National security, health care highlight Democrats’ policy (w/video)

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Feb. 12, 2018 at 10:36 p.m.
Updated Feb. 13, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Democratic candidate for Congressional District 27 Ronnie McDonald answers a question during a forum at University of Houston-Victoria. From left, Raul "Roy" Barrera, Vanessa Edwards Foster and Eric Holguin wait for their turn.

Democratic candidate for Congressional District 27 Ronnie McDonald answers a question during a forum at University of Houston-Victoria. From left, Raul "Roy" Barrera, Vanessa Edwards Foster and Eric Holguin wait for their turn.   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

Hurricane Harvey, immigration and national security threats were among topics debated by Democratic candidates hoping to fill the Congressional seat in District 27.

On Monday, the candidates shared their thoughts about issues at the University of Houston-Victoria North building.

Candidates vying for a win in the Democratic primary are Eric Holguin or Raul "Roy" Barrera, both of Corpus Christi; Ronnie McDonald, of Bastrop; or Vanessa Edwards Foster, of Houston.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Foster, who has worked as an activist lobbying on behalf of transgender citizens, said that campaign contributions from foreign governments are a critical concern for the nation. If political action committees don't turn over their lists of donors, it's difficult to trace exactly who is donating the funding, she said.

Similarly, Holguin expressed concerns about other foreign countries that may be trying to erode the country's democracy. He also spoke against engaging with North Korea via tweets and instead urged working with allies like Japan, South Korea and China to pressure the regime.

Barrera, who ran for the seat in 2016, said he also wanted to push North Korea to stop its nuclear program. The former Robstown police officer said he also wanted to make borders more secure.

On the other hand, McDonald, who served as Bastrop County judge for 14 years, said fear is the biggest threat to national security. People isolate themselves if they are afraid and don't communicate.

IMMIGRATION

When asked about what to do about immigration, candidates were supportive of saving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and against building the wall.

"We're America," said Holguin. "We're a caring country."

Holguin said the money to build a wall could be better invested in technology to monitor the border.

"We have many assets that make us strong," he said.

McDonald agreed, saying that building a physical barrier would separate the country and pull people apart.

Foster, meanwhile, was concerned about how the government is seizing land from local residents. Property owners are losing their land and not being fairly compensated for it, she said.

HEALTH CARE

Similarly, candidates said all Americans should have a right to health care, with two candidates supporting a single-payer system similar to Medicare for all.

Holguin said he wants to expand Medicare by lowering age requirements to cover more adults. He said he wants to eventually bridge the gap between children and seniors so all people are covered.

Foster was also supportive of Medicare for all, saying that she wasn't happy that insurance companies benefited under the Affordable Care Act.

McDonald also said that everyone should have health care - especially pre-screening tests and regular check-ups to prevent costly ER visits.

Barrera, who emphasized his ability to work across the aisle with Republican members of Congress, said lawmakers needed to work together to make insurance affordable. They should also examine fraud in the system, he said.

HURRICANE HARVEY

If elected, Barrera said he would organize a team to survey Harvey's aftermath and figure out why it has taken so long to get aid from the federal government. Barrera said some residents were left without homes and forced to sleep in cars and tents.

"I would take action and talk to local and federal governments as to why these people haven't been helped," said Barrera.

Foster, meanwhile, said she would begin a congressional inquiry into the Federal Emergency Management Agency if elected to audit exactly how it spent funding.

Similarly, Holguin said FEMA should be examined and restructured. He said he didn't understand why it's taken so long to get help to families hurt by the hurricane.

"It's bureaucracy," said Holguin. "It's red tape."

McDonald, who was serving as Bastrop county judge when a 2011 fire scorched 34,000 acres and killed two people, said he knows how to bring people together to recover after disasters. To prepare, communities must have an emergency plan that outlines exactly what schools, churches, federal officials and local governments do in the event of a disaster.


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