Interview with Neil Durrance, Candidate for U.S. House - District 26

Date 2009/11/13 4:10:00 | Topic: The Editor's Column

Neil Durrance

District 26

Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress, Neil Durrance will be speaking in Lewisville this coming Sunday, November 15th 11:30 AM at Abuelo’s restaurant – 2520 Stemmons Freeway. The public is invited. Food and drinks will not be provided but are available for purchase.

So in advance of his visit, we thought we’d ask a few questions so that those of you who may not know Neil can get some background. Hopefully you’ll take some time to go meet him on Sunday, November 15th.

Neil is running for the seat currently held by Michael Burgess (R, Lewisville) in the 26th district of Texas, which encompasses most of Denton County (including most of Lewisville) a good sized chunk of central Tarrant County, and the Eastern half of Cooke County.

Durrance, 53, has previously served two terms on the Denton City Council, and ran unsuccessfully for Denton County Commissioner in 1991. Most recently he served two years as the Chairman of the Denton Democratic Party, where he presided over the largest political convention in Denton County history, and recruited the largest slate of candidates for the Democratic Party in years. (Full disclosure, the interviewer helped.)

A long-time citizen of Denton, Durrance holds a B.S. in political science from UNT and a law degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from law school in 1981, Neil began his legal career in Texarkana, Texas where he practiced before both the Texas and Arkansas bars. He has also been admitted to appear before the United States Supreme Court, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and US Eastern, Southern, and Northern District Courts. Durrance has operated his own general law practice in Denton since 1988.

Durrance says he is an active member of his church and community, and that he stands for justice, personal responsibility, and professional integrity.

WhosPlayin: Thanks for taking the time for us today.

With today’s very low public approval rating of Congress, one might think that incumbents wouldn’t stand a chance of re-election. Yet, experience shows that time after time, the incumbent has a huge advantage and they rarely lose a re-election fight. People seem to think that Congress in general is corrupt or ineffective, but that their own local guy is different. How do you see it? Is the incumbent a part of the problem?

Durrance: Incumbents hold an advantage in elections due to the apathy and fear of people to change. Many politicians, such as the present incumbent, play on the fears of the same people. The more people become familiar with the issues and challenges facing our country today, the more they understand that the status quo is not working. We must convince people to stay the course, stay alert and stay aware to watch elected officials. When the need for reform is indicated, we must follow through. This point is made no more plain by the failed oversight of our financial markets by those in Congress which crashed our economy and driven this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The lack of oversight and inaction by the present incumbent clearly shows he is part of the problem and not any solutions to the challenges we must address.

WhosPlayin: What motivated you to run for Congress? Why you, why now, and why U.S. House of Representatives?

Durrance: During the last 27 years of practicing law we have watched the erosion of confidence and trust is our government and elected officials. We look to Washington, not for solutions and help, but as interference and obstruction. With the policies of the past eight years of protection of the wealthy and affluent while ignoring the needs of the middle class, we have witnessed the evaporation of the American Dream for an ever growing number on our fellow Americans.

As an attorney in a small law office, I have seen the tragedy of hard working and dedicated citizens who cannot afford to send their children to college because of massive increases in the cost of tuition. I have viewed the destruction of families because a member became ill and had to file bankruptcy due to the spiraling costs of heath care. I have watched children neglected because one or both parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. I have seen willing, able-bodied citizens unable to find work because their jobs have been outsourced overseas and their retirement evaporated in an era of greed. I have seen the chasm between the wealthy and middle class continue to grow. I have seen public officials who believe the Government is a tool of the wealthy and privileged to provide them and their cronies with a pathway to riches.

It is time to restore trust and integrity in government. We deserve and must have, open and honest government, not acquiescence and executive secrecy. We need government where public service is first and special interests are last. A government where personal and professional responsibility guide decisions, not ideology. A government where accountability is clear and direct, not obscured by spin and lies. A government of balance and equity which listens to all our citizens.

In short, it is time for action and leadership. I am running to bring to the citizens of Texas District 26 the innovative leadership to rebuild our middle class and revive the American Dream for all citizens.

WhosPlayin: It seems that the past two election cycles, our nation’s political debate has devolved into a shouting match that rarely delves into facts and intelligent analysis of the potential impacts of legislation. Do you think that Members of Congress share some responsibility for this? If elected, what would you do to lead by example and keep the discussion on track for yourself and those that you can influence?

