Pete Sessions says experience sets him apart in congressional race
This story ran originally as part of KBTX's Your Vote Counts: Campaigns and Coronavirus special report. Watch the special in the video player on this page.
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - COVID-19 has changed our lives, from how we interact to our political process. The District 17 Congressional race, currently in a runoff that will be determined July 14, has felt the impacts of the pandemic. KBTX’s Fallon Appleton spent a day on the campaign trail with each candidate vying to be District 17′s next voice in Congress.
Republican Pete Session is a familiar name in politics. He represented North Texas in Congress for more than 20 years. Now, the Waco native is hoping for a second trip to Washington, but this time representing the town where he was born.
“I had three county chairmen from counties that I had previously represented and another one local call me and say, ‘If you will please consider moving back home, back to Waco, Texas, Central Texas, where you grew up, where you threw a paper route from second to eighth grade, where you received your Eagle Scout award,‘” said Republican congressional candidate Pete Sessions.
“[In] about 40% of the district that I have previously represented, a vast number of people encouraged me to do this,” he furthered.
However, Sessions encountered an unlikely opponent this spring, COVID-19.
I asked Sessions if there was anything he would improve or change about how the coronavirus response has been handled, and he said that he is more concerned with the future than how things have played out in the past.
“Well, what I would say is that what lies ahead is the real battle. My experience tells me that we should not call everyone’s loans in and that we should find a way for the federal government, including regulators, to be wise in their judgment. We do not need the government, nor do the banks need, to own excessive amounts of property. In the long run, it would be better if we work through this and that will require stable, conservative, pro-business leadership.”
Currently, one group facing a battle are rural hospitals.
“Texas leads the nation in rural hospital closures, and 26 Texas rural hospital closures (permanently or temporarily) have occurred in 22 communities since the beginning of 2010,” according to the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals.
The pandemic has not helped these rural hospitals, who were already facing financial hardship. At the beginning of May, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller made an appeal nationwide on behalf of struggling rural hospitals. I asked Mr. Sessions about rural hospitals, and he did not share the same level of concern as Miller.
“I think a lot of these areas have been spared from heavy consequences. Most people in this district, many of them are working, outside, healthy people, and we have avoided anything near a collapse. Waco, Texas is not in the center of this COVID problem. We are finding that the hospitals here are not anywhere near handling the threshold that places them in danger.”
Even though Sessions and Commissioner Miller don’t share the same views on the state of rural hospitals, Sessions still values the importance and health of the farming and ranching communities.
“The health and safety not only of our products, of our herds, but also of our people and the community. Farming and ranching is a hard business, and in my past and as a Farm Bureau member, I’m well aware, and my votes in Congress have a 100% voting record for the Texas Farm Bureau needs over all my years. I will tell you that we have to support them in overseas trade. We have to build products and services in markets that are overseas and if we do that our products are the best in the world.”
In the past few months, campaigning has taken a new form because of the pandemic. Instead of attending events and shaking hands, Sessions is sticking to safety protocols and limiting to small gatherings and face masks.
“I’ve always been a hands-on person, who went talked to people, engaged people, listen to people, and it has made things difficult. But I think also there is a strong understanding as we have seen this battle play out in Washington about some people who did some right things and some people who did some wrong things. One of the strongest parts of my candidacy is that I will be there to help defeat Nancy Pelosi and returns Republicans to the majority. I not only know how to do this, but I have an understanding of how you fight. And you have seen Democrats in Washington at a time of national disaster throw in their pet projects that had nothing to do with emergencies.”
When I visited Mr. Sessions and his campaign at their headquarters in Waco, he hosted a small round table and discussed topics regarding the district and the country’s future as we begin to reopen. They also discussed other topics, including term limits.
Sessions told the group, “stability, as opposed to chaos, is always what the United States and the business community and Wall Street and employers are after. The question is do they want the sexier guy that’s going to leave? Do they want an unpowerful Congressman against somebody that just runs them over?”
If elected as the District 17 Congressman, Sessions told me he sees himself on the Finacial Services Committee.
“The financial services committee is going to be the powerhouse committee this next year that will be looking at not only the three trillion dollars that was spent, under which the avenues of treasury and small business, SBA, gave out these loans. I am not for trying to wreck the economy or ruin the free enterprise system. So, I think I will find myself directly in the line of fire representing the interests not only of the 17th Congressional District but taxpayers in the United States.”
For more information on Pete Sessions’ campaign, click here.
There are a couple of things you need to know before casting your vote. If you voted in a party’s primary in March, you can only vote in that party’s runoff.
Early voting begins on June 29, and election day is July 14.
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