Editor’s note: Paul Sadler is the Democratic candidate in the race to fill Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat. He faces Republican opponent Ted Cruz on Nov. 6. The upcoming deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9. Sadler spoke to Daily Texan associate editors Drew Finke and Pete Stroud about college students today, higher education in Texas and his chances in Nov. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Daily Texan: Why should UT students be invested in this election?
Paul Sadler: Because the United States Senate is the highest legislative office in the country … And this particular election is very important — everyone that runs for office will tell you this is the most important election of your life, so I think it’s a little trite — but I do think that at least as far back as I can remember, the choice or the difference between the division of the two parties is so dramatically different that it’s just crucial, particularly for young people, because it’s your future … The students of the University of Texas at Austin and the other college students around the country are right on the edge of some of the most important decisions you’ll make in your lives, and the future of our country is critical as you begin those decisions. So you want to be part of it. You don’t want to be left out; you want to be part of that decision-making process. So I think it’s absolutely critical. I think it’s an important voice … Honestly, if you look at major changes around the world, historically they come from the young people. It’s always the outh that lead the innovation … So for a younger person to think that his or her vote doesn’t matter, that they shouldn’t be involved, is really just a tragedy.
DT: What advice would you give to college students, bearing in mind today’s economic climate?
PS: I would say the same thing I tell my children: give yourself as many options in life as you can. Create a resume that allows you as many options as you go forward through the next ten, 20, 30, 40 years in life. The model of life whenever most of your parents graduated was that you graduated from high school or college and you went to work for a company and retired at age 65 and died at age 72 … It’s not like that anymore. You may change careers multiple times in your lifetime. You may work for one company for 30 years and reach what was the old retirement age, then begin a whole new career. So I think it’s important from an educational standpoint and a personal standpoint to make yourself as well-rounded as you can, with as many options as you can.
DT: What did you get out of your college experience?
PS: That’s a great question. Two things primarily from my experiences at Baylor: One is that Baylor [was] a smaller university, and particularly in the law school there was a very close sense of family. We started with 68 students in my law school class and we graduated 68 … And so even though I might not have talked to many of my classmates for a long time, we are still very close. I run across some of them all across the state as I campaign. Number two: When I graduated from college I think we were on the crux of a real change in the way we learn … We were moving from an age in which you had a set of books and you tried to learn what was in the books. Then you moved forward to what I view today as a world in which you have to learn how to reach a certain altitude of mind, because you have so much more available to you today, so much quicker than we did. And [our professors] were very good at teaching a thought process — an analytical process of how to ask the right questions that lead you to the right answers. Ultimately, when you get out of college, the real question is: have you developed a mind that has the ability to seek answers and know where to find them?
DT: What student-focused issues will you pursue if elected? In essence, why should we vote for you?
PS: The DREAM Act. Although it doesn’t affect a large percentage of students, the DREAM Act is an issue that defines who we are as a people, who we are as a nation … The very idea that we would have young people in this country without a country — they have no country to return to because they’ve lived … almost all their lives in this country. They’re innocent [of] wrongdoing. They’re here because their parents brought them here. And all they seek is the American dream, and we as a country, so far in the last decade, have turned a deaf ear. And I think that’s a real travesty … The answer of my opponent often is that they should go home, but this is home. And if you return them to the countries of their birth, many of them face criminal prosecution there, and they have no pathway to citizenship in this country. So they literally are children and young people without a country. And we’ve always stood for the promise of the future. And so for young people and students I think it should be our number one goal. It’s just a matter of doing what’s right.
DT: Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, and according to a poll released by your own campaign you’re 17 points behind Ted Cruz in the polls. What, realistically, do you hope to accomplish in this election?
PS: Win. I realistically hope to win. I don’t think that Mr. Cruz represents the mainstream views of this state. I don’t think he represents even the mainstream view of the Republican Party. I think that when the people of Texas see those differences they will understand that and then vote for me, I hope. The fact of the matter, particularly in the light of Citizens United, is that we live in an age of politics where we’re seeing more and more the influence and control of a very small group of extraordinarily wealthy people that can influence elections. And it only stops when we, the people of Texas, individually stand up and make our own independent decisions and determine who we want to represent us. Mr. Cruz has had the support of a number of super PACs. The Club for Growth left the state after the July 31 primary and declared that they had elected the next United States Senator from Texas. And if that’s what the people of Texas want, and that’s what the young people of Texas want, they should go vote for him. But he does not owe his allegiance to the people of Texas; I do. I’m sixth-generation Texan. I was born and raised here, lived in every part of the state. I understand the state, I represented it: I co-authored the education code for our state, I put together the health insurance program for teaching professionals and public school employees, I passed the largest property tax cut in the history of our state. I’ve worked in wind energy and understand our electricity grid and our energy markets. I have five children who have been through college; I’ve got one who’s still a senior. I think it’s a matter of who best represents us in that process. I’m hopeful that through the debate process, and through interviews like this, that people will look take a look at my record, at who I am, and that they’ll decide to vote for me. I don’t owe an allegiance to anyone except the people of Texas. My average [campaign] contribution is $60. No super PACs. Don’t want one. I have no allegiance except to the people in this state. That’s the record I had in the legislature — and that’s the value of a legislative record. You can go look at my record: I was named among the “10 best” four out of six sessions. And you can determine what kind of legislator I am, and was and how I will be. When you look at Mr. Cruz, he has no legislative record, none. You’re rolling the dice — you don’t know what he’ll be. And that’s important because this is the highest legislative body in the country. This is not the place for a novice, or as I like to call it, a replacement official. Sometimes the game just moves too fast for ‘em.
DT: In your opinion what is the most important issue regarding higher education in Texas and nationwide?
PS: Tuition. Without a doubt, tuition … Let’s take Texas, for example: whenever the Legislature — and this is just a fact. It’s not partisan, it’s just factual — but when the Republican Party gained control of both the House and the Senate and all the statewide offices, and the first time they faced a budgeting issue what they did was that they released universities to set their own tuition rates. And it was, in my opinion, a major blunder. People within the administration at the University may not feel that way, but for parents across the state and students across the state one of the greatest assets we had as Texas citizens was a world-class university system that was affordable to almost all families. And as we’ve seen, once they released the universities to set their tuition rates, those tuition rates climbed dramatically, and it has, in my view, limited the accessibility of higher education … So I think our [in]ability in the future to maintain college education that’s affordable and accessible to all of our students is the biggest threat to higher education.