Linsey Fagan is a single mother, an entrepreneur, and a former vice president of an investment firm. She is the Democratic nominee for U.S. House, Texas’ District 26, the same district in which she was born and raised.
This reporter recently spoke to the Democratic nominee, and one thing was very clear right off the bat: She is not the typical political candidate, and that’s exactly why her campaign is making waves. My conversation with her felt like I was talking to an old friend, not a politician. She is passionate on her political views but down-to-earth, she approaches issues in a pragmatic way, and she appears more than willing to work with the other side of the aisle to achieve real results.
Fagan says she never wanted to be a politician, and we spoke about why she chose to become one, what issues she stands on, and how she feels about the current state of the Democratic Party.
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Carter Lee: I normally don’t interview politicians, and that’s not by accident, but after researching you, I am interested in what you have to say.
Linsey Fagan: [Laughing] When I decided to run, I didn’t really like politicians either, but that’s one of the reasons I decided to run.
CL: I watched your interview on Young Turks, and you described when you first started thinking about running for Congress. You told a very touching story of having to tell your daughter, who is in elementary school, about school shootings. It’s so unfortunate in this day and age that we, as parents, have to talk to our kids about that. How old was your daughter when you had that conversation?
LF: She was 10 at the time. It’s a weird conversation, for sure, to have with a kid. I dropped her off at school after having that conversation, and I just cried my whole way home thinking, ‘I can’t believe I have to explain how she can hide her internal organs from somebody coming into her school with, you know, military grade weapons, essentially.’ It’s a hard conversation to have with a tiny little girl, and at that moment I just felt, ‘You know what, I really don’t want her to have that conversation with her kids.’ Because I just feel like that’s a really wrong conversation to have to have.
CL: It’s unfortunate that there’s so many dangers our children must be aware of now days. So, what’s the solution? Obviously, one part of the solution is getting these types of assault weapons out of these people’s hands. Often, these shooters have committed no prior crimes, so they’re not on the radar of anybody, and they get these weapons. That’s one part of the solution, perhaps. I would think another part is that we have to tackle mental health issues and not shy away from them.
LF: When I look at any of these problems now, I think a lot of it is just looking at what can we do on a bipartisan basis first, that will get knocked out as quickly as possible because our country is hemorrhaging at this point. One thing that seems to have bipartisan support are Red Flag Laws. There are some Republicans that are against them, but Red Flag Laws basically allow law enforcement to take guns out of the hands of people having a mental crisis. Usually, those are passed at the state level, but I think that’s one solution.
So, I’ve talked to a lot of the state reps here and a lot of the state reps that are running about some of these things. Another piece of low hanging fruit, that a lot of people agree across the board on, is making sure our background check system is not full of holes like it is now. And to improve how streamlined everything is because, right now, certain agencies can report issues about specific individuals, but they don’t. So, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit.
And then beyond that, I think we have to really, as citizens, have a conversation asking, ‘What kind of weaponry do we want in the hands of untrained civilians?’ I talk to a lot of veterans that will say, ‘These weapons these people are using, they do not need to be on the streets.’ These are weapons that they are using to wreak as much havoc as possible in the shortest amount of time. Why do we need those on the streets of America?
And it’s not about, ‘Democrats are coming to take away people’s guns.’ It’s a conversation we need to have as a nation, and we need to ask, ‘Do we think that untrained civilians need to have access to these kinds of weapons?’ Most people say the answer is no, and that’s not crazy. I don’t feel like it’s too much to ask, and we’re having to beg for that.
I just want to go to Congress to be a pragmatic voice at the table to say, ‘Listen, we have a problem here, how do we fix it?’ And I don’t care if the solution is a Republican idea or a Democratic idea, or whose idea it is.
CL: That’s refreshing to hear because I feel like our Congress over the past 12 or 16 years, regardless if it’s been a Republican majority or a Democratic majority, have largely been a do-nothing Congress. There are so many representatives in there that are more concerned with towing the party line than actually finding solutions. If their party didn’t come up with a solution, then it’s an immediate kneejerk reaction to just fight against it.
LF: Today, I was just doing a deeper dive on the Paycheck Fairness Act. When you do research on this, it’s like, ‘Why didn’t these Republican women vote in favor of getting legislation passed for women to have equal pay?’ And you really look at it, and you’re like, ‘Well, the Republican in that district was up for reelection, and she would have lost to the other person running against her if she would have backed this.’ I think that we have to have people that, regardless of the outcome of the next election, will make the right decision. I didn’t want a lifetime in politics, so right now I feel incredibly called to do it. I feel like I am really effective at finding solutions that make sense.