Durrance: We must look for common ground with all sides of any debate. We should also understand that all sides of any debate should be heard and considered. The shouting down of people during the recent summer town hall meetings by those fearing any meaningful discussion on the issue of health care is shameful. Debate which should be zealous, should also be civil, as well as earnest. I will promote this civil dialogue by basing arguments on facts and evidence, not the fear mongering of the present incumbent. Where there are honest disagreements, the decision must necessarily fall to what is best for the greatest number of the people.

WhosPlayin: If you are elected, what do you see as the largest issues that Congress needs to take on in 2011?

Durrance: District 26 needs a strong Congressional representative who will leave behind the politics of rejection, division and fear and use hope and action to return government to the people – a representative who puts country before partisan interests and who will work across the aisle to find the solutions for today’s problems and the right path forward.
At this critical point in United States history, District 26 needs a representative who will work with others to address the pivotal issues facing our country:

• Our neglected and unregulated economy, by proposing sunlight regulation of markets.

• A health program that provides affordable care for all citizens and will give the American people the same health care presently enjoyed by the Congress

• The need for the free flow and movement of people and products in our transportation systems by building a Green Economy with integrated transportation system of light and high speed rail

• A strong education system to make our workforce and nation competitive in the global market by increasing programs to provide college education in exchange for public service and allow local teachers and administrators the autonomy necessary to bring innovation and creativity to the classroom.

WhosPlayin: Neil, I hope that Congress has the health care insurance reform done before the 2010 election even happens, much less when you would take office. Michael Burgess seems to only be able to think about reducing medical liability costs by limiting damages when a doctor screws up. We already have that in Texas, but I don’t see how that helps the person who can’t get coverage. Is Burgess even being serious about the health insurance problem?

Durrance: Dr. Burgess is following the political pandering of the Republican Party to play the rhetoric of the need for reform while doing everything they can to block what is clearly the will of the people. I believe neither he nor his party take seriously the need for health care reform other than the misperceived idea that it will energize their base.

WhosPlayin: When you ask people if they would like the opportunity to buy in to a PPO sponsored by the government, similar to what federal employees have, they overwhelmingly support it –yet when you ask if they support a “public option” or use the words “government run” the numbers drop. Do you think we’ll really be able to bring insurance costs down without the “stick” of having to compete with a public option?

Durrance: Possibly, but I have my doubts. The only true way to control costs is for competition in the market place. I find it ironic that the same politicians who were touting the virtues of “free market economics” and competition are the first to run to the Government for help when they are faced with true competition. In other words, “I hate Government” and “public options” and “regulation” unless “I” need it. This self absorbed lack of consideration of the public good must and will change, if I am elected.

WhosPlayin: What are your views on earmarks? Would you seek them for your district? If so, what types would you focus on, and what types would you refuse?

Durrance: I am not opposed to earmarks. However, in the most recent years, the earmark has become the pathway to pork barrel special interest legislation. Further, this type of process has lead many in Congress to treat governance as the pathway to riches for them and their cronies. Any representative should work to bring the benefits of his office to the people of his district, but these benefits, and yes, even earmarks, should benefit all the people and not the special interest supporting the particular official.

WhosPlayin: Last year, Congress passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program or “TARP”, which was sold as a plan to buy up troubled assets. Instead, the money was sent around to the very institutions that caused all of the problems. Did Congress get sold a bill of goods by the Bush administration, or should they have known better and been more explicit about how the money was to be used?

Durrance: Congress was sold a bill of goods because the money was demanded and given without proper regulation, conditions and in an air of panic. Having read the AIG and BancAmerica TARP agreements, it is little wonder the same greedy Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into this recession, now sit back and prepare to line their pockets with billions (that is billions with a b) dollar bonuses while the rest of this country only hears of a “jobless recovery.” We must enforce the proper regulation and limit those who would abuse the financial markets of our country. However some, like the present incumbent who voted against the TARP funding would have allowed these same predatory bankers to go back to “business as usual”

WhosPlayin: How do you see us being able to work our way out of being in the auto business and the banking business and the insurance business, and recover what we’ve put in so far? Do you think this is something that will happen within the next few years?

Durrance: By proper regulation of the financial sector to assure that we limit executive pay and other changes to the legal structure of corporate America. This can be done in several ways, not the least of which is making corporations more accountable to the shareholders and restructuring of tax and accounting laws which have left massive loopholes in accountability and financial risk. I do not think this will happen overnight. This will take several years and maybe a couple of administrations to do so. We are only now seeing the full impact of the Republican de-regulation frenzy of the ‘80s. It will take a careful and defined strategy of regulation to protect middle class America from the excesses of the last twenty years.

