Endorsement Nominee: Renee Hoyos

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The Indivisible East Tennessee Endorsement Committee reviewed candidate questionnaires and interviewed them by phone. They unanimously nominated Renee Hoyos for an endorsement. A majority vote of our Indivisible community will secure the endorsement. (Scroll down to register to vote!) Renee will answer your questions LIVE on our Facebook page - Monday, June 25th at 7:45 p.m.


Candidate questionnaire

In 350 words or less, explain why you are running for office:

I am running for the House of Representatives because I think Congress is broken and needs to get back to the regular order of America’s business. I also believe the policies of this administration are taking us in the wrong direction.

I’ve been working in public policy for the last 17 years and I’ve noticed a steady slide towards the dismantling of government starting in the Reagan Administration. I think we need thoughtful problem solvers in Congress and I’ve been solving environmental problems in Tennessee for the past 14 years as the executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN). Before I decided to run, I consulted with 50 people to ask their opinion and advice. It was from these interviews that I put together my team and determined the issues I would focus on during the campaign. Repeatedly, I hear concern about healthcare, education, the environment and wages.

In January I took a leave of absence from TCWN to campaign full-time. I think the way someone runs for office indicates how they would function in government. We have created a campaign that addresses the issues and we have provided full disclosure and transparency in our FEC filings.

I believe there is a shift in attitude toward government and elected officials. Civility and honesty are important, and I intend to embrace those characteristics as an elected official.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing East Tennessee, and what do you intend to do about it?

Healthcare is an issue everyone talks about as I travel around the district. While I think single-payer is the most efficient system for health care, we won’t be transitioning to that system overnight. I was a founding member of the Community Health Alliance (CHA), Tennessee’s first co-operative health insurance company created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I saw first-hand the power of the health insurance companies as they successfully put the CHA under by undercutting our prices. The ACA has a good structure, but it needs institutional support. The legislation drafted by Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA) was a good start but unfortunately has stalled. One of the first policy initiatives I will undertake is to move a House version of the Alexander-Murray bill to help stabilize the individual markets.

The cost of pharmaceutical drugs also is a major driver of healthcare costs. I support giving Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs full authority to negotiate prices for pharmaceuticals. And, the patent time for new drugs should be reduced to 15 years. These two actions would dramatically reduce costs for government programs and for consumers.

I would support reducing the age of eligibility to 55 for Medicare. This would create a new option for those between the ages 55 and 64 – creating more competition in the marketplace and generating new premium revenues for the Medicare trust fund. Furthermore, if this effort is successful, I will push to have Medicare become an affordable option for all Americans.

Democracy for the People

Yes, no, and/or explain

1. Do you support using congressional authority to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns?

I believe this will be appropriate if the Mueller Special Counsel report indicates the tax records contain information that are vital to understanding crimes or unethical behavior on the part of Donald Trump.

Furthermore, I think we need to require all those seeking the office of the Presidency submit the previous 10 years of tax returns.

2. Do you support full re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act? Yes

3. Do you support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Yes

4. Do you support federal legislation re-establishing the 2015 open internet order, which includes the FCC’s authority to treat ISPs as utilities? Yes

5. Do you support statehood for the District of Columbia, including full representation in Congress?

When the District of Columbia (DC) was created, with lands from Maryland and Virginia, limitations were placed on its activities. Additionally, the Constitution speaks to home rule and the role of the federal government relative to the operation of the District. Statehood would require resolution of the Constitutional questions. The citizens of DC deserve full representation, which may require statehood to sit and vote in both houses of the Congress, and I will consider supporting that effort.

6. Do you commit to holding in-person town halls in your state or district at least once per quarter to publicly answer unfiltered questions from your constituents?

Yes. I plan to be very active in the District as I have been during the campaign. When I visit the counties, people always ask me to not forget them when I’m elected, and I plan to return frequently for town hall style meetings.

Short Answers:

Please list any legislation that you support that would advance the goals below:

1. Expand voter access and political participation in America, especially among traditionally marginalized communities.

At the federal level we could establish the first Tuesday in November as a voting federal holiday and fully authorize the Voting Rights Act. Education also plays a role in voting. Encouraging voting and emphasizing its importance, especially in high schools and colleges encourages young people to vote throughout their lives. I support increasing funding to public schools so that we can better educate our students in how to engage in civic life.

