This is the first in a series of profiles on the four Democratic candidates for US Senate.
There's a certain element of curiosity to the Sean Hubbard campaign for US Senate. Why is a thirty-year-old progressive who's working to make ends meet for his family mounting a grassroots campaign in the second-largest state in the country? Does he really think he can win in Texas with no money and a platform that represents the purest of progressive values?
When I spoke to Hubbard over the phone recently, it was clear that he isn't bothered by the naysayers who assume that he can't win. “We started this campaign with the idea that we wanted to prove that the average person still matters,” he stated. “The Mr. Smith Goes to Washington myth is real — we can all be part of our democracy.” He continued, “I understand frustration on left with Obama, but remember that he did promise change, and when he got to DC, change was out-gunned and out-numbered. Texas need to send progressive Senator to DC to even up the odds.”
Hubbard comes across as a genuinely proud progressive who wants to see the entire Democratic Party campaign on a more forward-looking agenda. From the DREAM Act to a modern-day New Deal to marriage equality, Hubbard is strong on core progressive values. His message is an organic fit for the thirty-year-old, who got started as a volunteer organizer for Barack Obama in Dallas during the 2008 primary season. Now, Hubbard is hoping that his grassroots experience and willingness to stump across the state will propel him to a victory in the primary and general election.
He presents himself as an “atypical candidate” — in our conversation, Hubbard emphasized that he's a “working guy,” holding down a regular job and getting a paycheck every week that helps support his family. (Hubbard is married and recently became a father.) He said his experiences make him better suited to serving working folks, and that the immense wealth of David Dewhurst prevents the current Lieutenant Governor from realizing the needs of average Texans. Hubbard said he never thought about running for office until the end of 2010, when he became frustrated by his sense that Democrats were too timid to stand up for progressive values, and were instead focused on just being what he terms “Republican lite.” Watching the gridlock in Washington, Sean recognized that, as he puts it, “the Senate is the place where progressive legislation goes to die.” Rather than stay frustrated, Hubbard decided to run for Senate, and has spent the last year organizing in support of his campaign in the hopes that if elected, one more progressive Senator can make a difference in D.C.
So why — and how — does he think he can win? Find out below the jump. On the issues, Hubbard is as progressive as the candidates you'd expect to find in staunchly blue states or extremely Democratic congressional and legislative districts. Though he doesn't have vast legislative or governing experience, it's clear that Hubbard is working hard to close his knowledge gap, and reaching out to experts in various fields to learn more about economic policies that can actually put people back to work. He openly supports the DREAM Act, and sites immigration as one of the biggest issues facing Texas. Hubbard stated that it's impossible to round up the 12 to 20 million undocumented immigrants in our country, both financially and logistically. He supports a temporary visa process for undocumented immigrants to remain here and work while going through a documentation process. Hubbard stated clearly that the problem stems from employers who abuse the system, “using undocumented immigrants to suppress wages.”
Hubbard emphasized that as Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst has been instrumental in his role presiding over the State Senate, which passed appallingly conservative legislation this session, including the sonogram bill and redistricting. Hubbard described the Senate's record in 2011 as “conservative over-reach,” and noted that either Dewhurst is actively pushing this far-right agenda, or simply letting the Republican party run wild in the State Senate. Hubbard said this behavior would make Dewhurst a poor representative of Texas in the US Senate — “he'll either cave in to the Tea Party and go along with them, or push a hard-right agenda on his own.”
I asked Hubbard what piece of legislation, initiative, rule change, or procedure he would most want to implement if elected. Hubbard responded with what he calls the “Fair Deal” package of legislation, a program that increases government hiring, invests in infrastructure, and reinstates the Glass-Steagall Act in a modified form. He also spoke passionately about the importance of publicly funded elections and overhauling campaign finance laws. It's no surprise that the young organizer is a supporter of public financing and removing corporate influence in elections, especially when he may be headed for a match-up with a man worth over $200 million dollars. Yet the message rings true: as long as money dominates our elections, what chance does a modern day “Mr. Smith” have to go to Washington?
So how does a young guy with no personal fortune win a primary, and go on to defeat a Republican in Texas this November? Hubbard is quick to point out that he began his campaign a year ago, in January 2011, and has worked hard to build a grassroots network and strong social media presence. Relying on what he called the “People's microphone” of Facebook, Hubbard routinely encourages his supporters to spread the word about his campaign, and touts his “reach” (a statistic referring to the friends of his fans) of over 200,000 people. He also promises to engage in traditional canvassing and phonebanking, and rely on his own boots-on-the-ground experiences on campaigns. Half laughing, Hubbard noted that Daniel Boone has the highest name ID at this point anyways. Hubbard vowed to continue this level of organization through to November, should he win the primary.
While many politicos are quick to dismiss Hubbard — and let's be honest, it's extremely difficult to win in Texas without sufficient funds or resources to get your name out and contact voters — there's something inspiring and endearing about Hubbard's campaign. It's easy to criticize or mock his effort, but the fact is, Hubbard is doing the kind of valuable grassroots organizing that will help turn the tide here in Texas. It's been a long time since progressives have had a statewide candidate practically tripping over himself to talk about why Democrats are right on the issues. There's something refreshing about a candidate who wants to run not merely to win, but as he put it, “to remind voters what Democratic party stands for. We're the party of social security, medicare, civil rights, and health care.”
This is part of a BOR series on Democratic candidates for US Senate. The candidates in the race are, alphabetically, Addie Dainell Allen, Daniel Boone, Sean Hubbard, and Paul Sadler.