'I Don't Mind Long Odds': The JFP Interview with David Baria | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

'I Don't Mind Long Odds': The JFP Interview with David Baria

David Baria, a longtime state lawmaker, is running for U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker's seat in Congress because he believes now is the time to change the state's trajectory for the next generations.

David Baria, a longtime state lawmaker, is running for U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker's seat in Congress because he believes now is the time to change the state's trajectory for the next generations. Photo by Delreco Harris

David Baria knew he was fighting an uphill battle when he decided to run for U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker's long-held Senate seat. Baria's first challenge, however, is securing the Democratic spot on the November ballot. He faces entrepreneur Howard Sherman in a run-off election on June 26, after coming in second in the Democratic primary earlier this month.

Baria, a longtime state lawmaker, is not daunted by his odds. He readily admits that funding has been a struggle, and he knew that from the get-go. Wicker has more than $3.4 million in cash on-hand, even after launching a targeted campaign against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, before he switched to the special election. Baria, a trial attorney by trade who fought tort reform when it came to the state, has served at the Mississippi Capitol for 10 years. The Jackson Free Press sat down with him at the Baria-Jones law office in downtown Jackson last week for about 40 minutes.

What motivated you to get into this race? Is there a moment or a story that led you to make that decision?

I don't think there's a moment. I think there's a series of moments that led me to get into the race for the U.S. Senate—and a series of decisions that I think were very, very poor decisions made by our leadership here at the State Capitol and in Washington. If I had to point to the most important reason why I'm in this race, he's sitting right there at the end of the table (Editor's note: his son, Max, was sitting inside the conference room for a few minutes.), and I have two daughters, one of whom has just graduated from college, and the other one of whom is in college. So what I mean is, that not just for my kids but for everybody's children and our grandchildren, we've got to do something right now. The time has never been more appropriate to make some changes so that we can change the trajectory of our state. I want to be a part of that; I did when I first ran. You know, working in the Mississippi Legislature has been a very good experience, and at times it's a positive experience, and I have had successes there, but it can be very frustrating because I see our leadership make decisions that keep us in 50th place.

So, now that you're in a run-off, has your strategy changed at all for these three weeks? Or are you going to do more of what you've been doing?

Our strategy really hasn't changed. I think we had a very good strategy, which was to take somewhat limited resources, and when I say that, I'm very thankful that we've been able to raise and spend $300,000, which is really phenomenal for a Democrat in Mississippi during a two-month span, that's essentially what we're talking about. So I'm very proud of that, but when you're up against someone with what appears to be unlimited resources, then suddenly your resources don't seem to be as bountiful as they might otherwise. 
 But what we're going to do and continue to do is to focus our resources on places that we believe the most Democratic votes are going to come from. We were fairly targeted; there were a lot of counties that we just weren't able to get to (before June 5). We had a different strategy for reaching those counties. One thing we are doing a little differently is I'm circling around to some of the counties that I didn't actually have a presence in—meaning I didn't go there, I didn't have an event there, I didn't visit there.

I made calls, and I called someone in every county before June 5, but now we're going to some places where we didn't really get to visit. What I found in looking at the data from the primary is that where I visited and where I had an on-the-ground presence, we did very well. And where I didn't, we did not do as well. So we're making a concerted effort to get the vote back out—our vote back out. And in addition to that, take some votes that may have voted for Rep. Scott, some votes that may have voted for the other gentleman, my opponent, and even create some new votes—folks that didn't go to the polls on the 5th—and we're doing that in a variety of ways.

I'm fundraising because I don't have the ability to write myself a huge check, so I'm spending some time ... dialing for dollars, which is the least fun part of this entire thing. I enjoy campaigning. I enjoy getting in the car with Matt (a campaign worker) and Pam (campaign political director), and going to an event and speaking before a bunch of people I've never met before. It's perverse, I know, but I enjoy that.

Part of what I've looked at is campaign donations and expenditures, but also where you've donated money in federal elections before. I was hoping you could comment on your contributions to the American Association for Justice PAC and other Democratic PACS.

