Climate change, minimum wage and controversies surrounding corporate funding of campaigns were discussed Wednesday at the Texas State College Democrats meeting with a Texas congressional candidate.
Tom Wakely, Democratic candidate for the 21st congressional district, spoke to students about politics as his campaign to become a congressman of the U.S. House of Representatives is well underway. Wakely is competing with Tejas Vakil for the Democratic nomination.
Born and raised in San Antonio to a large Catholic family, Wakely had a rough start in life due to losing his grandparents to homicide and a plane crash, respectively.
The candidate started an underground newspaper called The San Antonio Gazette when he was young, and proceeded to work with several unions through the electrical union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
“I worked with unions and would see picket lines and strikes,” Wakely said.
After leaving San Antonio, Wakely considered a life of priesthood when he joined a seminary that Rev. Jesse Jackson also attended in Chicago.
Wakely relocated to Wisconsin where, as a member of a local school board, he discovered through Greenpeace that a waste management initiative had ties to local crime, specifically Al Capone.
“My house was trashed, they slashed my tires and black cars followed me around everywhere,” he said.
At the meeting, Wakely dug into issues such as early voting shutdowns in Austin.
“Age groups gives you an idea of what people care about,” Wakely said. “Eighty-year-olds are more concerned with social security and Medicare benefits than a 38-year-old.”
Nicholas Laughlin, president of College Democrats at Texas State, said county commissioners don’t want people to vote.
Wakely said voting in East Austin saw minority neighborhoods shut down while richer areas in the hill country stayed open for early voting.
“That’s how they keep voters out, by suppressing voting in poorer neighborhoods,” Wakely said.
When speaking about climate change, Wakely said it is an issue voters of all parties can no longer ignore, and cited Texas power plants as a problem.
Wakely said “Christian science” leads the religion’s followers to believe that prayers cure cancer and climate change comes from bad vibes.
“(Climate change) is here, whether naturally occurring or manmade—we need to start looking at ways to mitigate it,” Wakely said.
The congressional candidate discussed gerrymandering, saying “corporate giants” have kept incumbent Lamar Smith in office for years. Sixty-seven percent of districts in Texas are gerrymandered, Wakely said.
Wakely said as long as gerrymandering exists, there needs to be congressional term limits.
“Voters don’t choose politicians, politicians choose voters,” Wakely said. “These tax policies benefit the rich, so we need to cut taxes and reinvest in jobs.”
Wakely is a vocal supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and said he believes the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour.
“(Bernie Sanders) is the face of the movement right now,” Wakely said. “I am an aggressive candidate—a Democratic-socialist.”
An earlier version of this article stated that Tom Wakely said Christians believe prayers cure cancer and climate change comes from bad vibes. The article has been corrected, as Wakely said these are beliefs of “Christian science.”