Merion West’s Alex Baltzegar sits down with the man primarying Ted Cruz for his seat in the Senate.
Baltzegar: You brand yourself as a free market Republican. Tell us a little bit about what that means.
Stefano: Capitalism has brought a billion people out of poverty around the world and capitalism and free markets are the strength of America. I am in favor of free trade. I am in favor of solutions for government that help the market and are market-based strategies rather than central planning and regulation-based solutions. That’s what a free market Republican means to me.
Baltzegar: How do you think your background in the private sector will help you represent the people of Texas?
Stefano: As an energy attorney, someone who has worked in finance, who has been a dealmaker his entire career, I can be a champion for Texas industries, and Texas needs an advocate for Texas. Someone who can deliver. Someone who can go to the Senate and negotiate with everybody who happens to be in Washington at the time, and focus on the issues that matter to everyday Texans.
Baltzegar: What would be your number one priority in the Senate?
Stefano: So my platform is called “Four for Texas.” There’s four big real issues that are normal people’s everyday problems. On immigration we need a 21st century solution that is safe, secure, streamlined, simple, and cheap. In trade I’m going to fight for NAFTA and all these international trade agreements that benefit Texas and the country, that create jobs for Americans. I’m going to fight for the energy industry. I’m going to be an advocate and an ambassador to help bring people together, so that Texas can be a leader in the energy industry. Texas has always been a leader in the energy industry, and what Texas says on energy should matter in Washington, and it hasn’t been because of a lack of leadership. Finally, there’s veterans. We haven’t done a good job for our heroes. We send them to war. We risk their lives, and they come back and we kind of forget about them. Congress has started already by proposing a bill that would reform the VA. That’s a start, and I want to work to continue that progress and really do right by our vets. So these are the four issues that are top priorities that I’m going to push when I’m in Washington.
Baltzegar: Where do you think Senator Cruz goes wrong?
Stefano: I think Cruz has gone wrong because he is building his personal brand. Cruz is out for Cruz, and the energy sector is a perfect example of him only caring about his brand and not his constituents and the industry that got him there. Only 5% of the legislation he’s proposed addresses the energy sector, and that’s not really effective leadership – and I think that’s where he’s gone wrong. He hasn’t tried to represent his constituents as much as he’s tried to represent himself. I’m not saying he can’t represent his constituents, I’m sure he can, but at this point nobody wants to work with him. He’s been too busy catering to extremism, and at this point, the horses are out and it’s too late to close the barn door.
Baltzegar: So Senator Cruz has a 38% approval rating right now among Texans. What would you say your chances of defeating Senator Cruz are?
Stefano: I think there’s a chance of democracy winning this race. People are sick and tired from the last election cycle of the divisive politics and the rancor and vitriol that’s been a hallmark of American politics for the last seven years. Extreme politics that’s going on is sickening people, and I think people are ready for a new class of leadership, a sort of radical departure from the partisan extremism that’s going on now. Since when is it a radical idea to be in the middle and be a guy that’s working for the best solutions for everybody? I’ve decided to bring that back to our national discourse and I think people are ready for that.
Baltzegar: Speaking of divisiveness, how would you grade Mr. Trump’s presidency so far?
Stefano: I think Trump is Trump and he’s going to do what he’s going to do. I think people put a lot of blame on Trump for things he doesn’t have control over. Healthcare is the perfect example of that. Trump wasn’t there for the past seven years when nobody wanted to reach across the aisle, and nobody came up with a plan. There’s a lack of leadership in Congress, generally, and that’s not something that can just be laid at the feet of Trump. That being said, I’m willing to work with Trump or whoever is in the Oval Office. That’s the job of Congress. People put their trust in elected officials and we owe it to our constituents to find ways to work together, regardless of who’s there and regardless of the media circus.
Baltzegar: Of the current sitting US Senators, who would you say you respect the most?
Stefano: There’s a lot of Senators out there who have done a great job, and people put their trust in their Senator. That being said, I’m really impressed with John McCain, and the fact that he managed to pull himself up despite fighting cancer, get back to Congress, and fight for bipartisanship. That’s a big message that I want to get on board with. He’s as sick of the divisions as I am. There’s a lot of Democrats that are willing to work across the aisle, that have a lot of integrity. And I like John Cornyn – he’s going to be a great ally and help me get some Texan leadership into Congress and into the country.
Baltzegar: Thank you joining us today. This has been an interesting interview.
Stefano: Thank you for having me.