I don't know what you mean; I put my money where my interests lie and where I think that folks are trying to improve the situation for folks who don't have a voice otherwise. That's ... what's guided my professional life, that's ... what's guided my political life, and I think you'll find I've been pretty consistent in that regard. Where I've spent my professional time outside of actually representing people, I just rotated off the board of United Policyholders, which I was very proud to be a part of for four, five, six years. That's a group that is an insurance, policy-holder, consumer advocate (group). I didn't get paid for that. I traveled at my own expense, and my time was at my own expense, but that's where my passion lies—in trying to help folks who might not otherwise have the ability to help themselves.

You were a strong advocate against tort reform, and I'm wondering how you think that's affected Mississippi, specifically when it comes to fundraising and "dialing for dollars."

It's impacted Mississippi in a number of different ways, but the biggest pitch that was made for tort reform was that you couldn't attract businesses to the state of Mississippi because we were a judicial hell hole, and that if we would just (enact) tort reform, then we would see a dramatic increase (in) job growth. If you will track Governor Barbour's statements from 2003 to today, you can see that job growth in Mississippi is flat. While we are always happy to promote companies that come to the state and open up new business and create new jobs, we had just as many companies fold their tent and go elsewhere. So the job growth never materialized, and the trade-off to me was too important to make, and that is folks that are catastrophically injured have a cap on the damages that they can recover.

I know firsthand, because I have represented people in this situation, when there's a cap on the damages, you never get to the cap, so it has decreased the settlement value of cases, and that is not a good thing for anybody but insurance companies. It doesn't help the person who is catastrophically injured because they have less money that they can recover in those cases.

Now, I would say that in terms of a perception standpoint that it's probably been a good thing because people may not think of us in the way that we were portrayed by the pro-tort-reformers. And they spent a lot of money portraying Mississippi as a terrible place to do business or practice medicine, so that was created, but at least with the passage of some of those tort reform measures, that part has gone away. But I don't think you've seen an influx of doctors since tort reform, and as I said before, you haven't seen an influx of businesses or jobs; and in fact, what you've seen since 2013 is a decrease in people locating in Mississippi, including young people your age and younger who are leaving the state in droves—so something is wrong here, and tort reform didn't fix it.

You've campaigned against the GOP tax reform bill that passed. Could you explain why you are against it, and what it does or does not do for individuals (in your opinion).

So let's talk about the federal GOP tax bill, Trump's tax bill if you will. I believe that that tax cut was nothing more than a payback for Republican donors who donated to the president. And we gave permanent, significant tax cuts to corporations that had, for years, offshored their businesses, offshored their profits and offshored their employees without asking anything from them in return.

The 1 percent got an enormous tax cut, which they did not need, and theirs is permanent. The middle class got a modest tax cut, which is temporary. I think that's upside down. I think if you want to do real tax reform that will stimulate our economy, then you give a big tax cut to middle class America. Those folks will take that money and improve their lives by buying a new refrigerator, buying a new car, buying a new house, and that stimulates the economy. Because if GE has to make more refrigerators, they've got to make more parts, they've got to hire more people. That leads to economic activity.

I just think the concept was wrong, and in addition to that, the way we paid for this tax cut was to increase the debt, which I thought every Republican in Washington said was a terrible thing to do when President Obama was in office. And the other thing they are already talking about doing is cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare. It's just wrong at every level. Now I won't argue with ... a middle-class person who says, "Well I'm getting an extra $500 in my check every month, is that a bad thing?" No, that's not a bad thing. You should be getting more. You should get more of the tax relief, and corporations should get less and the 1 percent should get none. And look, there are so many loopholes, if you really want to do tax relief, take the loopholes out. The effective rate that corporations were paying was already down around 16 or 18 percent with loopholes, so if you wanted to create a proper rate for them but eliminate loopholes, okay, I can see that. (Editor's note: While all corporations are subject to a 35-percent federal income tax rate, only half of those companies pay that full percentage, a recent study found.) But we didn't do any of that hard work. We just gave money to corporations—many of which were offshore—and to the very wealthy.

What would be your priorities for immigration reform? And specifically, there have been discussions about a compromise with a border wall for DACA. More recently, we have a (Jeff) Sessions decree saying you can't seek asylum as a domestic violence victim or if you're wanted by a gang. So what would you prioritize?

