Op-Ed by Audrey Spanko – Democratic Candidate for Texas Senate District 1
As the number of Texans testing positive for the novel coronavirus continues to climb — now over 150,000 — it’s hard not to question why the state is still seeing such strong opposition to social distancing and wearing face coverings.
It’s easy to point fingers at state leaders and their reluctance to issue orders requiring these recommended measures. But I believe it’s bigger than our elected officials dragging their feet.
A few months after I started campaigning for Texas Senate District 1, I had a great conversation with a local college student at a festival in my district. An hour after we spoke, they came running back to me to ask if we could take a picture together. “My friend said I should take a picture with you, because your election could make you famous,” they said.
This is an issue facing Texas during this pandemic: Our elected officials are not celebrities.
They are just people — people who can afford to run for office. They are rarely award-winning scientists or medical professionals or epidemiologists. The majority of the Texas Legislature are people working in legal, business or real estate careers. Their expertise is not pandemic preparedness nor management nor even human services.
Our governor and District 1 state senator are attorneys. Our lieutenant governor is a former radio host. They are not medical professionals nor epidemiologists, but their words and actions have led many Texans to believe they are experts because of their leadership positions and status, alongside their reluctance to acknowledge the fact that they aren’t experts.
To appropriately address the issues of this pandemic, we need leaders who are willing to work across the aisle and follow experts’ recommendations. Guidance and orders issued in spite of those recommendations are simply opinions. Many elected officials do not seem to realize that.
Texas’ GOP coronavirus response.
Sen. Bryan Hughes, my opponent in District 1 in East Texas, was at the forefront of the national effort to distribute hydroxychloroquine sulfate, well before its effects were tested or scientifically validated. The drug has since been ruled ineffective — the FDA claimed its benefits do not outweigh its potential risks.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared in March he believes our economy’s health is more important than the health of Texans. He blatantly ignored medical experts, accusing hospitals of providing misleading information.
Gov. Greg Abbott built a task force to guide him through the process of reopening the state but prioritized input from prominent and politically powerful business executives over medical professionals and local leaders.
Texas needs humble leaders.
We can’t expect anyone to understand all facets of this pandemic and how it will continue to affect Texans. But we’re in need of leaders who are willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and listen to the advice of professionals in the fields of medicine, epidemiology and human services.
It’s clear our current leaders aren’t that humble. And that is a failure of leadership.
My name is Audrey Spanko, and I am on a mission to improve the well-being of all Texans. Northeast Texas is home to compassionate, hardworking individuals who deserve better representation in Austin. Texas Senate District 1 deserves a Senator who will work to improve the lives of every member of the community. With your support, I plan to take the values I learned in northeast Texas to the Capitol and fight to improve the lives of Texans.