In America, we are all in the same boat. Too many politicians in D.C. today put their party over our country. They view every issue and every challenge through a broken partisan lens meant to divide us. That’s why I am running for Congress — to change the broken status quo, that this president has only made worse, and to bring our community’s Common Sense and Common Decency to Washington to get things done.
I believe there is no challenge we can’t solve by using our heads and our hearts. That’s what I mean by Common Sense and Common Decency. Whatever the issue before us, we use our heads – our Common Sense – and our hearts – our Common Decency.
When we use our heads and our hearts, when we use plain Common Sense and basic Common Decency, we can come together and find the common ground we need to unite our country and build a positive way forward for America.
After the elections in 2016, my wife Jennifer and I decided we had to do something to help get our country back on the path to growing respect and opportunity for all people. In our home, our faith teaches us that we’re here to love and respect all people, not hate or vilify one another.
We come from the most diverse city in the country, and it’s a diversity we embrace. Our children attended a public elementary school where almost 40 languages were spoken at home, and this diversity is an incredible source of strength, vitality, and opportunity in the school.
When Harvey hit our community, the Houston spirit that reflects the strength and vitality of our community’s diversity, our country’s diversity, shone brightest. Nobody cared what you looked like or where you came from. Nobody cared who you loved or how you prayed. Nobody cared how you voted. It was just, “Get in the boat.”
I believe what makes our country exceptional, what sets America apart from the rest of the world, is simple: It’s our people – all of our people – no exceptions. And for our country to continue to lead in our world, our leaders must realize that we are all in this together – we are all in the same boat.
It’s time for our leaders to stop trying to divide us. Instead, we need leaders who will work together to solve the challenges and issues that confront all of our people in their daily lives, leaders who will use a tried and true formula in our community—our Common Sense and our Common Decency—to get things done and bring a positive vision of our future from Harris County to Washington.
Access to health care is a fundamental human right, and we need to make it affordable for all. Far too many people in our country cannot access the health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives.
My wife is a doctor who treated patients at Ben Taub’s Emergency Room early in her career. She saw too many people delaying healthcare and harming their health, and their ability to contribute to their families, work, or communities, because they couldn’t afford to see a doctor.
When health care is delivered through our ER’s it’s typically provided after a health condition has become severe. Consequently, the individuals’ and their families’ quality of life have suffered. Additionally, the cost of the care provided through the ER and after a condition has worsened is typically much more expensive than it would be if treated earlier in a preventive way.
It’s both Common Sense and Common Decency to provide quality, preventive health care to all people so they can lead productive and engaged lives at home, at work, and in the community.
We need to lower health care costs, and improve the quality of treatment. We need to work together to find responsible solutions that allow all Americans and all Texans to have access to quality health care that doesn’t break the bank. We need to stabilize the current health care system, drive down drug costs, and start expanding access to CHIP, Medicare, and Medicaid so that all people have access to the preventive health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives.
Common Sense health care that works for our people includes coverage of preventive care, protections for those with pre-existing conditions, mental health care, lowering the costs of medication, and coverage for those confronting addiction. Importantly, it means coverage for birth control, women’s health issues and ensuring women are in charge of their own reproductive choices.
Education & Workforce
If our people are what make America exceptional, then plain Common Sense tells us that we have to invest in our people – all of our people – for our country to reach its full potential.
Investing in our people starts with education, and my vision for education in our country is centered on a pipeline of lifelong learning. I believe creating strong and relevant educational opportunities for all people at all ages is crucial to making the promise of America real for everyone. If we invest first and foremost in our people, then our future is unlimited.
My first work experience in the nonprofit and education field was a joint effort between the Center for Houston’s Future, a strategic planning and leadership development part of the business community, and the Collaborative for Children, a leading early childhood nonprofit, called Preschool for ALL. At Preschool for ALL, we focused on increasing access to quality early childhood education for all children in Harris County.
