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Watch Interviews With Five Democratic Candidates Running For The U.S. Senate In 2020

Voters lined up in Katy on Nov. 6, 2018.
Pu Ying Huang
The Texas Tribune
Voters lined up in Katy on Nov. 6, 2018.

A long list of Democrats are vying to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the general election later this year. But first one must break out from the pack.

The Texas Tribune's CEO and co-founder Evan Smith sat down for hourlong conversations with five of the 12 Democrats running in the primary. Watch them below.

The motorcycle-riding U.S. Air Force retiree MJ Hegar gained attention when her 2018 campaign for Congress released a video detailing her journey from helicopter pilot and mom to U.S. House candidate. Her run ended in a loss, but she has returned to seek a seat in the Senate.

Hegar discussed how her military experience qualifies her to win the nomination over a pool of a dozen primary candidates. She asserted that being a combat veteran, living through domestic abuse in her childhood home and being familiar with rural Texas will guide her policymaking. Hegar also discussed some of her policy stances, including her support for term limits and opposition to open-carry laws.

Chris Bell is hoping to return to Washington after a decade-and-a-half absence. The Houstonian was elected to the U.S. House in 2002, served one term and went on to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006.

Bell highlighted his years of experience as a key qualification for the Senate. He hopes to “get away from identity politics” and work with communities of color in office, he said. He also discussed his openness to taxing the wealthy, though he couldn’t pinpoint what would be defined as “wealthy.” In his discussion, Bell called out his competitors in the race, endorsed a ban on assault weapons and talked about how he would handle climate change.

Democratic state Sen. Royce West has been in office 27 years, and he’ll stay in his current seat while he runs for U.S. Senate. In his interview, the Dallas Democrat emphasized his sponsorship of bills in the Legislature pertaining to body and dash cameras for police, as well as general law enforcement policies. While he has been in the state Senate for years, West said he decided to run for U.S. Senate because of the progress Democratic candidates have made in Texas, citing the relative success of Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign for Senate.

West also discussed his approach to the race and working across the aisle. After clearing his run with God and his wife, he plans to limit himself to two terms, work to expand Medicaid and offer free community college for low-income students, he said.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is outspoken about being the daughter of an immigrant and cites that background as one of her motivations for running for U.S. Senate. The Latina organizer announced her bid after members of O'Rourke's 2018 campaign approached her with the idea. The longtime activist previously helped lead Texas organizing groups like the nonprofit Workers Defense Project and Jolt, an organization centered on mobilizing young, minority voters.

Tzintzún Ramirez said she feels able to win the race because of her work with young, Latino Texans. She said she adamantly refuses money from corporate political action committees, wants to rebuild O’Rourke’s coalition of voters, and hopes to make community and public colleges free for students.

Amanda Edwards’ time as Houston City Council member has put her close to her constituents, whom she said she places at the center of her U.S. Senate run. Edwards gathered stories while meeting with them after natural disasters. She acknowledged she has often been asked why she’s choosing to run now and said it’s because she’s going where she feels she’s most needed.

Edwards stressed the importance she would put on regular people if she were elected to office. She would be the first African American woman to hold the position. Edwards said she’d be open to legalizing marijuana with some restrictions and restoring voting rights to former felons. But she said she opposes full confiscation of guns in the state and "Medicare for All."

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Allyson Ortegon is a reporting fellow covering the 86th Texas Legislature for public radio stations around the state. She has previously interned for KUT, Austin’s NPR Station. Originally from Cibolo, Texas, Allyson began her reporting career for Schertz Magazine, published near San Antonio. Since moving to Austin, Allyson has reported across multiple platforms including radio, television and print media. She will graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's School of Journalism in May 2020 with a secondary concentration in business.