Six for CD 10

Dem primary candidates contend at Pct. 149 forum

Thanks to the Wooten, Highland, and Skyview neighborhood Democrats,* the six candidates running for the CD 10 Democratic primary nomination appeared Sunday afternoon at the Austin Film Society theater. Remarkably, on a frigid Sunday afternoon, about 100 people attended.

Left to right: Matt Harris, Tami Walker, Madeline Eden, Kevin Nelson, Tawana Walter-Cadien, Mike Siegel

Although seven candidates originally filed for the opportunity to challenge GOP Rep. Michael McCaul in November, one (Richie DeGrow) has since dropped out, while another (Kevin Nelson) who hadn’t had an online presence, has begun to actively campaign. On the basic Democratic issues – health care, education, immigration, equity – there was not much daylight between the candidates, with the differences mostly in emphasis and nuance.

In the two-hour forum, the candidates introduced themselves, spoke on signature issues, and then spent time meeting audience members.

A few notes on the candidates:

Matt Harris is a chemical engineer, originally from Florida but has lived in Austin for 32 years. He volunteered for the campaign of state Rep. Donna Howard, and long before that for former Austin City Council member Beverly Griffith. Striking a common Dem theme against national political trends, he said, “We can do way better with government than we are now.” Harris called health care “the ultimate intersectional issue,” and said he supports the Bernie Sanders bill that would move toward “Medicare-for-All.” On gun control, he emphasized better mental health services (as part of insurance) and the “larger argument” that “rights come with responsibilities.” He also advocated a “clean DACA bill” as well as comprehensive immigration reform.

Tami Walker grew up in the Panhandle and came to college in Austin and eventually UT-Law School, making a career as an attorney in the energy and infrastructure industries. She lived in Austin and Houston, and has been a military wife, a single mom, and a member of the “sandwich generation” raising children and caring for her parents. She emphasized health care (Medicare-for-All), support for Planned Parenthood and rural hospitals, and broader regulation of pharmaceutical companies. She advocated universal background checks for gun purchases and better mental health services, and also supports passing the Dream Act for “a nation of immigrants.”

Madeline Eden is a programmer, with a business based in Bastrop and working for some years on blockchain technology, which she believes will eventually provide more secure voting systems. She’s also accepting “25 forms of cryptocurrency” as campaign contributions. She said members of Congress should have the same health care as their constituents, and advocated gradual introduction of Medicare-for-All and caps on prescription drug prices. She noted that immigrants should be welcome, but added that “to win this district” candidates should advocate improved border security with technology, not walls. She has a concealed handgun license, and supports the Second Amendment, but would close the gunshow loophole and add a voluntary blockchain registry for firearms. “To win this district, you can’t say you’ll take people’s guns away.”

Kevin Nelson has worked in publishing and taught at Austin Community College, and has degrees from UT-Austin and Texas A&M in physics, and a Ph.D in philosophy from Stanford. He says his motivation for running was the election of Donald Trump: “What can I do to stand up and make things better.” He noted the common themes of all the candidates, and advocated expanding Medicaid as well as steadily lowering the age limit on Medicare, along with a public option on insurance. He advocated “commonsense regulation” of guns, calling himself a “Second Amendment Democrat.” He supports DACA and expanding legal immigration, calling Trump’s border wall “a monument to ignorance.”

Tawana Walter-Cadien is a registered nurse from Cypress, and has run and lost against McCaul three times, beginning in 2012. She traces her activism to her days at Prairie View University, where she joined other students in fighting for voting rights. She strongly advocates for universal health care coverage, and she traced the history of discrimination against immigrants to the 1924 Immigration Act aimed at excluding Italians and Eastern Europeans, “founded in hatred and supported by the Ku Klux Klan.” She told the audience, “Don’t fall for the propaganda, gun control is not about confiscation, it’s about public safety,” and praised her daughters for their “Kids Care” nonprofit that reached out personally to the families of Sandy Hook. “I don’t believe,” she concluded, “that a regular American citizen needs an assault rifle.”

Mike Siegel is an assistant city attorney in Austin who has also been a public schoolteacher and a union rep. He supports public education and opposes privatization, and in his current work has defended whistleblowers and women against discrimination, and has sued the state six times, notably against the “anti-sanctuary city” SB 4. “I go to City Hall, I sue Gov. Abbott, and I go home,” he joked. His campaign goal is to “to take back District 10 from Michael McCaul.” He supports the Sanders bill (Medicare-for-All) and a “fundamental right” to health care that would preclude secondary fights over legislative details – and noted his support as well for the “paid sick day” ordinance under consideration at Council. He noted McCaul’s committee supervision of ICE, and said, “A civil immigration offense shouldn’t be a death penalty for a family.” On gun control, he distinguished civilian and military weaponry, and said any Congress member should “stand up to the NRA” and support commonsense regulations.

Each candidate said they would support whichever nominee emerges from the primary, and all except Nelson said they would refuse all “corporate” PAC campaign donations (Nelson said he would refuse funding from the energy and healthcare industries). Asked about their potential “ground games,” all said they would rely heavily on volunteers and anticipate a “blue wave” to develop over the year. Siegel noted he would be reaching out to all the Indivisible groups, and Eden said she would share her data and work on election security.

The sponsors (as a group, Travis County Democrats Precinct 149*) have posted a recording of the forum on their Facebook page. The forum will also be re-broadcast on KOOP 91.7FM ( on People United Friday, 2/16 and 2/23 at 1pm.

*Correction: The post originally identified Indivisible Austin as a sponsor of the forum, in error. It has been corrected accordingly.

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Primary Election 2018, Congressional District 10

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