This is a complex issue, so I'm not going to give you some simple sound bite, and if you want my full response, get your hand ready. First of all, the concept of a border wall that runs the length of our border with Mexico is ridiculous. What we need is an effective means of securing our border with a combination of wall, fence, live security, cameras—a combination of those things, which I think pretty much already exists. Could it be improved? Yes. But the Great Wall of China along our southern border is a ridiculous expenditure of money, and it is nothing more than a political ploy.

So I don't agree with that, but I understand what you mentioned about Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi offering to agree to the wall in exchange for DACA. You know, DACA is important, those folks who are part of DACA, I think it stands for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, and these are kids who came to our country. You can't choose your parents. These kids came to our country, and we put certain restrictions or requirements on them. The kids who are here on DACA are meeting those requirements. They've upheld their end of the bargain. They are in school, or they have jobs, and they are paying taxes. This is what we should want from an immigration system, so DACA should be extended, and we're talking about a finite group of people that this applies to. These people will age through the system and become productive adults hopefully, that's the idea, but it's not a program that is continually open to new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's a finite group of people. ...

I think that we need to revamp our entire immigration system. I think it is fraught with problems. I hear stories about people who try to do it the right way, and they stand in line metaphorically for years, and then you have folks who swim across the river, and they're here. That's not fair, and I understand that, but I don't think that it is cost-effective to deport every single person who is here without proper documentation. If someone is here without proper documentation, and we pick them up because they have committed a crime, I'm for deporting them. I have no problem with that whatsoever. There should be probably some level of crime that we define above which they get deported, or below which they do not (get deported, like) speeding, I don't know. But the other thing that is critically important to me, and I think it should be to all Americans, is that we don't separate families when we can help it. If someone commits a murder and they're here undocumented, then they (have) got to go. But we can't snatch children out of mama's arms at the border as a deterrent to folks trying to get into our country illegally. We've got to figure out a better system than that.

And the final thing is the piece that Jeff Sessions recently said about ending asylum for victims of domestic violence. I heard a very poignant story this morning on The Daily. They interviewed a woman from Burkina Faso, and she went through the story of her life and how her family essentially took a dowry, and then she belonged to her husband in her country and then he beat her all the time. He constantly humiliated her in public and made her life a living hell, and you know, if we can't be a place that accepts folks from other countries under such circumstances, then we're not the America I thought we were.

What is your stance on abortion rights?

Fair question. I didn't vote on the latest iteration (15-week abortion ban bill). I wasn't there. I was campaigning. There was another bill in 2014 (20-week abortion ban bill) I think that I didn't vote on; I'm not sure why. I don't know whether I wasn't there. I don't know whether I was in court, but I didn't vote on the bill, which I might look back and say there was a reason. ... There was an amendment to that bill offered by Rep. (Toby) Barker that I know I would have voted for if I was there because it provided exceptions to the 20-week bar in cases of rape, incest, health of the mother. I know I would have voted for that if I was there, so I was either off the floor or away from the Capitol that day.

But here's my position: I think abortion should remain safe and legal, so that we don't have a situation where only wealthy women are capable, because of their wealth, of getting an abortion by flying to some country where it's legal. I think that this should be a woman's right to make that decision, in consultation with her family and her physician. I have two daughters, whom I referenced earlier. If some crazed psycho killer raped one of them, then we should have the right as a family to make the decision whether we want to bring that baby to full-term or not. No one should take away that right.

Now, could there be some limitations on when you should terminate a pregnancy? Yes. I don't know what that should be. I'm not a doctor, nor will I ever get pregnant, but I think that we should let science dictate what that limit ought to be. And there absolutely ought to be exceptions to that limit for rape, incest, viability of the fetus, health of the mother. ... There ought to be exceptions if we're going to have a bright-line rule on a certain number of weeks.

What national criminal-justice reforms do you think Mississippi could benefit from the most? What, on a national level, can you do to help make that a reality?

You could end mandatory-minimum sentencing, particularly for drug crimes. This (currently) takes the discretion away from a judge and ends up with results that sometimes in retrospect appear to be unfair and just odd. And so I believe in electing good judges and letting judges have the discretion in any particular case, based on the facts of that case. We have far too many people who have been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses who are rotting in our prisons. And let's make no mistake about it, it is much more expensive to construct, to maintain and to operate a maximum-security prison than it is (to maintain) a community-based facility with less security.

