TYLER – Rancher and small businessman Hank Gilbert (D-Tyler) announced Thursday morning that he would challenge incumbent Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) in the 2020 race for Texas Congressional District 1 in front of a group of supporters and members of the media at the IUE-CWA Local 86782 Union Hall in Tyler. He made further announcements later in the day in Longview and Nacogdoches.
“It is time for this congressional district to have a representative who actually understands the East Texas values of hard work, fair play, and taking care of our fellow man,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert cited economic improvement, a plan to curb student debt, and increasing access to rural healthcare as three major portions of his platform.
“The Trump-Gohmert Tariffs amount to an extra tax of about $1,000 per year on the average U.S. household,” Gilbert said.
Part of these tariffs just took effect Sept. 1 and amounted to a 40 percent tariff on $109 billion worth of annual imports. Another 15 percent tariff will impact $155 billion worth of consumer goods imported from China starting Dec. 15.
“You and I will pay more for the goods we buy every time we go to Walmart or Target thanks to these tariffs. Louie Gohmert supports these tariffs and thinks they are good policy. The reality is that they are not–they are hurting middle class families,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said that the tariffs are just another example of poor fiscal policy under Gohmert’s watch in Congress.
“The Gohmert approved tax cuts are hurting East Texas families,” he said. “While billionaires get a deduction for their private jets, middle class families in Congressional District 1 may see a few extra dollars in their paycheck every week, but they are getting hammered at tax time and seeing far less of a refund,” he said.
“Our police, teachers, and firefighters got hurt by Gohmert’s tax cut and I’m committed to helping them.”
Gilbert also called for massive student loan reforms, and announced several proposals to reduce or eliminate student debt, including programs that would pay for the entirety of vocational or junior college training for college students, and that would pay for the first two years of a college student’s four-year degree, if they agreed to dedicate one year to government service following graduation at the state, local, or federal level.
Coupled with that, Gilbert said, he proposed no-interest student loans for the final two years of a student’s four-year degree, with repayment deferred for three years following graduation.
“America cannot grow the next generation of innovators if they are overburdened by student loan debt,” Gilbert said. “Young people today are forced to take multiple jobs to make ends meet after graduating just to cover their student loan debt,” he continued.
“We cannot turn out the next Bill Gates, Katherine Johnson, or Jonas Salk if some of the brilliant minds of the next generation shy away from advanced degrees and institutions of higher learning because they are fearful of being overburdened by student debt for much of their adult lives,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert also called for major rural healthcare reforms.
“Rural hospitals have been shutting their doors left and right for years,” Gilbert said. “Louie Gohmert has stood by and watched it happen, without lifting a finger to help rural hospitals in his own district,” he said.
“It is imperative that Congress require states to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates on things like labor and delivery services and provide more pass-through funding and grants to help rural hospitals keep their doors open,” he said.
“Every time a rural hospital cuts services or closes its doors, people are at risk, and our quality of life in this district decreases,” he said. “When I’m in Congress, we will put more money in to rural healthcare to ensure that people in rural communities aren’t sacrificing their health and well-being just because they choose to live where they live,” he said.
Gilbert, a former high school agriculture teacher and longtime rancher and small businessman, lives in Tyler. His two sons, Cody and Peyton, attend pharmacy school at the University of Texas at Tyler.