democratic, and 38% Independent, according to a recent Pew study. Because independents who lean towards one party vote for that party at almost the same rate as party members, they will be considered party members for this analysis. When these independent leaners are included in party totals, 39% of the public is Republican, 48% is Democratic and only 7% is Independent.

The charts below show who Independents, Democrats and Republicans are. This is different than showing how demographic groups align. For example, the first chart shows that 45% of Independents are women, but it does not show what percentage of women are Independents.

THE INDEPENDENT VOTING BLOC
Gender

Race  
AgeEducation
Data: PewMore Pew
*Used 2016 presidential vote as a stand in for party

Independents differ demographically from both Democrats and Republicans. The share of men among Independents, 55%, is higher than the general voting population. It’s even higher than that of the Republican Party, typically considered a male-dominated voting bloc. Independents are less white relative to the overall voting population (50% vs 70%) and are much more Hispanic (23% to 9%). Independents are also younger than partisans — 59% are under 50 years old while the same is true for 52% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans. Independents are also much less educated than both Democrats and Republicans. 46% of Independents have only ‘high school or less’ education, while 32% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans say the same. In some ways (age, racial diversity) the Independent voting bloc looks more like the Democratic Party) while in others (gender, education levels) it aligns more closely with the Republican Party.

Policies & Ideologies (Net Support)

Policies & Ideologies Continued

Data: Pew

Independents fall in-between Democrats and Republican on most political issues. These numbers do not measure intensity of individual voters’ feelings but how the voting bloc is split. Independents sit in-between Democrats and Republicans for five of the six policies in the chart. The exception is marijuana legalization, which Independents support in greater number than both Republicans and even Democrats. In addition to marijuana legalization, Independents are closer to Democrats than Republicans on support for same sex marriage, immigration, and a belief that the economy is generally unfair. The one issue on which Independents more closely align with Republicans is wanting a smaller government.  This ideological combination — socially liberal and wanting a smaller government — signals a libertarian streak in the small portion of the country that considers themselves true non-partisan independents

Independents are Less Engaged
Independent voters are less engaged than party members.   ‘No lean’-ers are almost half as likely to vote in 2018 as Republican party members — 33% compared to 61%. Relative to Republicans, Democrats vote at a slightly lower rate, 59%, but still vastly outperform Independents.

Their disengagement is as a result of their independence and a cause of it.  A lack of interest in politics causes independents to identify as such, simply because they are disengaged from political life. Other Independents do not alight ideologically with Democrats or Republicans, and, without a team to support, are less likely to engage in political activity. The directionality runs both ways.

Independents Don’t Like the Parties
The partisan antipathy dominating contemporary politics is not isolated to Democrats’ and Republicans’ mutual disdain for each other. Independents partake as well. But while most voters view their own party favorably and the other unfavorably, Independents are more even handed. 37% of Independents have an unfavorable view of both parties, 22% have a favorable view of both parties, and about 20% view one of the two parties favorably.
Independents who do lean towards a party say that “other party’s policies [are] bad for the country” is the number one reason for their partisan lean. These partisan leaners even view members of their own party unfavorably more than half of the time.

Independents Aren’t as Important as We Think
Independents are seen as the crucial tie-breakers in a nation evenly divided by two political parties — if independents swing towards one party, so goes the nation. This is not true. Independents (the only data available here is for leaners and non-leaners alike, so that what is used here) voted for Trump in 2016, but the popular vote went to Clinton. A similar split happened in 20002004 and 2012.  Elections can turn on how well each party turns out its base — a task that is often more challenging for the larger, but less engaged Democratic Party. The parties and their candidates cannot expect to win by only targeting the 7% of truly independent voters if it means sacrificing a portion of their base.

When choosing between energizing the party base versus swinging moderate/independent voters, the question parties should ask themselves is ‘why not both?’ In earlier posts, I suggested that the parties might do well by highlighting issues that 1) are seen as priorities by the general public and 2) the public supports their policies over the opposing party. But maybe they instead should focus on issues that 1) excite their base and 2) are supported by independents. If they go with route #2, Democrats should emphasize health care, the ‘unfair’ economy and socially liberal issues like marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage. Republicans have less to work with, but could highlight limited government and the economy (especially if it holds strong through 2020).