I'm a criminal-justice major from (the University of) Southern Mississippi. In 1984, I had the privilege of going on the British studies program, and I studied at the University of London. And I studied the British criminal-justice system, and we toured prisons all over London and all over the countryside, and at the end of that program, I was required to write a paper. And I chose to write about community-based sentencing, and I've been in this place where I'm at now since 1984 because no one has convinced me that I'm wrong.

And that is, we ought to do more community-based sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders primarily, so that we don't remove them from their families and from their communities, but we punish them within those communities. We allow for more visits; we allow more freedom. So they can work on public beautification, picking up litter or whatever, but that they serve their sentences in a less restrictive environment because we shouldn't be in fear of them hurting us. They weren't convicted of a violent crime. I think that that is less expensive, more humane and a better way to re-integrate people back into society, and that's the goal of our system, is to rehabilitate people. So if that's really our goal, that's the best way to do it. Now, I'm not talking about murderers and rapists, those folks can go to Parchman. I'm talking about folks that have committed nonviolent, primarily drug crimes.

In the Legislature I watched you have a bargaining presence on the House side when it came to the education-funding-formula re-write, but if you were to go to the Senate, education policies that trickle down to the states are very different. So what, at a federal level, would you want to do for education?


I don't think that all the Title I money that is supposed to be coming to states is coming to states, and these take care of schools in underserved areas. And I don't think that all of the money that's coming to SPED (special education) that should be coming through SPED is coming to SPED, so that's a federal, congressional issue.

Here's what we could do in addition to those two things: You could roll back the corporate tax cuts and the cuts for the 1 percent, and you could send billions of dollars to the states that they could use for teacher-pay raises and to upgrade school infrastructure. You know, in our education budget, there's a lot of federal dollars already, but we could use more, and that's a way to get more money to states that are in need—and Mississippi's education system is in need.

If you go down to the coast, we have bright, shiny, relatively new schools because of Katrina, but if you go to Carroll County, it's raining on your head when you go into classrooms, in some of them. If you go to the bathroom there, two of the toilets, you can't use them. They try to keep it clean, but it's falling down around their ears, and that's a shame, and I hate to pick on Carroll County, but that's an example of a school I have visited and seen with my own eyes.

How has leading the Democratic caucus in the House changed your perspective about the political process or informed how you're running this campaign and what you would do as a senator?

I went to law school with the speaker, and we weren't best friends, but we were friends in law school. When I first got to the House of Representatives, he greeted me warmly and said you know, 'I know you're a smart guy, and I'm looking forward to working with you and I'm going to put you to work.' And I was elated, (I thought), "This is going to be great. We're going to be able to work across the aisle and get stuff done." That is not how things started off, and frankly, that's not how it's gone. But you know, while we started off kind of rocky because of some bills they tried to run through that we objected to, and we did a lot of bill reading and kind of slowed things down for a while to get an ear, since those days, we have been talking regularly.

I'm not telling anybody that we have been successful with our requests of the speaker, because we haven't, but we get heard. We do have input from time to time, and what I have learned in my time as leader is what Trent Lott said is right. It's like herding cats because you have 47 individually strong personalities. You have to have a strong personality and an ego to get elected. And you are responsible to your voters, so you have your own little area of responsibility, but yet, you're being asked to be a part of the group and cede some of that responsibility for the better of the group or the better of the policy issue at hand. It's a difficult management issue, but I think I've done a good job with it. Organizing and preparing for what is coming to us in a committee or on the floor in any particular day takes some time and energy. It takes a lot of help, so I have to be able to talk to folks who are on my team about how we're going to work through this problem.

And my style of leadership is not to say, "Here's what I think we ought to do. What do you think?" I say, "Here's the problem; let's discuss," and I take what folks say to me and try to synthesize it, and then I try to make the best decision going forward. And folks might not always agree with it, but they feel like they've been heard. Developing or honing those skills is going to be invaluable to me as I move forward. Working in an environment where you have to take into account what other people think and feel all the time is invaluable to me. I'm not coming from the perspective of a CEO. I'm not running for president, and I'm not running for governor. I'm running to be a member a 100-member body, and as a member of the super minority in the Mississippi Legislature, we can't get anything done without reaching across the aisle and getting Republican help. Whether that's passing something we want to pass or beating a bad bill, we have to have help.

