According to CEO Evan Smith, more than 7,000 people registered for this year’s Texas Tribune festival. The level of interest was no doubt bolstered by the amount of high-profile speakers who agreed to participate, including former Massachusetts governor. Deval Patrick, Democratic nominee for Texas governor. Lupe Valdez, civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, and congressman Beto O’Rourke.
Story by Chad Lyle
Photos by Jordan Steyer
ORANGE Magazine sat in on important discussions featuring well-known speakers.
One-on-One with Deval Patrick
The former Massachusetts Governor made the appearance this weekend amidst rumors that he’s considering a presidential run. Over the course of an hour Saturday morning, Politico reporter Jake Sherman conducted a wide ranging interview with Patrick that covered a range of topics from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to what the Democratic party’s message needs to be going forward.
On Kavanaugh, Patrick said the nominee came off poorly during his testimony on Thursday regarding the sexual assault allegation made against him by Christine Blasey Ford. “What I saw was an intemperate, belligerent, entitled nominee,” Patrick said. “He thought he was entitled to sit on the United States Supreme Court.”
Patrick was also asked where he stands on some of policy debates within the Democratic party, such as implementing a Medicare for All healthcare system.
“Medicare for All is a fantastic idea,” Patrick said. “For some people, there’s Medicare for All alongside a private market, some people (support) Medicare for All instead of a private market. But the notion of everybody having access to affordable care, is that left or right? To me that’s just.”
One-on-One with Lupe Valdez
Lupe Valdez is a former Dallas Sheriff and the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. She spoke to Tribune journalist Patrick Svitek about her platform and her debate the previous night with incumbent governor Greg Abbott.
One of the topics that came up in the debate was Abbott’s proposition that some public school teachers should be armed in order to prevent school shootings. Valdez told Svitek she did not support the idea.
“First of all, I’ve worn a gun for over 40 years, it’s been part of my profession.” Valdez said. “As officers we are trained, and we have to qualify every year to make sure that we can handle a weapon appropriately.” Valdez added that she didn’t want teachers taking on the extra responsibility of protecting students from armed intruders. “Teachers were meant to teach, they weren’t supposed to be law enforcement.”
Valdez also shared her experience disciplining an employee for sexual misconduct in the workplace as Dallas County Sheriff. “I fired a gentleman for blatant sexual harassment,” she said. “A female sergeant said to me ‘I’m so glad you fired that guy, he’s been doing this for years,’ and I literally got angry with her and said ‘why didn’t you do something about it? Why didn’t you bring up a statement? Why didn’t you charge him?’ She said ‘we did, time and time and time again, and they would just move him down the line.’ Let me tell you, that kind of action has got to stop.”
Valdez continued that sexual harassment would not be tolerated in her administration if elected governor. “If anyone was found guilty of sexual harassment, they’d better resign or they’re going to wish they had,” she said.
One-on-One with DeRay McKesson
The civil rights activist and prominent face in the Black Lives Matter movement spoke at an event open to the public about raising awareness of police misconduct and getting young people to be more politically active.
“The best activism is organized storytelling,” McKesson told the audience. He added that a lot of young voters are disaffected because they don’t believe that voting leads to meaningful change. “I think about myself,” he said. “I voted my entire life, I got tear gassed, pepper sprayed, shot at by rubber bullets, dragged out of the police department by my ankles, and voting wasn’t the thing that stopped those things.”
McKesson said voting needs to be viewed as one element to bring about change, but not the only method of doing so. “It’s like we’re trying to build a house and we’ve got to build a house with a full toolkit. Voting is one of the tools, being in the street is one of the tools, running for office is one of the tools.”
Closing Keynote with Beto O’Rourke
Before introducing O’Rourke, the festival’s closing act and a Democratic senate challenger who has received much fanfare and media attention, Evan Smith noted that the candidate’s race against Ted Cruz has been called a toss up by reputable polling institutions in spite of the fact that a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide election in Texas since 1994.
After O’Rourke came on stage, he said the enthusiasm surrounding his campaign wasn’t just about him. “The fact that people are energized not around who they dislike, not the other party that they want to defeat, but the great things we can accomplish if we put our minds to it, that’s what’s animating this campaign,” he said. “If I’m honest about it, I recognize that it’s not about the candidate, it’s certainly not about the party, it’s about Texas right now.”
When Smith asked O’Rourke if he identified more with the progressive wing or the establishment wing of the Democratic party, O’Rourke said he was more concerned with representing issues that Texans care about. “I place myself in Texas,” O’Rourke said. “The things that you hear me talking about on the trail are reflections of what people have shared with me that they want to see us do.”