Our work taught me the value of early childhood education, of engaging all of our kids in the vital years between birth and age four. These critical early years are when a significant portion of a child’s most important brain development occurs. And when we invest early in a child’s development, this investment pays off significantly. We see increased school success for children and increased life success down the road. And success in school translates into stronger communities—with decreased rates of crime, addiction and joblessness.
Our work at Preschool for ALL showed it is possible, and powerful, to bring together the nonprofit community and the business community—to get them to work together to solve a problem. In this work, I witnessed firsthand the power of using our heads and our hearts. Our Common Sense in making investments in early childhood education, and our Common Decency in seeking to do the right thing for all people—for young children growing and developing and for working families that need a safe and enriching place for their children while the parents work.
It’s this type of win-win-win, for our children, for our parents, and for our communities – the schools our children eventually attend, and the places where our families work and live – I am determined to bring from Houston to Washington.
My work at Preschool for All, and as Executive Director of the nonprofit Citizen Schools also taught me the importance of keeping our kids engaged and learning outside of the classroom. As our kids grow and develop it’s important we have high quality child care, afterschool, and summer programs that challenge their minds and help prepare them for their future.
If our children are to succeed in a fluid future, then we must teach them to think critically, to work well with other people, and, most importantly, to embrace learning throughout their lives.
Importantly, a pipeline of lifelong learning also means adults need access to relevant education and re-training opportunities throughout their work lives. Too many of our hard working people are confronting job loss due to automation, globalization, or business failure.
Education and re-training programs from our community colleges and universities, our unions and businesses, and our military can help those whose jobs have been automated away find new career paths in a constantly evolving economy.
We’re all in this together, and our ability to work and succeed in our ever-changing world is crucial to our citizens’ and our country’s continued growth and success. In Congress, I will work hard to develop, support, and connect these pathways of lifelong learning so that all Americans have an opportunity to thrive in a global society and economy.
Infrastructure & Flooding
Flooding has had a severe and adverse impact on the people and property of Texas Congressional District 2 (TX-02). Allison, Ike, Memorial Day, Tax Day, and Harvey have wreaked havoc on the region. We’ve been told these severe weather events occur every 100 or 500 years. That’s not been the case.
Our community has provided amazing examples of resiliency and ingenuity, and we deserve representatives who will take this continuing threat to our community seriously. As the Congressman serving the people of TX–02, I will work urgently across all lines – district, city, county, state, and party lines – to get the resources and action we need to protect our people and property.
This plan will evolve over time as we complete projects and identify new needs. I will hold quarterly public meetings with TX–02 residents and local and state officials to ensure transparency and public input and to hold all officials accountable to a reasonably rigorous timeline.
Physical Infrastructure Improvements
- —Build either a third reservoir west of Addicks and Barker and/or utilize landowner inducements to store water on their land.
- —Repair and strengthen Addicks and Barker reservoirs, and make structural improvements to Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.
- —Make Bayou and channel improvements and increase detention throughout TX–02, from Brays Bayou to Cypress Creek to the San Jacinto River and all points in between.
- —Develop a coastal spine or wall to protect our coastal communities and Port of Houston.
- —Raise bridges and overpasses so they don’t serve as dams in future floods.
- —Refortify and expand our natural habitats, e.g., Katy Prairie, to protect our community.
- —Dredge the East and West Fork of the San Jacinto River, Cypress Creek, Lake Houston, Addicks and Barker reservoirs to levels that will protect our communities.
Home Repair and Buyout
- —Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program and limit the number of times a home may be repaired before it must be bought out.
- —Establish a Buyout Bank with federal, state, and local dollars set aside for repeat flood properties and relocate families and individuals to safer ground in quick fashion.
- —Incentivize responsible new residential construction to ensure housing availability for those bought out.
- —Redraw the flood plain maps for our region on a regular basis and make it open to public input.
- —Work with business and local, state and federal governments to ensure any activity, e.g., sand mining, is being done legally, responsibly and in a manner that won’t harm property owners.
- —Establish a CarFax-style service for homes, so people moving into an area can easily check to see if the home they might buy has flooded.
