to national press handicapping the 5th District as one likely to fall to the Republicans in 1996. \(Charles Cook, writing recently in Washington’s Roll Call, described the Democratic claim on Texas’ The judicial . redistricting also created “special elections,” open to all corners. But Pouland’s chances recently received a boost when Democrat William Foster, defeated in the Democratic primary, who had registered to run again, instead withdrew and endorsed Pouland. That left only two candidates in the race, and eliminated the possibility of Democrats splitting their votes or a December runoff. Pouland and Sessions will face each other directly over the political future of the 5th District. However, by eliminating straight-ticket voting in the special elections they created, the federal judges also provided a likely advantage to Republicans running in traditionally Democratic East Texas. Thus far, the campaign rhetoric has been mostly unremarkable, as reflected in an eye-glazing recent headline, “Candidates for 5th District seat favor balancing federal budget.” Pressed a bit, the candidates are eager to make distinctions. Pouland says the crucial question is “how we balance the budgetwhose ox gets gored.” He has opposed corporate welfare and tax loopholes for the wealthy, and he emphasizes his differences with the current Republican Congress. “My opponent supported the Gingrich budget,” said Pouland, “that would increase out-of-pocket Medicare costs as well as premiums for seniors, and would cut education funding, and would provide a tax cut for some Americans who don’t need it.” Pouland says he wants to “share the pain” of balancing the budget, “and not make it a political payback for special interest groups….That’s the most fundamental division between us right now.” “Sessions,” adds Pouland, “believes in supply-side economics, and I do not. He supports Newt Gingrich and I do not. He’s pro-life, and I’m pro-choice.” Stealing a bit of Republican thunder, Pouland has also come out strongly in favor of term limitsincluding term limits for federal judgesand declares that if elected, he will stay in Congress no longer than six years. Of his opponent he says simply, “He’s going to be Bob Dole on taxes, and Pat Buchanan on immigration.” In his 1994 campaign, Sessions ran hard against the Clinton health care plan, attacked Bryant viciously for supporting what Sessions described as “the gay rights agenda,” and signed on with Dick Armey’s 17-percent flat tax. This year he’s taking his cues from the Dole/Kemp campaign, calling the Dole 15-percent tax cut “the number one issue.” “The most important thing the people of this district need,” Sessions told the Observer, “is a tax cut, so that the money that they’ve worked for, they can put back in their own pocket….A tax cut is what we need…” Asked if that also meant that he supportedas a way of getting more money into the pockets of votersan increase in the minimum wage, Sessions answered, “I am absolutely opposed to an increase in the minimum wage.” More remarkable than his position was his reasoning: “These people [of the 5th district] don’t make the minimum wage. These people get up and go to work every day, and have jobs they’ve been working for many, many years. The number of people who make the minimum wage is not predominant in the district.” By way of elaboration, Sessions described his campaign as addressed to “middle-class” Texans, although his definition of the term seemed moral rather than economic: ‘Middle-class’ is what we’re talking about. I define middle-class as a husband and wife, children. I would define the middle-class as people who get up and go to work every day. I would define the middle-class as somebody who has a hope and dream of trying to make himself better, and willing to go to work and get it done.” \(For the record, the percapita annual income of Sessions’ district is just over $11,000; the Sessions says he is not concerned that the Dole tax-cut plan has not as yet resulted in a dramatic improvement in Dole’s own popularity: “The people in this district support the tax cut ., whether or not they like Dole or Clinton.” He believes the federal budget, even with the tax cut, can be balanced with additional cuts in expenditures. Sessions said he would abolish the Departments of Education and Commerce, because “they’ve outlived their usefulness and their mission. We don’t need somebody in Washington telling Texans what to do.” Ditto for immigration reform: saying he supports Governor Bush on the issue, Sessions said many legal immigrants, who expect to be hurt by the pending withdrawal of federal assistance, will be helped by the Republicans, because “many of them work for a living, and they need a tax cut.” Saying only that he supports “fair tradewhat’s good for [other countries] is good for us,” Sessions declined to take a positiOn On NAFTA or GATT. Similarly, although he has campaigned as “prolife,” Sessions was reluctant to say he was opposed to all abortions. I’m on the right side of the ledger, which is to ‘say I’m prolife…. The issues relating to abortion are this: am I for parental notificationthat answer is yes; I am not for funding abortions with tax-payer dollars; and I would vote that partial-birth or late-term abortions should not be legal.” Sessions’ campaign position was considerably enhanced by the judicial redrawing of his district, but he says the federal courts which otherwise should not do soonly intervened after the Legislature refused to act. He says he supports the idea of minority representation in Congress. “I have a strong desire for minority representation; my wife is Hispanic, and she understands the need of free people to have free elections. The bottom line is that I do not believe, and she does not believe, and most Texans do not believe, that lines should be drawn based upon the color of a person’s skin.” The outcome of the 5th District election may well be crucial to the Democrats’ hopes of regaining a majority in the House. Party spokesman Joe Cutbirth calls the race a “bellwether” for the party’s grassroots campaign in Texas, and says Pouland’s experience as a “retail campaigner” will make the difference. “We feel very comfortable,” said Cutbirth, “in saying that John’s going to win that seat.” “MY OPPONENT SUPPORTED THE GINGRICH BUDGET,” SAID POULAND, “THAT WOULD INCREASE OUT-OF-POCKET MEDICARE COSTS AS WELL AS PREMIUMS FOR SENIORS, AND WOULD CUT EDUCATION FUNDING, AND WOULD PROVIDE A TAX CUT FOR SOME AMERICANS WHO DON’T NEED IT.” 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER II, 1996
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