Describing the event as an “opportunity to talk about the real issues affecting people in our community,” Gooden is currently going through a second round of district town halls.
Raised in Terrell by parents who were “life-long public educators,” the freshman congressman opened the conversation by emphasizing that although the district is “overwhelmingly Republican,” he is excited and eager to converse with everyone in attendance regardless of their political beliefs.
Before opening the floor to questions from the audience, the congressman emphasized his conservative beliefs, commitment to bipartisanship, and support for the President saying he is “100 percent on board and supportive of President Donald Trump.”
He also issued a warm welcome to all in attendance saying, “I realize there are Democrats in the room who don’t agree… but I want you to know that you’re welcome, and I’m happy you’re here.”
Though there were concerns about protests from Rise for Refuge – an organization that works to protect the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees – in response to Congressman Gooden’s DNA-Testing Bill, police officials confirmed that no protests occurred at the event.
The bill, officially known as the “End Child Trafficking Now Act,” requires DNA tests to be performed when seeking entry at the border to ensure a legitimate relationship exists between children and the adult that is accompanying them.
In doing so, the bill seeks to curb the practice of using children to help adults achieve asylum by sending the same unrelated child back across the border to be used again for the same purpose by another individual.
Some advocacy groups, like Moms Demand Action – an organization started by mothers of victims in the Sandy Hook school shooting with the intention of curbing gun violence – were in attendance. However, the audience was mostly comprised of local citizens eager to hear what the congressman was planning to do as congress returns in September.
Many issues were discussed throughout the course of the evening, but those concerning environmental protection as well as Medicare and Social Security took center-stage.
When questioned about climate change and environmental protection, Gooden expressed his belief in bipartisanship by saying, “I think Republicans need to acknowledge … that the world is changing and there’s a good chance it’s our fault” before qualifying this statement by also saying, “I do believe we need to support our energy economy.”
One of the few times “boos” were elicited from some in the audience was when Rep. Gooden said that Democrats often take environmental protection too far by “saying we need to get rid of cows and airplanes.”
Additionally, a rare tense moment arose when a member of the audience accused the congressman of both spreading and supporting lies told by the President about climate change, to which Gooden politely emphasized his desire and willingness to work towards compromise with Republicans and Democrats alike.
Even during passionate discussions, however, the atmosphere was mostly civil and respectful. Those with dissenting opinions still frequently thanked the congressman for his service and praised him for the work he is doing.
Regarding government benefits, as a child of parents with careers in the public school system, Gooden expressed sympathy and agreement about the need for reform when asked about the windfall elimination provision – a provision that adjusts Social Security benefits for individuals who receive non-covered earnings in order to prevent double-dipping.
Critics of the provision argue it results in the withholding of earned Social Security benefits.
When discussing this matter, Gooden said he believed “Republicans have dropped the ball on this” and pledged his commitment to helping ensure Medicare and Social Security are not cut.
As the event drew to a close, Gooden told the crowd that his “two number one priorities are retaking the House (referring to Republicans regaining a majority) and Donald Trump getting re-elected.”
In a statement to The Texan, Congressman Gooden said of the event, “This is my eighth town hall since taking office in January and I’m very pleased with the turnout. East Texans have shown they care about solving the border crisis, supporting President Trump, and taking care of our nation’s veterans.”
Gooden was first elected in 2018 to represent Texas’ fifth congressional district after spending three terms in the Texas State House. Prior to that, he worked as an insurance broker and a risk management consultant.
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Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.