David Courtney Announces Green Party Candidacy for State Senate
By Kalyani Giri
HOUSTON: Indian classical musician, author, and entrepreneur David Courtney has always been voluble about his political beliefs and all that ails the US. An avid progressive activist who has famously picketed against social injustices and staunchly stood his ground for reform, but found himself increasingly disillusioned with both the leading parties that dominate the political arena in the country. Last month when Courtney announced his candidacy for the State Senate representing the Green Party, no one acquainted with him was even a bit surprised. The man who hopes to make a difference is standing for the senatorial position for District 17.
The boundaries of Senatorial District 17 are still not clear. It is tied up in a federal case which still has not settled. But it appears that this will include the Western part of Houston, West University, Bellaire, most of Sugar Land, the western half of Missouri City, and an area extending southward as far as Freeport.
Friends and admirers of Courtney readily concur that he is honest to a fault, loyal, refreshingly down-to-earth, an intellectual, and depending on the company and occasion, a wag with an irreverent and irrepressible sense of humor. Texas-born, Courtney spent several years in India honing his skills on the tabla, and learning Hindustani Classical music from masters in the field. Courtney is married to Chandrakantha, a well-known Hindustani classical vocalist; they are parents to Shyamsundar and Veena.
His opponent, Senator Joan Huffman, the Republican incumbent for District 17, was first elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2010. Indo-American News spoke with Courtney about his campaign and the challenges he anticipates in his run for the senate seat.
Why have you decided to work with the Green Party?
Because both of the major parties are playing the same game. They are pandering to money and not responding to the needs of the people. Since they are both playing the same game, the voters could jump back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans forever and never see the needed reforms.
What reforms need to be made?
There are larger structural problems and there are smaller partisan ones.
What are the larger issues?
The fundamental problem is that we have a political system which responds to money and not to people. Therefore we cannot really consider the US to be any form of democracy. It is a plutocracy, that is to say a country which is “ruled by the wealthy.” The nature of the American plutocracy is staggering. It is a staggeringly small percentage of the population which controls the lion’s share of the wealth of this country. The political structure in turn is answerable only to this miniscule percentage of the population. It is time for the people to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”
If elected, do you think that you could change this system.
No single individual could do that. But when the “pigs are at the trough,” I can do everything in my power to make it a little less palatable for them. I can be the eyes and ears of the people and make noise when things are not right. Hopefully more of the public will also stand up, and en masse we can make the necessary changes. Reform never comes from the top down, it must always come from the bottom up.
What about the smaller issues?
There are numerous ones. These include education, infrastructure and all of the usual things that politicians talk about.
However there is one thing in particular that should be of concern to the readers of this paper. The mood in Austin, especially under the Republicans is amazingly anti-immigrant. Let us take an example from my Republican opponent Joan Huffman. She was co-sponsor of an amendment to a recent education bill (Senate Bill 1581), which would prohibit any institution of higher education from extending in-state tuition rates to non-US citizen.
Think about what this means. We all know people who have been here for 10 years or more under H1 visas and green cards who would have been forced to send their children to college only by paying the outrageous out of state tuition. They would have to do this even though they lived here legally for years and paid into the system with their taxes. This is just one example but it is very typical of the anti-immigrant sentiments of the Republican dominated state Senate in Austin.
How do you hope to finance your campaign?
Campaign contributions are welcome from individuals. But I will not accept money from anything other than human beings! In other words NO PAC money! I have several internet sources for people who would like to make a contribution, the main one is TakingBackDemocracy.com.
Tell me a little about your opponent.
As already mentioned, Joan Huffman is the incumbent senator. She has a 1.3 million budget. Some of this is in her campaign funds and some of this is in a special PAC.
Does she really need all this money to run her campaign? She didn’t have a Democratic opponent in the last election and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be one in this election. It seems like she will be opposed only by myself in the Green party and someone else in the Libertarian Party. All of this money means she is ether very much afraid of me, or the money is actually tied to something else. The readers of this article can draw their own conclusions on this matter.
She also has a solid record of anti-immigrant legislation (as previously noted), cutting spending for education, and very poor record on public healthcare.
What in your candid opinion would be positive change?
The main thing to remember is that reform can never come from one elected official. It takes the efforts of every citizen. I would especially consider it a positive change when a very sizable number of readers of this newspaper are politically involved.
For more information, visit http://TakingBackDemocracy.com, https://twitter.com/#!/David4Texas, http://www.facebook.com/david4texas