To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the November ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all candidates to answer the following questions. We edited answers for clarity, not substance or grammar, and we did not fact-check responses. We restricted responses to 200 words for each question.
Read other candidates’ answers here.
Link to campaign website:
Education background/degrees earned:
BS, MA, and PhD degrees from the University of Texas at Austin
Current occupation, employer, or job title:
Owner, Zaffirini Communications. President, Alexander Foundation and its two entities: Alexander Investments and Alexander Development
Previous elected offices held and/or sought:
None before State Senate
Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?
My bipartisan effectiveness reflects my qualifications to serve as state senator. In a Republican-dominated legislature, for example, I have been the highest bill-passer for the last three sessions (127, 108, 102). Passing legislation requires not only ability, relationships, and will, but also knowledge, insight, and persistence. I also have passed 1,160 bills – more than any legislator in the history of the State of Texas. Such success is possible only after learning the legislative process, mastering the rules of both chambers, and strengthening interpersonal networks. It also requires the ability to negotiate and to compromise with honesty, integrity, and accountability and to be trusted and respected by colleagues of both parties. I’ve worked hard toward this end. As we contend with a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, we need elected leaders who can govern effectively, and do not participate in the name-calling, finger-pointing, and partisan bickering that too often define our politics; and who are capable of representing all of the people – not only those who look like them, act like them, and think like them. My success in meeting those standards consistently over time is the foundation from which, together, we can build toward a better future.
What three issues do you feel are most important to voters in your district?
The three main issues facing District 21 are the health and economic effects of COVID-19; the need for better, affordable educational opportunities, including early childhood and higher education; and the number of persons, especially children, who remain uninsured and lack access to quality health care. While recovering from the pandemic by prioritizing health and effective social distancing, promoting widespread testing and immunizations, and reopening businesses safely to get Texans back to work, we also must look to the future. During next year’s legislative session, we must protect education and health and human services budgets from damaging cuts and reform systems, such as unemployment, to avoid confusion during the next crisis. We must do more to make education accessible, affordable, and excellent. Every child has the right to the best possible education, from pre-K through higher education, from well-trained, properly compensated teachers. What’s more, our students deserve to achieve their dreams without the crushing burden of student loan debt. We have one of the largest economies in the world. That 4.3 million Texans – including 623,000 children –lack health insurance is abominable. We should expand Medicaid immediately, providing 1.5 million Texans with coverage and saving our rural hospitals in the process.
If elected, what would be your top priorities after taking office?
My foremost priority during the next legislative session will be to address the myriad effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must develop a budget that offers long-term stability while minimizing cuts to education and health and human services. We also will need to reform systems like unemployment that failed us when we needed them most. Finally, we will establish a plan to reopen our businesses safely and fairly, providing financial and regulatory assistance to small businesses that have struggled mightily for months. Beyond the pandemic, however, my priorities have not changed. Education, from pre-K through higher education, is the key to our economic success and our children’s futures. We must continue to invest in access, affordability, and excellence and take action to address the crushing burden of student loan debt: Young people should not have to lease their futures to earn a degree. Health care, too, must remain a focus. Too many Texans lack access to the care they need. We should build upon the successes of the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid; upholding protections for persons with preexisting conditions; and pursuing new solutions to bring low-income Texans, children, persons with disabilities, and veterans into our health care system.
How has the coronavirus pandemic shaped your priorities?
The coronavirus pandemic has caused my staff and me to revamp completely our constituent services. More of them than ever have turned to us for assistance in resolving their problems, addressing their needs, and facilitating their access to resources. We are working remotely, but, to enhance our responsiveness, our Capitol and district office telephones are forwarded to us 24/7. This has enabled us to respond immediately to those who face critical issues such as access to food, water, and unemployment benefits. Because information is critical during this pandemic, we provide timely, relevant, and helpful resources via our weekly eNewsletters, daily social media posts, and regular interactions. Our newest efforts include weekly Zooms, whether with individuals or groups. Through our biweekly public Zoom webinars, which have featured subjects such as education, mental health, and long-term care facilities, we have reached more than 50,000 participants. Coupled with our targeted Zooms for smaller groups, we have reached 150,000+. We reply to every message, respond to every phone call, and accept every constituent’s request for an appointment. Our goal, first and foremost, is to respond to the needs of those we represent. We may not always succeed, but we always try.
For incumbents: What do you consider your most significant accomplishments in office? What would you change?
It’s been my pleasure to pass bills that saved lives, such as by funding AIDS medication and immunizations, and others that transformed them, such as by expanding access to high-quality, affordable education, especially higher education; by protecting elderly Texans and persons with disabilities from abuse, neglect and exploitation; and by ensuring the most vulnerable among us can get the medical care they need. That’s not hyperbole; it’s a testament to the importance and gravity of the issues we address daily. These accomplishments, however, have only revealed how much more work remains. Despite such progress, Texas – with the 10th largest economy in the world –permits an intolerable level of poverty and human suffering. Hundreds of thousands of children lack access to basic medical care, persons with disabilities are forced to endure years of waiting for the services that would allow them to live independently, and those living in colonias often struggle to have consistent access to drinkable water. We have worked hard to improve the quality of life for millions of Texans, especially young people and the vulnerable among us who too often are forgotten.
What would I change? I wish I could have accomplished even more for the families I represent.
For non-incumbents: What, if anything, would you do differently from the current officeholder?