2. Reduce the influence of money in our elections and government.

I believe we should overturn the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court – an effort that may require legislative or Constitutional changes. Specifically, we need to limit the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

3. Improve transparency of government and responsiveness to its citizens.

A large majority of my work at TCWN was to create better public participation. I would like to require that all federal meetings on statutes, rules and regulations be open – as are most in Congress - and amend the Freedom of Information Act to require agencies to respond more quickly and fully to requests.

Equity and Inclusion

Yes, no, and/or explain

1. Do you support equal rights for Native Americans, women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community?

Yes. All people should be treated equally, and anti-discrimination laws should be enforced.

2. Will you vote against any budget in 2019 that fails to include a clean Dream Act?

While the budget act is non-binding, I do not believe we can hold the entire federal budget hostage for a single issue. We should pass immigration reforms that protect the ‘dreamers,’ but we cannot determine that an entire budget is unacceptable because of other legislative concerns. Having stated that, I would work to support the Dream Act on my first day in office.

3. Do you support legislation to reduce ICE funding, limit internal enforcement capacities for both ICE and CBP, and investigate and prosecute human rights abuses committed by immigration officers?

Yes. We should fund border enforcement adequately, but this administration’s priorities are a problem, especially when it comes to separating families and deporting those who have long-standing residency in the country.

4. Do you support the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act?

Yes. I believe the federal government should provide support for local law enforcement, but we have seen equipment and methods become very aggressive in some communities. We need more training at the local level to handle situations appropriately.

5. Do you oppose the use of private, for-profit prisons or companies that directly benefit from larger prison populations?

I am opposed to the privatization of all government functions, like prisons.

6. Do you support legislation that would eliminate mandatory minimums in sentencing, including the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act?

Yes. I have spoken to attorneys and judges who have explained the problems of mandatory sentencing.

7. Do you oppose adding limits to family-based visa sponsorships to our immigration system?

Yes. Immigration reforms need to consider direct family connections and appropriate sponsorships. It should be part of overall immigration reform legislation.

8. Do you support a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.?

Yes. I believe this needs to be part of overall immigration reform.

9. Do you oppose limiting healthcare and other essential public benefits based on immigration status?

Yes. This is a matter of public health.

10. Do you oppose discrimination in the workplace, housing, and education based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or health status?

Yes. Discrimination has no place in any of these settings.

11.Do you support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose? Yes, completely.

12. Do you support legislation that would repeal of the Hyde Amendment, including the EACH Woman Act?

Yes. I would support the EACH Woman Act and efforts to fund women’s health programs.

13. Do you oppose efforts to rollback protections for persons with disabilities, including the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620)? Yes.

14. What will you do to appeal to independent and marginalized voters?

I am focusing on four major issues: healthcare, education, environment and wages. These are important to all voters, and I find that everyone appreciates efforts to resolve problems in these areas.

15. Do you support legislation that would prevent the separation of undocumented children from their parents Yes.

16. Will you openly condemn sexism, racism, and discriminatory language and actions made by national and state leaders, even during a general election campaign?

Yes. It has no place in our political discourse.

Short Answers:

Please list any legislation that you support that would advance the goals below:

1. Ending violence and discrimination against marginalized communities and people of color, including Black Lives, immigrants, LGBTQ, women, Native Americans, etc.?

I will support the Equality Act of 2017 (reintroduced).

2. Halting discrimination, harassment and targeting of Arab American, Muslim, and South Asian communities under the guise of national security.

Courts have determined that this administration cannot discriminate based upon religion or nationality. Such decisions should be reinforced and amended by statute if necessary.

Economic Justice

Yes, no, and/or explain

1. Do you support full repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?

No. Tax cuts for the lower income brackets are valuable. I would support amendments that reinstate tax levels on higher incomes and sunset corporate taxation rates. I did not support passage of this legislation in December 2017 because it was poorly written, rushed through the process, and favored the wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of others, ultimately.

2. Do you support the College for All Act to make tuition at four-year colleges and universities free?

I support more assistance to students and using Congressional authority to lower student loan interest rates. We also should provide more public service programs in which graduates could work in exchange for loan forgiveness. This question assumes that every post-secondary institution would be free of charge; I do not see that as feasible.

3. Do you support federal legislation ensuring public and private sector workers in every state have the right to organize a union and collectively bargain? Yes.

