Jasmine Crockett takes the reins of Texas 30th Congressional District
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
While block-walking during her first campaign for national office, Rep. Jasmine Crockett said, no one in her district listed drag queens as an issue of importance to them. In fact, no one mentioned drag queens at all.
The economy. Healthcare. The environment — Those were issues of importance to her constituents, and those are issues she’s addressing.
But the Republicans, Crockett said, are acting as if their constituents are telling them, “I will only vote for you if you go after the drag queens. They want to make you believe that’s a real problem.”
Last week, the freshman representative was in her Dallas office, back home to deliver $17 million in HIV funding to Dallas County Health and Human Services. The money is for testing, treatment and education, and some of the funding will go to Abounding Prosperity. She said it was a good way to honor Kirk Myers, AP Inc.’s founder and CEO who recently passed away.
When we spoke, Crockett was still unpacking boxes after construction in her office in the Design District. She brought in contractors to turn the space that had been occupied by retired Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson into a more secure work environment for her staff. Crockett’s district covers most of south Dallas County, downtown and parts of Oak Lawn as well as a piece of Tarrant County.
Before her election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Crockett served one term in the Texas Legislature. And before entering politics, she was a civil rights attorney known for winning police brutality cases. About a month ago, her last outstanding case settled with a $2 million jury verdict in favor of her client.
Earlier this session, Crockett went down to Austin to visit and to see for herself whether this session could actually be worse than last session. To start, she found they had changed the rules for ex-members, and she wasn’t allowed onto the floor.
“The sad reality is we’re treating people that badly,” she said.
Crockett described the difference between the way Austin and Washington are run, saying that in Austin, she got to know Republicans because members of the two parties sit together. Seats are selected by seniority rather than by party. In Washington, the two parties are separated by an aisle, creating fewer opportunities to mix.
In Austin, the representative runs his or her office. But,“Staffers run D.C.,” Crockett said. “It feels pro formative.” She said she’s still getting used to her staff telling her, “Today we signed you on to 50 bills.”
And as a newcomer to Washington, Crockett offered some advice for her party: “I’ve been telling Democrats, we need to go to rural America,” she said. How does a town like Uvalde vote Republican? “We [Democrats] don’t show up.”
Polling shows most people believe Biden hasn’t done anything, she explained, exasperated.
“We’ve got to convey we have passed bills that have bettered your life,” she said, listing accomplishments like an 8 percent increase in social security payments this year and drug price negotiations that resulted in Eli Lilly bringing the price of insulin down to $25.
Those are real changes that affect people’s lives, Crockett said. But Democrats are not holding up these achievements and are instead letting Republican lies stand.
Meanwhile, “Republicans are digging in on things they haven’t been asked to resolve,” she said.
What has she seen among her GOP colleagues about support for Trump? “They’re all in,” she said.
Crockett said she’s optimistic Democrats will retake the U.S. House in the next election, citing swing seats in New York that were lost to people like George Santos and redistricting in states like South Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama that are out of compliance with the Voting Rights Act and failed to create court-ordered minority-opportunity seats.
“So we’ll see what happens in those states,” she said, “and we’ve got some defending to do.”
Crockett said she is looking forward to the upcoming debt ceiling debate. While this puts the country at the brink, she said, it will force a number of Republicans in tight races to decide. “It forces McCarthy’s hand,” she said.
Either Republicans back a clean debt ceiling bill like those Democrats gave Trump or the party forces representatives in moderate districts to vote for default.
Meanwhile, although Crocket is just settling in to her new position, in November she already has to file for re-election. And she’s just getting to know some of her colleagues. Any surprises?
She said she knows other members of her freshman class best, because they went through training together. She’s joining the women’s caucus on a trip to Las Vegas where she hopes to get to know more of the ranking members better. But there have been a few surprise alliances made already.
“I’m working on a bipartisan bill for some research opportunities in Dallas,” she said. “Kay Granger is on board with us.”
Granger represents a Fort Worth district and is Republican.
Crockett said the Texas Democrat who was most welcoming to her was Henry Cuellar from Laredo. Generally considered the most conservative Texas Democrat, Crocket called him a “guiding light” and noted he had two back-to-back tough races.
She said she’s also working with Rep. Morgan Luttrell, a freshman Republican whose district runs north of Houston.
“He’s passionate about mental health,” she said.
The biggest surprise, Crockett, said, came when Republican Sen. John Cornyn reached out. While Republicans in the House were taking vote after vote to name a speaker of the house at the beginning of the session, freshmen representatives couldn’t be sworn in. Until she had taken the oath of office, she and her staff were unable to do any constituent services. Cornyn told her to refer calls to his office, and he’d have his staff take care of them for her.
“We have a better relationship than I ever imagined,” she said. “He’s as effective a partner as I could hope for.”
But she didn’t get the same welcome from Ted Cruz’s office.
When it comes to her re-election, Crockett said she is taking nothing for granted. Although she won the general election with 75 percent of the vote, her primary was closer, receiving 48 percent in a nine-way race and 60 percent in the runoff. Her predecessor, she noted, always took each election very seriously — one reason she had a 30-year career in Congress.