DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
“I’m tired of the Democratic Party being afraid,” said Sean Hubbard, 30, who is running to take Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s place in the U.S. Senate.
With the vacancy left by Hutchison’s decision not to run for re-election, this election cycle presents the Democrats with a rare opportunity that might not come around again for another generation.
Although Hubbard filed with the Federal Election Commission three days before Hutchison announced her plans to retire, her departure leaves a rare opening.
At the time he registered his intention to run for the Democratic nomination for the seat, Hubbard thought Hutchison’s recent turn to the right was a ploy to head off a Tea Party challenge. Instead, her departure presented an opportunity.
In the general election, Hubbard said, he’d rather run against a Tea Party candidate than a well-funded, well-known opponent like Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. But he’s prepared for either.
Only one other candidate has indicated an intention to run for the seat on the Democratic ticket by filing with the FEC — Gen. Ricardo Sanchez who was commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq in 2003-04. Candidates have until Jan. 1 to register for the 2012 election.
Hubbard has been speaking to party leaders across the state. After the resounding defeat of Houston Mayor Bill White in his race against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in 2010, few well-known names in the Democratic Party appear to have an appetite for a statewide race in Texas.
Hubbard cites some of the mistakes recent candidates have made, including running from core Democratic values.
“I’m an open supporter of gay marriage,” he said.
He bases his opposition to civil unions on Brown vs. Board of Education and said that separate is not equal.
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas was one of the first groups Hubbard visited to ask for support.
He also supports a stronger focus on public education and hiring more teachers, rather than firing them.
“The goal of Republicans is to destroy public education,” he said. “I have to make sure Texas has schools that teach about Thomas Jefferson and not the Heritage Foundation.”
Hubbard said that attracting the Latino vote is crucial to his campaign, and he has visited both LULAC and Rainbow LULAC chapters in Dallas. He said his understanding of immigration issues comes from his wife, who arrived in this country as a refugee from Cambodia. She was born in a Khmer Rouge concentration camp and is currently expecting the couple’s first child.
“I have to work for the Latino vote,” Hubbard said. “Without it you can’t win,” adding that not fighting for those votes was one of White’s biggest campaign mistakes.
Hubbard said his age is always part of the discussion about his candidacy. But within the Democratic Party, he said it’s been a plus.
“We need young blood in there,” he said party leaders have told him. “It’s time to get younger people involved.”
He notes that he’s already older than Vice President Joe Biden was when he was first sworn into the Senate.
Hubbard was born in Austin and raised in Scurry, a small town in Kaufman County. He graduated from UT Dallas with a major in political science and economics. Currently he works for a family-owned company that sells doors and moldings to custom home builders.
Hubbard said that while he expects Republican candidates to talk about deficit reduction, he plans to talk about job creation.
“We should be talking about jobs and not the debt ceiling,” he said.
His jobs plan includes increased spending for infrastructure to build high-speed rail — in which he’d like Texas to lead the nation — and roads and bridges.
He’d give tax credits to small businesses that hire more employees and would like to see government-funded training for green energy jobs.
Low-interest loans should be given to people who want to start green industry businesses, Hubbard believes.
“Banks need to lend a certain percentage of money they are given from the government,” he said. “They can’t just sit on it for cash reserves.”
He said there’s no evidence that cutting spending creates jobs, as Republicans suggest.
Hubbard said he looks forward to campaigning with President Obama next year.
“Running away makes you look ashamed and disingenuous,” he said. He called that a mistake other Democrats have made.
He said when Texans are asked who they like better, Obama polls higher than Perry. Hubbard said that this was the right time for him to run.
“I don’t believe in waiting until the time is right,” he said, “Because the time will never be right.”
Hubbard said he understands the fundraising challenge and has a successful, retired Democratic fundraiser from Kentucky working with him. The fundraiser came out of retirement to work on the Hubbard campaign because he liked that the candidate is not afraid to run as a Democrat in Texas.
“I’m invested in the future of this country,” Hubbard said. “I’m 30 years old, and about to have a baby. I have to make sure America succeeds. I have to make sure Texas succeeds.”
If elected, he plans to live in Texas and commute home weekends. He wants his children to attend Texas public schools.
But Hubbard is realistic about his chances.
“I know I’m a long-shot candidate,” he said, “But I represent Democratic values.