- —Develop a warning system that’s widely broadcast and understandable. Get rid of Flash Flood Warning vs. Flood Warning. Establish a flood hotline and real-time website.
- —Educate community on steps to take in neighborhoods and at home to detain water safely, keep water flowing, and avoid risk to life or property.
- —Explore the creation of a Regional Water Authority to focus on both our region’s water supply and managing flood waters, including consistent dredging and channel improvements across the region and detention efforts across the region.
- —Within existing entities, explore the creation of local watershed districts to make sure our regional efforts are taking into account all effects (especially downstream) and that we are working smartly and efficiently at the local level.
An Economy That Works for Everyone
As our economy continues to change, supporting small businesses remains crucial to job creation. We need to make it easier for small businesses to succeed and to employ more people, and we have to strike the appropriate balance between regulations that allow our businesses to grow and thrive without red tape, and still protect our citizens and consumers from harmful or unlawful practices.
Regulation and protection are different sides of the same coin, and I will work in our community and with other across our country to find the right balance in Congress. This is where we have to come together as a community and a country to strike the right balance between Common Sense for businesses and Common Decency for our people.
We used to say in America that what is good for GM is good for America. But there also used to be a stronger social contract between labor and owners, where both shared more equitably in the profitability of business and in the prosperity of our country.
As wages, income, wealth, and power continue to migrate to and concentrate at the top, now more than any time in decades we need a strong and active labor movement to fight for and give a voice for fairer pay and treatment for our people.
The last time the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was raised was in 2009. Today, an adult with one child working 40 hours a week, for 52 weeks, at minimum wage, falls below the federal poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $9.25 immediately would lift a family of two out of poverty, and phasing an increase to $15 per hour over five years would start to allow for a more livable wage.
In talking with people around our district, the prevailing sense is that it defies Common Sense and Common Decency that someone working 40 hours a week would find themselves struggling to keep themselves and their families above the poverty line.
That’s wrong and we need to change it.
Discrimination and Equity in America
Right now in America, women make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. The numbers are even worse for minority women, with African American women earning only 64 cents to the dollar and Latina women earning only 55 cents to the dollar.
If women were paid $1 worth of wages for $1 worth of work – nothing more, nothing less – we would lift millions of families out of poverty. Approximately half of the households headed by women that are in poverty would rise out of poverty simply by paying women their fair and hard-earned wages.
Clearly, paying a person less simply because of their gender lacks both Common Decency and Common Sense. How can we banish millions of women and children to poverty simply by virtue of their gender? Why do we allow this to persist?
Similar types of discrimination in the workplace, education, criminal justice, healthcare, and financial systems affect entire communities of people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic status in America.
But we can’t address discrimination and inequity in silos. These corrosive actions and detrimental effects are interlinked and compounded for many people and communities, and they harm not only the victims of such actions, but also our communities and our country as a whole.
In Congress, I will work to engage our community and our country in taking an honest look at the systemic inequity and discrimination that continues to significantly harm and keep far too many Americans from fulfilling their natural abilities. And I will fight to remedy this discrimination so that our people – all of our people – are able to build a better life for themselves and their families and strengthen our communities and our country.
If we are to reaffirm America’s great promise as a land of opportunity for all people, then we should not discriminate anywhere based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
The ultimate sacrifice to our country is provided by our veterans. In Congress, I will fight to ensure that our veterans do not have their benefits cut, as this president and his administration have threatened to do several times in the first year alone.
Rather than end significant Common Sense programs that work to combat veteran homelessness or provide unemployment benefits to disabled veterans who cannot work, as this administration has proposed, I will work hard to ensure we treat our veterans with the Common Decency they have earned and keep our promises to our veterans and support them in getting the healthcare and support they need to lead long and full lives and contribute to their families, their communities, their work, and our country.
America is a nation of immigrants, built by people who journeyed here to provide a better life for themselves and their families. We need to protect the integrity of our borders and immigration procedures, but building a wall at great cost with little effect and deporting productive, law-abiding members of society lacks both Common Sense and Common Decency.
