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?
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.