WhosPlayin: You are a Democrat in a district that is at least in recent history predominantly Republican-voting. Most voters understand the general distinctions between the parties, or at least think they do. What views do you have that voters might NOT typically associate with the Democratic Party?

Durrance: I am a fiscal conservative. I do not believe in deficit spending. I supported the move by our President to re-enact the “Pay-As-You-Go” legislation which was repealed under the Bush Administration.

WhosPlayin: Wasn’t it Republicans who used to say “Deficits don’t matter?”

Durrance: If my memory is correct, it was both parties who made this claim in the ‘60s. At that time, there was a small kernel of truth in the statement because the United States was the unquestionably largest economic power which controlled most, if not all, of the credit markets. In the global economy of today, with China as a major creditor of the United States, deficits matter greatly. In my opinion, the deficits of today are a matter of national security and should be dealt with in such a manner.

WhosPlayin: Do you believe that Congress should be subjected to term limits? If so, how many terms, and will you voluntarily term-limit yourself?

Durrance: No. The Constitution provides the best term limit of all, Election Day every two years.

WhosPlayin: OK, fair enough, but one of the current problems with that – and you’ll no doubt run up against this with Michael Burgess: Corporate PACs and special interest groups seem to own federal elections, and they seem to always fund the incumbent. Do you support a move to public financing of elections? How do you preserve the people’s voices?

Durrance: I support public financing of elections. However, we have not made the legal distinction between First Amendment free speech issues and influence peddling. The most recent Supreme Court case of Caperton Coal Company v. Massey Coal, Ltd. makes this point. Until this issue is resolved, the problem will remain that the acceptance public financing of political campaigns is often a disadvantage.

WhosPlayin: It seems that every two years, the Republican Party riles up their base with wedge issues. The past couple of years, they’ve been trying to paint Democrats as pro-illegal immigration. How do you answer that, and what other wedges are you preparing for?

Durrance: As a Democrat, I believe that our country works best when it works together. I also believe that the American people are tired of divisive, fear mongering tactics which seek to depress voter turnout. People are looking for solutions, not rhetoric or special interest axes to grind. “Painting” any party with an issue will not serve the best interest of the people.

WhosPlayin: Where do you stand on solving the immigration issue? As I recall, when the Republicans were in control of the House, Senate, and Presidency, they couldn’t agree on what to do.

Durrance: We must first secure our borders. Next we must provide a pathway to citizenship for all those who desire to work hard, follow the law and become contributing citizens to our country. We must also address the economic component of our immigration problem. What is abundantly clear is that the Bush policy of “touch and (never) return” has been a failure and was only used as a divisive issue to play to a right wing base and build walls between America and the rest of the world.

WhosPlayin: Your last report showed that you raised $34,218 so far for your campaign – more than the last few Democrats combined. Yet, the incumbent, Michael Burgess had raised $386,170, and is still sitting on $173,879, and will likely raise more from the insurance company PACs and his medical industry constituency. Independent Don Tracey says he’ll raise $1 million for his campaign.

What have you done right to be this far ahead of where the previous Democrats from this district are?

What will you have to do going forward to raise enough to put up a good fight?

Durrance: I have talked and listened to the citizens of Texas District 26. The people understand that any political race is about more than just money. It is about ideas and the strength of leadership to implement those ideas. I will continue to talk to all the citizens of Texas District 26 and ask them for their vote and support. With that support will also come the funds to make take our message to the citizens of Returning Government to the People.
The time has come for the voice of the people to be heard over the moneyed special interest. How do I know?

I was coming out of the courthouse a couple on months ago. I found an envelope on the windshield of my car. In the envelope was $10 with a note which said, “Because you are our only hope.” I recognized the handwriting. It was that of a county employee who is obviously too afraid to have her private views expressed in a Republican courthouse. Yet, she knows it is time for change and is willing to contribute what meager resources she has to work for that change. How do you raise money for a campaign? One believer at a time.

WhosPlayin: We thank you for taking the time to talk to us. If you get the Democratic nomination, I sure hope you’ll talk to us again before the general election. Feel free to send us any guest columns in the mean time.

If any of our readers would like to get in touch with the campaign, they can email, visit your website at or call your campaign at 940-239-0380

We will extend invitations for interviews to the other candidates in the race.

This article comes from The Lewisville Texan Journal

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