Instead we need to ensure that law-abiding immigrants don’t live under a constant threat of being split apart from their families and sudden deportation. It is harmful to these individuals and their families, as well as to our communities and our country as a whole.
In Congress, I will make comprehensive reform of our immigration system a priority. This reform won’t allow people who arrived or stayed here illegally to leapfrog others lawfully going through the immigration process, but it will provide a path to citizenship for many law-abiding people who are contributing to our communities and our country.
Early on in my campaign I publicly pledged to implement the DREAM Act. I received a response from one of my child’s teachers, explaining to me that he was a DACA beneficiary. He was gracious enough to share his story of fighting to be able to do his dream job
—to become a teacher. His story is the American story.
Let’s relight the flame of the Statue of Liberty and keep it burning brightly for all the world to see.
Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate, not just of any state, but of any country in the developed world. It defies Common Sense and Common Decency to close clinics and short-change healthcare providers that provide maternal care. And if we want to reduce and eliminate unwanted and unintended pregnancies we need to fund sex education and birth control. It’s just that simple.
I am firmly pro-choice, and I support every woman’s right to make medical decisions affecting her body without any interference of big government.
In matters of pregnancy, in particular, every woman should be able to seek the counsel of her faith, her family, and her medical professionals, without any interference from politicians, when deciding whether to choose to raise a child, choose adoption, or choose to end a pregnancy.
I also support the efforts and funding of Planned Parenthood. Access to prenatal care, preventive well woman exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, family planning services, and abortion services are critical care and services that all women should have access to so they can contribute fully to their families, their communities, their work, and our country.
I mentioned as part of my core values that what makes America truly exceptional is our people – all of our people – no exceptions. And I really do mean no exceptions.
Recently I spoke with a supporter who confided with me that his daughter and her wife were not moving back to Texas because of the bathroom bills being considered in Austin. She’s a highly trained doctor practicing academic medicine and looking at California or Florida exclusively because of the atmosphere in our state—the bathroom bill and the language coming out of Austin.
We cannot allow this hateful atmosphere to permeate and degrade our community. We need to stand up against discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and continue to work towards equality.
On a national level, we see the President trying to exclude transgender people from military service, despite the fact that transgender people are fighting to protect and to serve our nation right now.
In Congress, I will fight to ensure we honor every person fighting for our country, and support our military’s leadership in ending discrimination against any person based on whom they love or their gender identity.
If we are to reaffirm America’s great promise as a land of opportunity for all people, then we should not discriminate anywhere based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
I have seen the power of national service as a force for good through my work at Citizen Schools where recent college graduates join AmeriCorps and serve two years in low-income middle schools to expand the learning day for students.
Expanding National Service to allow any young American who wishes to serve our country do so will augment needed essential services, highlight career and community opportunities, and reweave our national fabric. It can also help pay for one to two years of college for the people who serve.
An expanded National Service will enhance essential services such as education and healthcare by training and supporting our young people’s service in early childhood centers, afterschool programs, summer programs, senior centers, community centers, clinics, and hospitals.
National Service will support our military at U.S. bases, and work with FEMA and in WPA-fashion to rebuild communities suffering from disasters and strengthen our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
Ideally, our young people will serve in a part of the country that is different than where they’re from, so we can breakdown stereotypes and connect our citizens across our country. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice,” and if we want our citizens to see beyond the two-dimensional stereotypes reflected in the media, then we need them to see and experience our great country and our great people for themselves.
Through National Service we can educate and train our young adults, help them understand the value of serving our country, provide and enhance essential services, and in so doing, bring our country closer together. This program can provide us with a win-win that will provide Common Sense solutions to enhancing essential service and expand our nation’s sense of Common Decency among and between our fellow Americans.
Common Sense gun safety legislation is long overdue in America. The horrific acts of gun violence can be stopped or reduced with simple, effective background checks that keep guns out of the hands of violent people.
