The 2018 Texas U.S. Senate race has attracted two candidates calling for change against Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz.

According to October campaign fund figures, Cruz has raised $13,207,771 in his bid for re-election, hoping to continue his GOP representation for the state.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the U.S. representative for Texas’ 16th Congressional District since 2013, has raised $23.6 million in his campaign for Senate, a record amount for any candidate to run for Senate.

Cruz is also challenged by Neal Dikeman, the Texas Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate. The venture capitalist has raised a $13,546 campaign for the Senate seat.

After multiple attempts made by the Herald, Cruz could not be reached for comment. The Herald sent four emails to multiple campaign staff.

Jessica Skaggs with the Cruz campaign referred the Herald to Catherine Frazier and Emily Miller for press requests. At 3:17 p.m. Saturday, Frazier replied, and said Cruz could not answer the questions before deadline.

Question: Would you retain the current tax brackets or change them. If so, how would you change them?

Dikeman: Regardless of your views on the level and progressiveness of taxation, we need dramatically simpler taxes, fewer brackets, fewer deductions and loopholes, less regulation of behavior through the tax code. No American should have to hire an accountant to pay or understand their taxes.

O’Rourke: The decisions we make as a country about taxing and spending matter for moral reasons. Congress should spend less on tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Instead, we should invest in education, health care, jobs, and infrastructure — investments that not only benefit working Texans, but pay dividends over the long term and contribute to the economic success for everyone in our country. For these reasons, I would change our current tax brackets to restore the top individual tax rate and make sure any tax cuts benefit everyday Texans.

Q: Many local police departments are cash strapped. What sort of federal assistance would you propose or endorse to help local police departments serve their communities?

Dikeman: I believe in local control, and local funding. Running tax dollars through Washington and Austin and back to local police forces makes little sense. Especially as we spend as a country one of the highest amounts on law enforcement of any developed nation, and have correspondingly one of the highest incarceration rates. Far and away the largest load on our criminal justice system comes from drug laws, immigration laws, and traffic laws - many of them poorly designed decades old laws that should not be on the books. If we’re feeling the financial pinch at local law enforcement level, perhaps we should look to de-scope unneeded laws, not increasing even more spending for more expensive enforcement that never seems to end.

O’Rourke: Police officers have some of the most important jobs I could imagine, and we owe them the support and resources they need to keep our communities safe. In Congress, I have been proud to vote for hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations that go directly to Texas state and local law enforcement. Using these federal funds allows more state dollars to go where they’re needed and permits us to teach de-escalation techniques, community policing, and measures to keep citizens out of prisons while supporting local initiatives that help improve safety.

Q: In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs established a national registry for veterans and service members exposed to “burn pits” in theaters of war. Yet, researchers say it will take years to investigate a connection between the toxins burned and those who have died or are suffering long-term serious health problems. What do you propose doing to close the gap between documented health ailments and medical help?

Dikeman: We have a responsibility to soldiers that we send into harm’s way to treat them with respect, and provide transparency and accountability, and make sure they have opportunities and support to re-establish themselves in their community and our workforce when they come home. I do not know why the Department of Veterans Affairs has found this particular issue challenging.

O’Rourke: I believe we must commit to providing every veteran the care, benefits, and support they’ve earned and that needs to include those affected by burn pits. We must do better and take a proactive role in caring for those who are suffering and dying. That’s why I co-sponsored legislation including the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which includes provisions President Trump recently signed into law that create a research center specifically designed to study the effects of burn pit exposure and allow us to accelerate our response to the phenomenon.

Q: The Killeen area has a large population of veterans who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs for health care coverage and other benefits. In recent years, long backlogs at the VA have prevented some veterans from receiving the coverage they need. How will you work to decrease the backlog at the VA and ensure that certain veterans receive the benefits and coverage they have earned?

Dikeman: See below. When we try to address price instead of cost, we see degradation in service or quality, and eventually price as well.

O’Rourke: As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have pushed the VA to address the claims backlog. The VA appeals process has been a major driver of the backlog and so last spring, I worked with members from both parties to pass a bill to reform and modernize the appeals process. Congress needs to ensure those reforms are implemented successfully and that the VA is diligent in managing legacy appeals. I’ll use my experience of increasing access to mental health care for veterans as the example for how to continue delivering for those who served our country.

Q: What measures do you support to ensure your constituents have access to affordable health care? Do you support continuing or strengthening the Affordable Care Act, or do you believe there is a more effective way to ensure that coverage?

Dikeman: I’ve talked about this extensively, healthcare is tied your job (including as a veteran) by a bad 1940s tax deal that has caused costs to spiral upwards at twice the rate of GDP growth, when like any tech industry they should have been falling every year. We only need the VA because we have failed to put in place a good healthcare funding system for all. The ACA had good intentions, but has completely failed to address costs, and true to form when through the ACA, VA, or single payer we try to address price without addressing cost, we see degradation in service or quality, and eventually prices rise anyway as costs continue to creep. We have called for a Million Payer system, unwinding the corporate tax deal, and breaking up the vertical integration of insurance companies and private networks. Today the insurance company works for your employer or your government, medical providers for the insurance company, and no one works for you, so the system doesn’t work.

O’Rourke: Every single Texan should be able to see a doctor, afford their prescriptions, and be well enough to work a job, finish their education, and contribute to their full potential. I want Texas – the least insured state in the country – to take the lead on this. That means defending the Affordable Care Act’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, strengthening the ACA in Texas by expanding Medicaid, and achieving guaranteed, high quality, universal health care for every man, every woman, and every child in Texas and in this country.

mpayne@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

Herald staff writer

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