We have to elect people who will throw their careers on the line to do the right thing, if that’s what it takes. And, you know, there’s nothing in this for me other than working to represent people. And right now, you just have a lot of members of Congress that are thinking about, ‘What’s my next move? I can’t do this because it might cost me my next move or my next thing.’ And really, the American people want people that do the right thing, and they can see whenever people do the right thing because it’s incredibly obvious.
I think politicians view people as a lot more ignorant than they really are. People are intuitive. They know when a politician’s running to represent them. I think we have to have people that do the right thing regardless of what the rest of the party’s doing. People need to operate in right and wrong not Left and Right.
CL: Well said. You’re running against Representative Michael Burgess. According to BattleForTheNet.com, he received nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from big ISPs.
CL: And shocker, he turned around and then supported the bill to reverse the landmark FCC privacy rule that protects companies from selling their customers’ data and information. I think Republicans that supported that bill to reverse the FCC privacy rule is a symbol of where our Congress is right now. They take these huge donations from corporations and these super PACs, and then they’re owned by them. Your campaign is completely grassroots?
LF: 100 percent people funded.
CL: Right on. What does the Democratic Party need to do to be more effective and to win?
LF: I think that we need more Democrats that speak to working class people and that don’t shy away from talking about things that matter to working-class families, like a $15 minimum wage, protecting unions, Medicare for All. Things that would, for the people in my district, make a massive, massive difference in their life. And I think a lot of times Democrats say, ‘Oh, well, we need to make our message a little bit more moderate and maybe tone it down.’ No! Working class families need a tremendous amount of help right now, and no one is fighting for them.
I don’t think it’s a crazy thing to say, ‘I want the people in my district to make more money.’ Everyone says, ‘Oh, that’s a losing argument’ What kind of losing argument is that? I want to increase the minimum wage. I want the people in my district to have more money. Whenever the people in my district have more money, they can spend more money, and then more small businesses can exist. Whenever we have Medicare for All, it will be easier for small businesses to thrive.
I think that a lot of times Democrats speak to people who are super-intellectuals. I don’t think they speak to common people who are laid back, and living their lives, and they don’t follow politics. You have to speak to people like they don’t follow politics 24/7 because most people don’t follow politics 24/7.
CL: For sure. I just feel like the Democratic Party has been too complacent, and I think that was shown in the last presidential election. I feel like they are only speaking to those that already vote Blue. I don’t feel like they’re doing anything to reach out to those who are in the middle and more moderate.
LF: I think that even the people that are more moderate, everybody wants affordable healthcare. I think that some go far Left in the way that they’re speaking to people, like a crazy, aggressive, ‘I’m going to do this, and I don’t care what the right says.’ No! I have no problem negotiating for the sake of progress. It’s not a crazy thing to just ask for decency for the people that you represent. And there’s a lot of conflicting messages with the Democratic Party, too, like we’re fighting for affordable healthcare, but then half of all Democrats are taking money from the pharmaceutical industry. How do you expect to really be a fighter there if you’re taking the money yourselves?!
Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. You shouldn’t go bankrupt because you get sick. If elected, Linsey will fight for #MedicareForAll, not voting repeatedly to dismantle the ACA like the current GOP controlled House. Help #FlipTX26 —> https://t.co/tIDxscAhXp #BlueWave
— Linsey Fagan (@LinseyFaganTX) August 1, 2018
CL: Right. How effective can you be? You’re already in their pocket.
LF: Yes. I don’t think anybody should be taking that money, but specifically Democrats, what the hell are you doing taking money from the pharmaceutical industry?! You’re supposed to be fighting for affordable healthcare right now.
CL: Yes, exactly. A couple of other issues I’d like to touch on that I think this country needs to address, and they go hand in hand. One is the failed war on drugs, and the other is criminal justice reform. We have a ton of private prisons for profit. A lot of them are filled, and state prisons as well, are filled with people who are locked up because of selling marijuana decades ago, which blows my mind. These people are still locked up years later for crimes involving drugs. They’re not all violent offenders. We’re not talking about rapists, pedophiles, or someone that robbed a bank or murdered someone. The failed war on drugs has cost this country billions of dollars, and the problem is only getting worse. What can we effectively do to end the war on drugs, and to end private prisons for profit that benefit financially with the more people they lock up?
LF: Well, I’m in favor for the decriminalization of marijuana, for sure. I think that the majority of Americans are at that point as well. I’m definitely in line with everybody on it. I think the priority is making sure it’s available to people that need it for medicinal reasons, and then moving on to recreational after that. Also, it does provide a pretty substantial tax revenue stream if you put an excise tax on it.