4. Do you support the Paycheck Fairness Act to guarantee equal pay for equal work for women? Yes.

5. Do you support raising federal income taxes on the top 5% of Americans? Yes.

6. Will you oppose all efforts to reduce the authority and independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)? Yes.

7. Do you support blocking corporate consolidation (including stricter anti-trust enforcement and blocking of mergers) and breaking up monopolistic powers in defense of consumers and workers? Yes.

8. Do you oppose work requirements for Medicaid and other safety net programs? Yes.

9. Do you support raising the limit on income subject to the payroll tax? Yes.

10. Do you support a Federal financial transaction tax?

This question is too vague to give an adequate answer. I believe this refers to all transactions by financial institutions but also could include consumption taxes. If this is specific to securities and derivative fees, then yes, at certain levels it would be appropriate.

11. Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour and eliminating the special low tipped minimum wage of $2.13/hour?

We have not had a minimum wage increase since 2009. However, moving immediately to $15/hour could be devastating to small businesses in Tennessee’s Second Congressional District, especially in rural areas. We have utilized the MIT living wage tool to better understand costs of living in the Second District. I have proposed raising the minimum wage to approximately $10.10/hour during a three-year implementation period, with some indexing to inflation after that. This would give businesses time to adjust. States still could establish a higher minimum wage, as could cities. I also would support changing the tipped minimum wage and the prevailing wage rate.

Short Answers

Please list any legislation that you support that would advance the goals below:

1. Closing the wealth gap between whites and communities of color.

Enforcement of civil rights and labor laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring. Protecting Title I funding in the Education Act from being diverted to charter schools and vouchers so that all children can have a quality education.

2. Regulating Wall Street to prevent future financial crises.

Lower the level of assets for scrutiny of financial viability (recently increased to $250 billion through amendments to the Dodd-Frank legislation).

3. Ensuring that workers are treated fairly by their employers and have adequate ability to seek recourse if they are not.

Through oversight, make sure that appropriate agencies and the Department of Justice are fully enforcing civil rights and labor laws.

4. Addressing the retirement crisis and ensuring that every American can retire with dignity, including protecting and increasing Social Security and Medicare.

Raise the individual cap on Social Security contributions beyond $128,000; allow Medicare to negotiate for all drug purchases.

Healthy People and Communities

Yes, no, and/or explain

1. Do you support establishing universal healthcare coverage for all Americans?

I believe we can get there, but it will take incremental steps. I would like to protect the individual markets by shoring up cost sharing agreements under the Affordable Care Act. I would like to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 55. These would be initial steps to increasing competition, then moving toward more healthcare options that function as not-for-profit.

2. Do you support guaranteeing universal access to affordable, high-quality child care and preschool programs for all American families?

Yes. The Congress should begin working with businesses, schools and communities to determine what options best suit needs and supporting those programs with financing or tax incentives.

3. Do you support the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would guarantee paid family and medical leave for all workers?

Yes. I provided the basic benefits of this legislation to all my employees when I managed a non-profit organization.

4. Do you support efforts to ensure that all women have access to contraception and reproductive health care?

Yes. Business owners should not have the power to deny women coverage for these items.

5. Do you oppose efforts to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood? Yes.

6. Do you support efforts to address man-made climate change?

Yes. We need to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels and move immediately to development of clean, renewable energy sources and advanced battery technologies. Expanded net metering, third party providers of solar and expansion of renewable energy tax credits to non-profit organizations and agricultural operations are just a few proposals I would support. These would help to cut greenhouse gas emissions immediately and in the long-term.

7. Do you support restoring protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)?

Yes. Certain special areas of our world should be protected forever.

8. Do you support the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants through its Clean Power Plan?

Yes. The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate emissions that create a threat to human health. Greenhouse gases certainly qualify.

9. Do you oppose opening up our coastal waters to offshore drilling?

Yes. We do not need to expand the extraction of fossil fuels from our oceans.

10. Do you support universal background checks for purchasing firearms? Yes.

11. Do you support banning assault rifles, including but not limited to AR-15s?

Yes. AR-15s and similar high capacity, rapid fire, high velocity weapons of war should not be for sale to the general public.

12. Do you commit to refuse contributions from the NRA?

Yes. I have stated this publicly.

