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A Few Questions from Tracy Rowlett

The race for the 32nd Congressional District is one of the most heated elections in the country. Republican Pete Sessions is the incumbent, but he’s running against Democrat Martin Frost, whose 24th District was redrawn by the GOP this year. Tracy Rowlett
By Tracy Rowlett |

TRACY ROWLETT PETE SESSIONS

ROWLETT: Did Republicans carve out the new districts with an eye toward getting rid of sitting Democrats?
SESSIONS: Republicans carved out districts as a part of a political process to give full representation to voters in Texas. I went from a slam-dunk seat to a very competitive seat.

ROWLETT: And you have no problem with the way House Majority Leader Tom DeLay worked behind the scenes to draw maps favorable to Republicans?
SESSIONS: You heard me use the word “political” process.  We drew lines that were more consistent with communities of interest and attempted to bring people into districts where they had more alignment and more in common. 

ROWLETT: Did the 32nd District turn out the way you would have drawn it?
SESSIONS:
The 32nd District is drawn in a way that I fully accepted. I did not draw it, but I accepted it. 

ROWLETT: Congressman Frost says you represent the far right wing of your party. Do you?
SESSIONS:
I represent the side of the party that believes that tax cuts and opportunity will come about through legislation when we have more market-based ideas to solve problems. I am a conservative.

ROWLETT: Far right?
SESSIONS: I wish someone would define what that means. I am one of the most conservative members of the United States House of Representatives, and I’m proud of that.

ROWLETT: And you label Frost a liberal?
SESSIONS: I do.  Martin Frost served as the Chairman of the Democrat National Campaign Committee. In other states, Democrats with Frost’s exact same voting record are proud to call themselves liberals. Make no mistake about it: Martin is to the Left what I am to the Right.

ROWLETT: Would you call the Dallas Morning News a conservative newspaper? It calls Frost a moderate.
SESSIONS: I would not call the Morning News a conservative newspaper. They are branding him that because he is in the middle of a transition. There’s a Frost mail piece out where he extols the virtues of tax cuts for the middle class and for our economy.  But Martin Frost has always voted against tax cuts until he became a candidate for Texas’ 32.

ROWLETT: So you are claiming he is changing his spots so he can win the district?
SESSIONS: Absolutely. He is changing numerous votes and positions. 

ROWLETT: What else besides tax cuts?
SESSIONS:
I think taxes are the major areas. Those are the votes that we have seen. There have been some votes that have been made that I am not prepared to show you today. I’m sure I could without any problem, Tracy. But I believe he has voted differently from what he has in the past. And I will point blank say the tax issue.

ROWLETT: He has received the endorsements of the Dallas police and fire associations. Why do these groups support him and not you?
SESSIONS: Well, I have always sought their endorsements, but never received them, not even when my last opponent was an 80-year-old woman. I have never received their endorsements because of the collective-bargaining issue. I can be with them on 90 percent of the issues, but on collective bargaining, I don’t agree with them.

ROWLETT: Frost is the only Jewish member of the Texas congressional delegation. Do you think you can win the Jewish vote in the 32nd?
SESSIONS:
The Jewish vote is one that I have focused on for a number of years.  The Jewish community is made up of Republicans and Democrats. I think the Republicans will support me, and the Democrats will support Martin.

ROWLETT: You think party is more important than faith or culture?
SESSIONS: I do.

ROWLETT: Do you think you can win the minority voters in the district?
SESSIONS: We do believe this district does have a high minority community that will support Martin Frost.

ROWLETT: How much money will it take for this race?
SESSIONS: I think Martin’s assessment of about $3 million dollars each is about right. At the end of July, we have about $2.5 million sitting in the bank.

ROWLETT: Now we are hearing that the bar has been raised to about $4 million.
SESSIONS:
That would not surprise me at all.

ROWLETT: So you think, between the two of you, there could be $8 million spent in this race?
SESSIONS: It would not surprise me if we got very close to that.  

ROWLETT: Why is the job worth that much money?
SESSIONS: The person who represents the 32nd represents a very influential district, one where business and job opportunities abound.  

ROWLETT: But why is this race taking on such national importance? 
SESSIONS:
Well, Martin Frost is a 26-year incumbent, and business people come to me with their support. He’s the poster child for the AFL/CIO. You don’t get any better than 100 percent support from the AFL/CIO.   There aren’t a whole lot of those people in the United States Congress.

ROWLETT: So the Republican Party would like to get rid of him?
SESSIONS: Sure. But any business owner, large or small, or any investor, can’t see waking up and having Martin Frost as their Congressman. The outpouring of money has been incredible from day one. We didn’t even have to put a request out. We stand right now at $900,000 ahead of Frost in cash on hand.

ROWLETT: And you have no problem with either of you taking money from outside the state?
SESSIONS:
No. And I’m happy that Chevy Chase has given him money. You know, the liberals from California. They are friends of his because they are the real left.

ROWLETT: In other issues, do you support out continued presence in Iraq?
SESSIONS: I support it and the way we are standing up to the terrorists in Iraq.  It’s like an away game for the United States. The home game was on September 11, 2001. And we have now awakened, as we did when we started the war, and we are not going to sit back and send in a cruise missile or rattle a saber. We will confront those insurgents and Muslims who intend to inflict death in and hatred at the United States. And our military, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, is fighting a real war against people who would come to the United States to kill innocent Americans.

ROWLETT:  What is your opinion of the 9/11 Commission, which claims, among other things, that we still have holes in our security?   
SESSIONS: Congress has not fully learned. We speak with a divided voice about terrorism. A prime example of that was our huge debate and vote on the Patriot Act.  The Democratic Party did not want the Justice Department to spend money to follow known terrorists in the United States. So, I don’t think the U.S. Congress has learned.

ROWLETT: Some view the Patriot Act as a loss of individual freedoms.  Are you prepared to sacrifice individual freedom for protection against terrorists?
SESSIONS:
I am as it relates to the Patriot Act where it deals with only those who are engaged in international terrorism. Darn right I am.

ROWLETT:  Do you agree with the 9/11 Commission’s assessment that there will be another attack in the U.S.?  
SESSIONS: I have been a part of some 70 top secret briefings over the past few years. And I do believe that the terrorism threat that is present today in our country, as well as the cyber threat that has been aimed at this nation from overseas, is a coordinated event that takes place on a regular basis to find our weaknesses. I do believe that, despite all we have done, it is possible that there could be another attack. I think if somebody spends all his time to do something against this country that he can probably get it done. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are well aware of ongoing threats. And I think it is entirely possible for terrorists to pull something off.

ROWLETT: Back to the race, what do you think your biggest obstacles to re-election might be?
SESSIONS: My ability to make a credible case for all the things my record stands for and to clearly show where Mr. Frost is. Once I make that case, if I do it effectively, I will be the winner in this race.

Photos: Rowlett: Tom Hussey; Sessions: Michael Ainsworth/Dallas Morning News

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