With the criminal justice system, getting rid of mandatory minimums is definitely something I’m in favor of. I’m a big fan of the Justice is Not For Sale Act, where private prisons would be shut down. Right now, for example, we have these Children Detention Centers, and you wonder, ‘Well, why would Trump be pushing so hard to detain children and to detain families?’ He got half a million dollars from the private prison industry for his election, of course, he is going to pay back his debt to that. To pay it back with the lives of children is one of the most disgraceful things I’ve ever seen, but not surprising by any means. That’s what we’re going to keep having as long as these private prisons can continue to bribe politicians and our members of Congress. That’s why I’m so passionate about getting rid of money in politics, basically, corporate bribery.
“A corporation’s desire to build wealth is in stark contrast w/ a penitentiary's existence to correct house & rehabilitate. We need to take the profit out of for-profit prisons or incentivize rehabilitation. A successful prison should work toward becoming obsolete." #FaganFriday pic.twitter.com/Rc3EDws8UO
— Linsey Fagan (@LinseyFaganTX) July 20, 2018
CL: Yes, it is bribery. Another issue I want to touch on. One thing that annoys me, and I can imagine how you feel as a woman, the mass majority of people who are voting in Congress on women’s rights and issues, when it comes to abortion and birth control being covered by insurance, are a bunch of men.
CL: It’s always bothered me. If you successfully win this election, there will be one more congresswoman voting on women’s rights, so that would be refreshing.
LF: I think the Right uses a woman’s right to choose as a wedge issue, but really if you look at it, if we had Medicare for All, the abortion rate in this country would be cut in half. For the people that are still voting for Republicans on that one, the one-issue voters, I just try to get across that message as loud and clear as I can. If you look at what happened in Colorado, whenever Warren Buffett had an organization that provided long-term birth control for the people in Colorado, their abortion rate was cut completely in half.
The same thing would happen if we had Medicare for All and women had access to the preventive care of their choice. The lack of females in Congress I think is the biggest part of the problem. We have less female representation than Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a ton of third world countries.
CL: That’s crazy. Is it too early in the day to start drinking scotch? That topic.
LF: [Laughing] No. We’re actually getting ready to run to our team pool party right now, and yeah, I’ll probably be grabbing a drink there myself. I just did a last-minute middle-of-the-night drive to Kansas to watch my friends rally with Bernie Sanders, so I just did a mad dash back, and then we’re going to the pool party.
Linsey, @Beto and @justicedems all on one truck? Turns out pickup truck drivers want affordable healthcare and ethical leadership too. #pickuptruckdriversforlinseyfagan #thefutureliberalswant pic.twitter.com/Ycd0ZYKSUH
— Linsey Fagan (@LinseyFaganTX) July 25, 2018
CL: Right on. Switching gears for a moment, and with an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m a child sex abuse survivor and speaker and warrior for awareness. This is a topic that I feel like isn’t mentioned enough by politicians in general, and it’s usually only brought up when a major personality is involved, and then they pretend to address it and it goes away again. According to the latest statistics, over 20 percent of our children are sexually abused or raped by the time they turn 18. One in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they’re 18, and one in four girls will be sexually abused or raped by the time they turn 18. It’s an uphill battle to get a spotlight on this because the topic is so strong and because it is taboo, and no one really likes to talk about it, and I get that. But there’s an uphill battle to spread awareness of child sex abuse. Because there’s a lack of awareness, most people don’t know the signs to look for.
There are also a bunch of judges in Dallas, other major cities, and across the whole country, that have been giving very light sentences to convicted rapists and pedophiles. A lot of these judge are sentencing convicted rapists and pedophiles to 10 years’ probation, and then it’s wiped off their record. That’s happened several times the last three years alone. What’s your plan to help spread awareness and to also strengthen our system where convicted sex offenders are actually getting a sentence they deserve, that keeps the streets and our children safer.
LF: I think child molestation and sex crimes against children were recognized on a federal level in the ’70s, but the state legislature, they’re able to really pass more of the stricter sentencing in the specific areas than a federal level.
Where I am going to ban mandatory minimums for drug crimes, I am certainly not against mandatory minimums for crimes against children. I think that’s something we need to look at on a federal level, and some of these crimes against children do need to have a mandatory minimums, and the mandatory minimum needs to be a lot harsher than it is now because, obviously, it could act as a deterrent.
Changing the minimum is something I would certainly be in favor of. For me, my priorities lie with taking care of children and veterans first and foremost, specifically, medically fragile children. Because I think it’s our job first, to protect people that can’t protect themselves, and then second, to protect people that have long protected us. You will not find a bigger advocate for children if I was elected.
CL: A similar and another tragic topic, human sex trafficking is the fastest growing business in the world. You’re in Dallas, I’m in Houston, and those are the top two cities in the nation that are having issues with human sex trafficking.
