Radnofsky Talks

Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Barbara Ann Radnofsky Courts Austin

The good news for Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Barbara Ann Radnofsky: President Bush's approval ratings in Texas are at 42%, according to SurveyUSA. If Dubya's ratings are that low among the very people who catapulted his political career to the White House, you know he's screwing up.

Now the bad news: The same pollster shows incumbent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's approval rating at 58%, a number that has held steady for at least the past year, consistently hovering around 60%. Nonetheless, Radnofsky is hoping that Hutchison's unflagging support for the president will eventually pull that number down. Speaking to a handful of supporters at the Dandelion Cafe in East Austin on Monday, Radnofsky was hopeful that the way Hutchison "has tied herself to Bush" will turn into a boat anchor.

"What's happened in the last three months is even more dramatic than what happened after the hurricanes. There was before the hurricanes and after the hurricanes in terms of attitudes of people that this could be done, and there was a recognition of the cost of corruption in this society that has happened in Texas. But in the last three months, somewhat corresponding with Bush's decline in the polls … what I've seen, is that everyplace I go … there's a true feeling in this state that things have got to change. There's a groundswell of discomfort and discontent."

Elsewhere in the nation, trying to counter those poll numbers, Bush again pulled out one of his few remaining weapons, gay bashing, with a renewed call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. (At press time, the proposal was defeated in the Senate.) Radnofsky tackled that and the Republicans' other distraction issue, immigration, during a Q&A session with attendees. Obviously still mindful of which state she is trying to represent, she treaded cautiously.

"I haven't heard a cogent explanation [of how gay marriage threatens traditional marriage]," Radnofsky said, "but what I have heard is that people have religious feelings about it. And it is not my place to attack someone's closely held religious beliefs. … But what I can find is common ground. And let me tell you the common ground on that issue: It's why President Bush, and John Kerry, and I think every major candidate has endorsed and supported civil unions. When we have civil unions we have order in society. When we have order in society, we have partners who are able to get the health care they want at the doctor's office as preventive care instead of going to the emergency room and being a burden on society." Radnofsky emphasized that she does not support the constitutional ban on gay marriage that Bush is pushing (and that Hutchison supports).

On the other big scapegoat of the moment, undocumented immigrants, Radnofsky said, "A wall won't work. Sen. Hutchison just voted for 327 miles of wall, partially in California and Arizona. … Even [Homeland Security Secretary] Michael Chertoff derides such proposals as costing billions and not workable. …

"We must have a system where they can register, and the only way to get folks to register and come forward is to give them a path to citizenship. It's flat-out the only way. The proposals to round them up and send them home, which is what Sen. Hutchison has said – again, derided by Michael Chertoff as costing billions – we're talking a 4-to-5-billion [dollars]-a-year effort that won't work."

But Radnofsky wouldn't make that path an easy one: It would have to be "arduous," she said. When asked to define that word, she said, "There's no reason not to require English to be learned. And keep your nose clean … completely. Pay a fine. And be here for a sufficient period of time that you're recognized as no risk." And what would be a sufficient period? "Well, people are waiting 20 years now. There's no harm in making them wait seven to 12 to 20 years. And make them stand in line behind … those who are legally waiting."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Barbara RadnofskyU.S. Senate, Barbara Radnofsky, Kay Bailey Hutchison, George W. Bush, immigration, gay marriage, Michael Chertoff

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