In June of 2017, the Pew Research Center surveyed both Democrats and Republicans on issues of gun safety and over 75% of respondents in both parties supported the following legislation:
• Barring those who are mentally ill from purchasing firearms
• Barring those who are on either a terrorist watch or no-fly list from purchasing firearms
• Employing background checks for guns bought at private sales and gun shows
None of these proposals are about taking away anyone’s guns. Period. I support the Second Amendment. Period. We need representatives who are not afraid to stand up to the NRA and special interest groups, and who will instead work towards bipartisan, common sense gun safety legislation that makes America safer for us all.
I will work hard to protect our community from terrorists and the mentally unstable by implementing common sense background checks that keep them from purchasing guns that can kill people.
If you can’t pass a proper background check, then you shouldn’t be buying a gun. It’s just plain Common Sense.
Gerrymandering & Voting
When I see a map like ours in TX-02, it tells me our politicians believe that redistricting is all about politicians choosing their voters, instead of voters choosing our politicians. I believe that’s flat out wrong.
Districts like ours in TX-02 are meant to discourage and disenfranchise us, to tell us and our friends and families that our participation, and our votes, don’t matter.
We cannot let America be held hostage by politicians interested only in getting themselves re-elected. We have to send a message that gerrymandering is toxic to our democracy.
Additionally, we have to stop putting up obstacles and hurdles that prevent American citizens from voting. Nothing seems more anti-American than preventing an American citizen from exercising their constitutional right to vote. As the president’s disbanding of his own voter fraud commission clearly demonstrates, the completely bogus issue of voter fraud is not a threat to our elections or our democracy. What is a threat to our democracy is the disenfranchisement of American voters we see too many states working hard to achieve.
We need to encourage voter education and participation in our democracy.
In Congress, I will fight for Common Sense legislation that respects our democratic institutions and processes and encourages Independent Redistricting Commissions in the states and efficient voter registration so every American’s voice can be heard at the ballot box.
& Climate Change
Global warming is real, and anyone who endured the effects of 51" of rain in the TX-02 area knows it. The effects of global warming cannot be fully anticipated, but great swings in extreme or “weird” weather seem to be the new normal.
In Harris County, we’ve endured extreme weather the past three years that has severely flooded many parts of TX-02. In Harris County, we have over 90,000 homes built in floodplains. We can’t sit idly by while our representatives try to score empty political points that leave us under water.
Our community should lead the charge on how to take action, both protectively and proactively. First, and foremost, we need to protect our people and our property. Second, we need to ensure our infrastructure and future development and technologies are strong enough, resilient enough, and green enough to combat the effects of global warming and the extreme weather in this new normal.
Protectively, we need to work across party lines and with local, state and federal leaders to coordinate a Gulf Coast protection campaign to ensure the future of our vital coastline and the Port of Houston. We need protection along the lines of an Ike Dike or “coastal spine” to prevent massive hurricanes from severely crippling or destroying our Port and the vital national infrastructure that refines and provides America with significant percentages of gasoline, jet fuel military jet fuel, and plastics.
Proactively, the causes and effects of global warming are, clearly, global in nature, and we should elect leaders who will re-enter the Paris Agreement and support the development of the innovations and technologies we need for a greener and cleaner energy future across the globe. In our region, in particular, we need to provide significantly more transportation options for people than the one person per car model that has been the rule of the road for too long.
We also cannot make investments in infrastructure and development that are exclusively retrospective in nature. Our Common Sense tells us that with more extreme weather becoming the norm, we cannot gauge future stresses on our system exclusively on past events. While we cannot anticipate the great swings in extreme weather, we have to try and look, design, build, and prepare prospectively to protect against harm and damage from future events.
Our community is the Energy Capital of the world. As such, we have the particular interest, and expertise, to ensure that we’re the Green Energy Capital of the world, too. There’s more wind generation in Texas than anywhere in the country, and ample sunlight to generate solar electricity across our community and state. If we don’t want to go the way of Detroit’s Automotive Capital of the World, then plain Common Sense shows us that our region better lead and innovate new solutions to the growing energy needs of our world.
Houston put a man on the Moon, we can lead the way forward to a cleaner and greener Earth.