Less than a year after being sworn in at Texas House, Dallas-area State Rep. Jasmine Crockett hopes to head for greener pastures in Congress, where she believes changes that may have a impact on Texans are more achievable than in a GOP-dominated state legislature.
A civil rights attorney best known for her criminal justice work before and during the legislature, Crockett is engaged in a crowded race in Texas’ 30th congressional district, where longtime congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring after 15 terms.
Congresswoman Johnson endorsed Crockett, going so far as to appear in a recent announcement of hers to metaphorically pass the torch to the young legislator.
In a wide-ranging interview on Washington and Congress, Crockett said his decision to run for higher office came about breaking quorum in the nation’s capital in the summer of 2021, when the House Democratic Caucus packed up and left the state to deny Republicans a functioning legislature. The move would temporarily freeze the Texas GOP’s attempt to pass a sweeping voter suppression bill whose undemocratic effects are now being widely reported.
While in Washington for federal suffrage legislation, Crockett said people approached her about running for Congress after hearing rumors of Johnson’s retirement.
“I’ll tell you, I was kicking and screaming, and I was like, no,” Crockett said. “In my first race, I had to face five people. I knew this race would be just another crazy big race.
In her first run for Texas House, Crockett led a grassroots campaign that saw her defeat an incumbent Democratic opponent by one percentage point in a primary election runoff. She has been backed by progressives and activists, in part because she pro bono represented Texas Black Lives Matter protesters after they were falsely accused of rioting.
Crockett said she initially opposed the idea of running for Congress because she would go from being one of 150 legislators in the Texas House to one of 435 in Congress. His attitude changed after speaking to a former Clinton-era ambassador to Zimbabwe, who warned his redistricting would leave him with few options.
“He told me, as long as you’re in Texas, you know they’re going to lock down their power for the next decade,” Crockett said. “You know you won’t have the opportunity to be on the attack. You know you’re just going to play defense as long as you’re there.
“The idea that I could actually be on the offensive and do certain things on a larger scale, that appealed to me,” Crockett said, “but more importantly, the majority of the fights that happen in this country come from from zero , which is Texas. Texas is where we started the fight for voting rights, Texas is where the fight for reproductive rights is happening, even the redistricting of Texas is in some way come out on the front line.
“It doesn’t stop in Texas,” Crockett said. “We see Florida, we see Arkansas, we see Arizona, we see Mississippi, we see Georgia, we see these other states say, ‘Hey big brother Texas did it – we’re going do it too.”
Crockett said unlike Texas, in Washington there is at least some fluidity in who is in power. She believes Democrats will lose control of the House in 2022 and attributes that uncertain future for House Democrats to regular midterm election swings, as well as the Senate’s failure to pass federal law legislation. of voting.
“We got the infrastructure bill passed, I won’t deny bipartisan infrastructure is really going to be life changing,” Crockett said.
“I feel like the right to vote was a failure,” Crockett said. “I really don’t know how else to put it. I do not blame the House. The House did everything it could.
In January, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the Free Suffrage Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act. Democrats were 10 votes short of a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, a threshold that Senate Republicans and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were unwilling to change.
If enacted, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Specifically, the legislation would see the return of the process preclearance, a Justice Department authority to review election-related laws that discriminate against minority voters — including unfair district lines like those passed in Texas that dilute the voting strength of black and Latino voters.
In another sign that the U.S. Supreme Court won’t fill the void left by a weakened voting rights law, the court recently reinstated GOP-drawn congressional maps in Alabama that the ACLU of the Alabama and the NAACP legal defense say it discriminates against black voters.
“The Supreme Court, in my opinion, is a sham right now to be perfectly honest,” Crockett said. “To have this argument that it’s not about race, and it’s only about party – it’s not, it’s about both. When you look at it, Republicans constantly pander to white supermacists, it’s definitely both.
Crockett said the Republican Party has become the “Trumplican Party,” a coalition of traditional capitalist Republicans who have accepted a growing right-wing and racist faction into their ranks lest the Democrats take their money.
“I think they’re scared of the growing, colorful country that we’re becoming,” Crockett said of the Trump-led faction. “That’s why you hear them say things like ‘protect our borders, they’re invading’ – because for the first time the census has revealed that the Anglos have dwindled in population. It scares them. The fact that the state of Texas is more like California demographically, that scares them.
“It’s white people who are afraid of losing power,” Crockett said of the extreme rhetoric used by Republicans. “I don’t think it should be like this, I think we should all be Texans, I think we should be in this fight together instead of fighting each other.”
If elected, Crockett said that, like Congresswoman Johnson, she plans to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the left flank of House Democrats that has grown since 2016 to edge the centrist New Democrat coalition in as the largest caucus in the House.
As a founding member of the Texas Progressive Caucus, Crockett said the Washington Progressive Caucus is closely aligned with its values, including expanding the Supreme Court of the United States, ending the filibuster and passing to a greener society.
While Crockett thinks her efforts are better spent in Congress, she also notes that the legislation isn’t the end of the line when it comes to supporting community members.
“It’s not part of a legislator’s job description, but I really want to get back to solving problems without legislation because legislation moves too slowly,” Crockett said, highlighting his Texas House district’s partnerships. with the Dallas and Texas Police Department. Parks and Wildlife to create an annual fishing event, as well as an immunization program with Walmart and a mobile mammogram clinic with a local church and the Methodist Health System.
“I want to be that bridge, I want to stand in the gap,” Crockett said of the business integration.
The Dallas legislator also set an example of her work during Winter Storm Uri when she was stuck in Austin but members of her district were without water. Crockett said she spoke with the Texas Division of Emergency Management for assistance. “I was like, this is taking too long,” Crockett said. “Am I minced liver here? Forget it, that’s why people say government is inefficient.
Crockett said she instead called a business in her district, a major beer distributor that had water pallets. “I was able to get some water out, and they were so grateful that I called and asked them to rise to the occasion,” Crockett said with a laugh.
“You can’t just focus on you, we’re all one in this community, and I let them know they’re part of this district,” Crockett said.