CL: What can we do? Obviously, congressmen and congresswomen aren’t superheroes that can just wave their hands and make it go away. But what can we do to start getting this under control? The fact that the United States is having a major issue with this is troubling. What can we start implementing to make a change, do you think?
LF: We had a woman on our team for a long time that worked with a human trafficking nonprofit. So, I think really increasing funding for programs like that, and passing legislation that grants money to these organizations that are trying to fight against it. I think it’s something that, like you said about sexual abuse against children, it’s something that people don’t want to talk about. It seems to me like there’s a lot of people turning a blind eye to the amount of human sex trafficking. I mean, whenever she joined the team, the person that works for the nonprofit, she opened my eyes to all kinds of statistics, and it is scary that Texas is now one of the top states in the nation. And the DFW area is one of the top areas in the nation as well. I think that—again, most of these victims are women—and I think that if we had more females in office, these things would start to be prioritized.
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We’ve had an awesome week. I filed to become the first female from a major party to run in 26. We have also had a record breaking month fundraising, we’ve already hit 1000 individual donors for the month of November and are probably going to have our biggest month yet. On top of that the last couple times I’ve been block walking, half the doors I go to people already know about my campaign which means the $0 (ok maybe $150) I have spent on marketing has gone a very long way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the word of mouth (good or bad). It is helping the people in this district know who I am and that I am here for them. Also, we will be block-walking this week and welcome any help we can get. If you’d be interested in volunteering your time, please send a DM and we will discuss details. ???? . . . . . . #TurnTexasBlue #FlipTX26 #FlipThe26th #FixItFagan #LinseyFaganForCongress #LinseyFaganForDistrict26 #LinseyFaganForTexas #NotMeUs #PeopleOverParty #WomenInPolitics #Fagan4TX #FixTX26 #Progressive #MidtermsAreComing #ShesRunning #Bipartisanship #Democracy #LF4TX26 #TexasDemocrats #JusticeDemocrats #BrandNewCongress
CL: I couldn’t agree more. In closing, I’m curious what your campaign experience has been like. You’re not the typical politician. You are a single mother—and I hate labels but just to, sort of, sum it up, you’re a progressive democrat—and you’re running in an area that has seen some Blue victories, but obviously, Texas is dominantly Red. Have you had an uphill battle because of that? How are people responding?
LF: People around here are used to seeing and hearing from coastal Democrats, and coastal Democrats are a different brand of Democrats than the rest of us are that run in the South and the Midwest. I think I do understand the people that I’m running to represent really well. I was born and raised in the district I’m running in. I can’t come to those people with a message that is divisive and anti-Republican, anti-Trump, anti-guns. I have to come to them and say, ‘Listen, I am here to represent you, regardless if you vote for me or not, and I’m running to be a pragmatic voice.’
I am progressive, and there are things I won’t budge on. I won’t budge on Medicare for All. I won’t budge on increasing the minimum wage. But I think a lot of people agree with me on those things, and they just need a Democrat that looks like them, and sounds like them, and understands them. I think that so many people right now want a massive change, and that change looks like people like me. People that are regular, everyday members of the middle class that have struggled. People that understand what it’s like to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and to feel like you’re living in a country that is so divided and tumultuous and nonfunctional at times. That’s something I can agree with anyone on.
I think that people are starting to realize that maybe we’re not all so alike after all. But you have to get yourself in front of them and explain that. I think that they’ve been fear-baited for so long that a lot of times whenever they see people like me, they just assume I’m a Republican right off the bat. And then whenever I say, “Oh yeah, I’m a Democrat.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, okay, well, who cares. I just like you.’
CL: That’s good you’ve been getting positive feedback from the Republican voters that you’ve spoken to.
LF: Even the people that voted for Trump—I mean, a lot of them, I just want to say, ‘You owe me a ton of wine and two years of my life’—but I do see where they were coming from. I don’t have a hard time empathizing with them because they kept seeing the same thing followed by the same thing, and then Trump came along, and he wasn’t the same thing. And I think that they, perhaps, thought they were getting the kind of change that they wanted. But, you know, the tax cuts that he gave, he got them at the front, but then they were screwed around back, and then those tax cuts went away for the middle class, but they stay there for the top one percent, for corporations. I think that the people are starting to see maybe they were deceived and maybe that brand of something different wasn’t from a source that they really wanted.
CL: Well, thank you so much for your time. I’m just sorry that I can’t temporarily move to Dallas to vote for you.
LF: You are the best. Thank you so much, and I’m sorry you can’t move here and vote for me too [Laughing]. Take care and thank you.