The Paul Sadler Interview

As the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate prepares for his final debate against Ted Cruz, he discusses why he thinks he can win, the state of the Democratic party, and what the word "troll" really means.
The Paul Sadler Interview
Associated Press | Kevin Green

Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler are scheduled to meet October 19 in Dallas for their second and final debate in their race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison as U.S. senator. In the October issue, Jake Silverstein interviewed Cruz about the campaign and his views. Earlier this week, Brian D. Sweany sat down with Sadler, who served in the Texas House from 1991 to 2003 and was named to Texas Monthly ’s Best Legislators list four sessions in a row . After losing a special election for state senate in 2004, Sadler has worked as an attorney in Henderson and has served as the executive director of the Wind Coalition, a non-profit that encourages the development of wind power.

It has been nearly a decade since you last ran for office. How has the political environment changed since you served in the Legislature? Austin is obviously a different arena than Washington, D.C.

Washington has always been this way, as far as I can remember. I went to Washington several times at the request of different parties to talk about education reform. I used to always say I felt like I needed to take a shower after I left, because it was so partisan that I just really hated it. But I also thought I might like to go back to politics if and when my children reach the right age and my life was in the right place. We certainly had a more bipartisan agenda when I was here in the nineties. That is a reflection of the characters of the individuals involved. You can go down the list, in the state senate you had Bill Ratliff, Teel Bivins, and David Sibley. You had people who were very solution oriented members of the Senate. In the House you had people like myself, Toby Goodman and Rob Junell. These were people who carried weight whenever they spoke and they were much more interested in solving our problems rather than playing political games. So, yes the atmosphere has changed, there is a culture of fear here that I had never experienced before in Texas.

You think a culture of fear has gripped the Lege since you left?

Maybe I was naïve back then—I don’t think so—but now there is certainly a culture of fear for the people who work downtown or participate in the process. When I have one of the wealthiest men in the state tell me that he agrees with me and would like to support me, but he’s afraid it would damage his foundation for political reasons, that’s pretty frightening. I never thought I would see that day in Texas where people would be openly concerned that their business or personal interests would be threatened because of their political views. That’s about as un-American as it gets. Ultimately, you change the culture in Washington only one way, and it’s one election at a time, with the character of the people you send.

You said earlier that if your children got to a certain point in their life you might be interested in making a race like this. What were your motivations not only to get back into politics but also to run for the U.S. Senate?

Honestly, watching Congress and the way they’ve conducted themselves. Like most Americans, I feel disgusted when we see people make decisions based on party politics rather than a solution that is best for the country. Let’s take the current tax debate, for example. You’re seeing policies run by both campaigns that I disagree with. Both campaigns have put together a tax policy that benefits their constituency and translates into votes. They are not putting forward a plan that solves the problem. The notion that you will somehow build a new economy from the top down has never worked. The notion that you are going to build an economy from the middle out is naïve at best in my opinion. The truth is we need to build an economy going forward with all of us, when we all move forward and the payment of a national debt is not the responsibility of one group of Americans versus another. The national debt is all of our responsibility. When 9/11 happened it was an attack against all of America, not part of America. When we sent our sons and daughters to fight for us, we didn’t ask some of America to go, we went whole hog. So now we have to pay for it.  And to suggest that one group of Americans pay for it is divisive, and it hurts us as a country.

When I was asked by Governor Bush and Speaker Pete Laney to review our tax system, we used to laugh because everyone would stand up and say, “Tax that guy, not me.” But all of us have a united responsibility to deal with it. And so a tax policy that’s driven just to cut taxes for the wealthy seems to me to be divisive. And a tax policy that says just tax the wealthy is also very divisive. We all owe our share. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to pay down the national debt. We have to pay for the two wars we entered into. And that has to be a united effort. I know that’s not a popular position to take. I know that if you go out and poll it, you’re not going to find that to be good. But it’s the truth. And I think down in our gut, we all know it to be true.

One of the things you and your opponent, Ted Cruz, have in common is that you both want to pay down the debt and you both want to balance the budget. You’ve said that both sides have tax policies that benefit themselves and their constituents, so what would be the steps that you think the country should take?

Well, Ted has no plan. He doesn’t. His plan is to slash spending and

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