TCU NAACP hosted a political panel discussion with several state legislature and congressional candidates Thursday.
The panel discussion focused on the importance of voting and local politics. The candidates also talked about the focus of their campaigns.
“We are doing this to make sure that students know about the Tarrant County elections,” said Gabrielle McBay, president of TCU’s chapter of the NAACP.
“U.S. presidential elections are always important, but what’s going on in our local cities is important because those people will be making decisions for us,” McBay said.
Five candidates for office attended the panel discussion. Three are candidates for the state legislature and two are in races for the U.S. House of Representatives.
All candidates who attended are running on the Democratic ticket. McBay said TCU NAACP invited Tarrant County Republicans, but they were unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
The candidates commonly expressed the importance of voting itself, as well as voting among a variety of choices and candidates.
“I believe nobody, no candidate, should run unopposed,” said Dave Robinson, TCU graduate and candidate for the 12th Congressional District in Texas. “Kay Granger needed to have an opponent. Nobody stepped forward, so I did.”
“North Tarrant County has been so Republican for so long that I felt like it was undemocratic not to at least have an option,” said Shane Hardin, who is running for state representative in the 93rd District.
“You should vote because voting is how resources are allocated in America,” said Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks, who was also in attendance.
“Communities that vote, get stuff,” said Brooks. “Communities that don’t vote, get [billions] cut out of their education budget; they get women’s health programs decimated; they get tremendous rises in the costs of higher education.”
Several candidates also expressed concern about recent state cuts in education and health services funding.
“We’ve lost so much money toward our public education system,” said Nicole Collier, who is running for state representative in the 95th District.
Many Fort Worth ISD schools have been rated unacceptable, Collier said.
“How are we going to attract jobs and businesses to Texas if our schools are failing?” she asked the audience.
“There are so many people who rely on Planned Parenthood for their only medical needs,” Collier said of state budget cuts to Planned Parenthood.
“We have to have legislatures who are going to take a stand for people like me who relied on Planned Parenthood when they were growing up, before they had health insurance,” she said.
The candidates also talked about the difficulties of running a campaign.
“People don’t want to put their name behind somebody they don’t think is going to win,” said Gary Grassia, state representative candidate for TCU’s district, the 97th District. “It’s hard to run a campaign on little nickels and dimes.”
“There are two ways to win an election: one with money, the other with troops,” said Brooks. “Organization will beat money, but it takes a lot of outreach with individuals and groups.”
Brooks, an African-American who grew up in Fort Worth during the civil rights movement, reflected on the importance of political activism.
“I remember walking the streets and handing out literature for more losing candidates than you ever thought existed,” said Brooks to audience laughter.
“But it was a matter of idealism,” Brooks said. “If you worked hard enough at it, and you believed hard enough in it, that you could make it happen. That’s how my political activism came about.”
TCU NAACP members said they enjoyed the panel discussion.
“I liked that each of the candidates explained why voting is important,” said Keijuanna ‘Kee-Kee’ Jackson, who is secretary for TCU’s NAACP chapter.
About 15 to 20 people attended the discussion.
“I wish more people would have come out,” Jackson said of the attendance numbers.