Short Answers

Please list any legislation that you support that would advance the goals below:

1. Support working families and caregivers.

Increase the minimum wage and prevailing wage rates. Support programs to provide for family leave and child/elder care. I created programs to support child and elder care as TCWN’s executive director.

2. Protect and expand affordable and comprehensive access to healthcare for all Americans.

I fully support expansion of Medicare, Medicaid, rural health programs and efforts to drive down prescription drug prices by limiting patent periods and bringing more generic drugs onto the market in a quicker time.

3. Advance environmental justice to ensure that marginalized communities have equal access to a healthy and clean environment.

I have worked as an environmental advocate for nearly 20 years. I am committed to environmental protection and have seen how low-income communities are disadvantaged in dealing with pollution. I will support legislation aimed at promoting environmental justice.

President Clinton signed an executive order creating the Environmental Justice program. I will work to make sure this program is fully funded with enforcement powers.

4. Promote renewable energy initiatives.

This is a key step in combating climate change and cleaning up our environment. Cleaner, cheaper and distributive power will benefit all communities and make the electrical grid more reliable, not less. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the monopoly provider of energy in my district. I want to drive the public utility toward a renewable energy future with support from others in the TVA caucus.

Peace and Security

Yes, no and/or explain

1. Do you believe that any refugee or travel ban based on race or religion is unconstitutional? Yes.

2. Do you support repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force’s open-ended war authority?

Yes. I think this needs to be more specific and selective. To a degree, Congress has abdicated its Article I, Section 8 powers regarding wars.

3. Would you oppose authorizing preemptive military force (similar to the 2003 invasion of Iraq) for the Trump administration?

Yes. Again, U.S. military action needs to be more specific and justified.

4. Would you oppose any legislation that would weaken or harm U.S. commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal)?

Yes. Despite claims by this administration, the JCPA was meeting its specific goals.

5. Would you support legislation imposing a warrant requirement for federal law enforcement agencies conducting surveillance of Americans in the name of national security? Yes.

6. Do you support ending the Global Gag rule, which blocks funding to overseas organizations providing critical reproductive health services to women? Yes.

7. Do you believe that torture is illegal and impermissible in all circumstances? Yes.

8. Do you support full funding and staffing support for the State Department, in order to enhance our national security through diplomatic strategies?

Yes. Diplomacy is an effective strategy to prevent military engagements.

9. Do you support full funding and staffing for the USAID, in order to enhance our national security by strengthening international development?

Yes. The U.S. Agency for International Development has been a valuable envoy for the United States around the world.

10. Do you believe that climate change poses a threat to U.S. national security?

Yes. The Department of Defense has made this clear in numerous annual reports.

11. Do you support the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp?

Yes. It seems to have outlived its usefulness and might be a positive step in normalizing relations with Cuba.

Short Answers

Please explain legislation and policies you support to advance the goals below:

1. Repair our standing in the international community and our ability to conduct successful international diplomacy and development.

This is the role of the State Department, which Congress should support with adequate funding.

2. Resolve international tensions with North Korea through a strategy of diplomacy.

Engage in more strategic discussions with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and use a less threatening posture. We will need to establish some verification efforts if the current agreements are to be fulfilled.

3. Protect civil and human rights threatened by U.S. national security policy.

Through Congressional oversight, ensure Department of Defense activities follow rules of engagement and other protocols established to prevent human rights abuses.

Building an Inclusive Government

1. If elected, will you make every effort to create work spaces for your staff that are safe and free from all forms of sexual harassment?

Yes. This policy was clear in my role as an executive director and will be the same in all my congressional offices.

2.If elected, will you commit to paying staff equal pay for equal work?

Yes. Salaries will be based on competency, not other considerations like gender, race, sexuality, etc.

3.If elected, will you offer your staff paid family leave Yes.

4. If elected, will you pay your interns? Yes.

5. If elected, will you seek to build a team, senior and entry level, that represent the demographics and diversity of your constituency? Yes.

6.If elected, do you commit to voluntarily submit data about the demographic composition of your staff? Yes.

Joshua Williams, the Primary opponent of Renee Hoyos, declined to return the questionnaire citing concerns of releasing policy stances and strategy to a third-party organization. He withdrew his name from consideration for endorsement.

Note: The committee was not obligated to endorse a candidate in this congressional race.