TX HD64 Debate: Mat Pruneda & Andrew Morris

Excitement filled the atmosphere at the Democratic Debate for the Texas House Representative District 64. In a state assumed to always vote Republican, such an event with this reaction is quite unusual. A variety of people gathered to observe candidates Andrew Morris and Mat Pruneda vie, not only for the house seat, but for a new direction in Texas politics. The event sponsored by UNT College Democrats and Rantt Media, propped the two candidates in UNTs Lyceum theater as they debated key issues in contemporary Democrat thought from education to civil rights.

Over the course of the debate Pruneda staunchly asserted his "uncompromising" dedication to women's rights, specifically their reproductive rights. Morris promoted stronger attention to education and progressive immigration reform.

Both candidates shared much of the same general platform and when asked about this referenced more of a difference in approach rather than a significant ideological divide. However, both insisted on the need for everyone to participate in civic engagement in order to bring about real, lasting change.

Andrew Morris is a curious candidate for the Texas House of Representatives. Originally from Cheshire, England, Andrew grew up in Australia and immigrated to the United States for school. He has a background in various tech industries such as broadband provision and technical support.

Education is the first issue that Morris holds to heart. He described a plan for Texas education tied directly to legalizing marijuana. As he stated in the debate, Morris feels that Texas should have been first in line for legalization.

"As far as public education goes, ideally it's legalizing recreational marijuana and being able to utilize those revenue funds," Morris said. "And that's the long-term goal. In the short term, it comes to making a dedication that public education matters and funding it appropriately."

Mat Pruneda opened by discussing his participation in the Women's March this past Saturday. A financial analyst by trade, Pruneda emphasized his commonality with the average Texas voter. He mentions his mortgage and middle-class concerns, e.g. insurance and medicine on his campaign website.

Pruneda shared a lot of concerns with Morris, but for him, the first issue he wishes to tackle is the environmental dangers he feels Texas citizens are faced with.

"There is a bill that is actually ready to be introduced that puts a safe distance between [oil] wells and schools," Pruneda said. "And that is the thing that I would like to make sure I do first. My Dad is one of five kids, and of them, four died of cancer and I always ask myself what was in the dirt around his house? Because the one that’s alive was the one that lived in that neighborhood for the shortest period of time. I think about that all the time when I think about what's going on with fracking and how close it is to schools."

As the debate came under way, both candidates immediately expressed their confidence a Democratic victory in the district, as well as Texas overall, was possible. They emphasized the importance of community outreach and voter education in the electoral process.

"I recognize that Mat Pruneda is an activist and the way that he spoke about, feels about women's reproductive rights, especially abortion rights was definitely interesting. But, I did like Andrew Morris' response to that […] He might be able to have those hard conversations and be able to actually get something done which I think is really important," said Cristina Garrido a voter in attendance. "I'm a young person, I'm a woman, you want to feel very strongly about things. But I think it's really important to recognize people's actions versus people's words. And I think that people have to make the judgement call as to whether or not you think the candidate will actually be able to do something."

Early voting for this election cycle begins on Feb. 20 and regular voting on March 6. 

Header image by Tyler Murphy.
Header image layout design by Mateo Granados