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An interview with Rep. Martin Frost

Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Rep. Martin Frost, who is running in a highly contested and closely watched race in the new 32nd Congressional District against Republican Rep. Pete Sessions. The interview is beneath the More link.

My fellow Texas blogger Byron LaMasters of the Burnt Orange Report had the same opportunity that I did to ask Rep. Frost a few questions, and his interview is now up. We tried not to overlap too much on our questions, but you may see a rerun or too in there, so don’t be alarmed.

So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Rep. Martin Frost:

CK: How do you plan to win in November in a district that was drawn to be unfriendly to Democrats?

MF: The people in the 32nd District are well informed, civic minded and trust their common sense. They want a Congressman who can work with a wide group of people with different perspectives and not someone who is blindly ideological and simply follows the directions of party leaders in Washington. I have a proven record of coalition building and fighting for issues and projects that are most important to North Texas. I’m an independent thinker who is not afraid to standup to either party’s leaders in order to protect those I represent. I will run a strong grassroots campaign that will include neighborhoods and voting blocks that have not been included in other campaigns. I plan on organizing every precinct in the 32nd district. And, with the help of your readers and many others, I will raise the funds necessary to compete with the money DeLay and others will funnel to my opponent.

CK: As we all know, several of your colleagues (Charlie Stenholm, Nick Lampson, Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, and to a lesser degree Lloyd Doggett) are in similar straits. Are you coordinating your campaigns in any way? How much help do you think you can give each other?

MF: The Texas Democratic Delegation has always taken great pride in working together and helping each other on issues important to our State. Texas Democrats share the same goals of creating new jobs and keeping our country safe and strong. We are all independent thinkers who don’t run from a fight. When Tom DeLay forced the Texas Legislature to redraw Congressional District lines, he thought we would all simply walk away and let him decide who would represent Texas in Congress. We decided to stand and fight. The people, not Tom DeLay or his followers, will decide who serves them in Congress.

CK: Rep. Marcy Kaptur has been credited for getting a viable Democrat on the ballot for each of the Ohio Congressional seats which are currently held by Republicans. I know the districts are strongly tilted one way or another, but it’s disappointing to see so many Republicans running against token or no opposition in Texas – CDs 10, 14, and 23 in particular come to mind. What must Democrats do to get more and better challengers on the ballot? What role can incumbent Democratic Conrgesspeople play in this?

MF: I’m a baseball fan, so I will answer this with a baseball analogy. We cannot afford to swing wildly at every pitch hoping for a homerun. We need to pick our pitches carefully, hit singles and doubles and run bases aggressively. Winning the key congressional and state house races will strike a major blow to Tom DeLay and the most extreme elements of the Republican Party and will set the stage for Texas fielding and electing statewide office holders in 2006 and 2010. Mainstream Democrats more accurately reflect the views of average Texans. We must win these highly competitive congressional and state house races to give voice to mainstream Democratic points of view.

CK: You were an early supporter of Gen. Wesley Clark for the Democratic nomination. What role would you like to see him play in the Presidential race from here?

MF: I would like to see General Clark and other national Democrats out on the stump as much as possible. General Clark is a strong reminder that Democrats not only believe in a strong national defense and successful military but have one of the our most distinguished military leaders within the ranks of our Party.

CK: How would you assess the Democrats’ odds of recapturing the House? The party’s overall strategy in 2002 was to emphasize issues like education and prescription drugs while attempting to take terrorism and the Bush tax cuts “off the table”. Do you believe that was the right message? What kind of message should the Democrats have this time around?

MF: Instead of trying to predict the number of seats we’ll have, Democrats should stay focused on our message of growing the economy, providing security for our people, and improving healthcare and education. I’ll leave it to the odds-makers to try to predict the future. I do know that if average Americans really focus on what is at stake for our country, not only for this generation but for those to come, and show up at the polls and vote their convictions, Democrats will do just fine.

CK: You are touting your support for the No Child Left Behind law in your campaign. There seems now to be a lot of discontent with how this law is being executed, especially with the level of funding for it (see, for example) and with the constraints it puts on local school boards. How do you address the critics of NCLB, especially the Democratic ones?

MF: The No Child Left Behind Law is a good first step, and the next step should be to provide appropriate funding. We should always keep evaluating and improving important laws like this to make sure they address the real needs in education.

CK: In defending the re-redistricting of 2003 and its intent to oust incumbents such as yourself, Republicans often bring up the 1991 redistricting effort, which is cited as a prime example of partisan gerrymandering, in this case to the Democrats’ benefit. How do you respond to that?

MF: Their response is not only a feeble attempt to change the subject, but an inaccurate one. First, the map the Republicans redrew last year was not the 1991 map, but a fair and balanced plan drawn by the federal court. Second, the 1991 map was drawn immediately following the 1990 Census and did not require unprecedented changes in the legislative rules or arm-twisting from Washington. And third, while Democrats did draw a fairly bizarre looking map in 1991, it was not designed to eliminate Republicans. In fact, the 1991 map created three new minority districts while providing safe districts for every single Republican incumbent. Conversely, the GOP map just passed eliminated a minority district in North Texas and was drawn with the intent of eliminating as many as seven Democrats overall. GOP talk of the 1991 redistricting is simply a smokescreen.

CK: Tom DeLay has been in the news quite a bit lately, as allegations that he was involved in illegally funnelling corporate money to Republican candidates in 2002 are being investigated by a Travis County grand jury, among other things. Do you believe that these charges have weakened him at all? Do you plan on making DeLay an issue in your campaign? If so, how much of an issue should he be, in Texas and elsewhere?

MF: It is important to keep a spotlight on this issue, because the people have the right to know if their elected officials involved with questionable activities. I’m not running against Tom DeLay, but I have been an effective advocate for voters and have been willing to stand up to him when others ignored his extremism or actively avoided it. Tom DeLay fears independent thinkers and fighters. I am both.

CK: The Democratic Party has done quite a bit of outreach via the Internet recently, including weblogs – the DCCC, DSCC, DNC, and Texas Democratic Party all have them. Your campaign is now advertising on blogs. What has been your experience with blogs so far? Do you see them as being part of a viable long-term strategy? How much impact have blogs had on you and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership?

MF: Blogs are a great resource to connect into a group of people who care about the important issues of today. It is clear that a whole new dimension of political communication has evolved, and keeping up with and participating in it is absolutely necessary to stay in touch with public concerns.

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