So I've been there 11 years. I've built some relationships with some people that other people might look at and go, "Why are these two friends?" or "Why is he friends with her?" I will give you an example. I have filed a bill to create gender equality in terms of pay since 2013—five years now. The last two years, I have gotten help on that bill from Rep. Becky Currie, who is a staunch, probably Tea Party Republican, that is probably how she would describe herself. But we worked together on that and on other issues because we built relationships. You can't walk into a body like (the Legislature) in the super minority and say, "This is what I want to do, let's pass it this year." It will never happen. You have to work it over time, year after year, building relationships and trust, and those skills and that experience is going to serve me in Washington.

Mississippi is one of the poorest and unhealthiest states. Identify the top health-care reforms that you think could benefit the state the most. What decision do you think that the Senate and eventually Congress could make that could benefit Mississippians' health care and overall health?

(There are) two immediate things we could do. You could take the ACA, if you wanted to keep that legislation around, and there are some objections to it because it sort of forces people to buy insurance. And I frankly have a personal issue with forcing anybody to buy anything, whether it's car insurance or health insurance, but the ACA is here, and one of the things we could do is impose a requirement on states to expand Medicaid. Because we took the federal subsidy for a disproportionate share of uncompensated care away, so you're pulling the rug out from underneath them and not replacing it if you don't expand Medicaid.

So you could mandate that states do that, and I think that 37 states, maybe 38 after Virginia, have already done that. (Editor's Note: 34 states have expanded Medicaid, including Virginia, according to Families USA.) Mississippi could still do that voluntarily if we had leadership that wanted to do that. Look at Louisiana, after they elected John Bel Edwards, they expanded Medicaid, and that's helped Louisianans—so we could do it (too). But why not just say at the federal level, we made a mistake when we wrote this. The Supreme Court says we didn't make it mandatory; let's make it mandatory, and that would be a big step in the right direction.

The other thing we could look at is scrapping the ACA and enacting some sort of legislation that requires a basic minimum level of health care, maintenance health care for everybody. I don't care what you call it, but you know you could do that and then folks who had really good health insurance policies could keep that if they wanted to, but you would be providing basic health care for citizens who don't have it now.

And the group we are talking about, they are not the poorest of the poor because they are already on Medicaid. We are talking about the working poor. These are sometimes single moms with kids who work two jobs, but neither job provides health insurance and they can't afford to buy health insurance and put food in their kids' stomachs and put the roof over their heads. And those people, they get health care, but they get it sometimes when it's critical—so where do they go to get it? They go to the emergency room where health care costs five times as much, and folks who have insurance end up paying for it. That's a bad system.

We already get a lot of federal transportation funds, but do you have ideas to free up more federal dollars for states?

I definitely think we need more federal money for infrastructure, and I thought that's what President Trump was saying in 2016 when he ran on fixing our crumbling infrastructure. This is the right thing to do for two reasons. One, our infrastructure is falling apart. We have bridges falling down, we have bridges we have to close because they are impassable, we have roads that will tear out the bottom of our car. If we are going to continue to be a world leader, we need state-of-the-art infrastructure, and that's not just roads and bridges, but that's our power grid, our water and sewage systems, that's our Internet system—all of it.

The other reason we need to do it is because it creates jobs. This is investing in ourselves. This just makes sense on every level, but the proposal that came out of Washington, or the president I should say, was upside down. He proposed 20 percent coming out of Washington, and 80 percent coming from state and local governments. If our state and local governments had that much of the need met already, they'd be doing the work because they have to answer to their voters every day in their districts. So you've got to flip that percentage. You've got to keep TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants in place, and you have to have the money to do it.

Now this is something that I wouldn't mind increasing the debt a little bit to get done, because I think it would pay off in the long run through job creation and additional taxes being paid. But to me, the first step would be, again, to roll back the tax cut for the 1 percent and corporate America—leave the middle class in place. You would raise billions of dollars simply by doing those rollbacks, and then take some of that money, most of that money perhaps, and put it into a national infrastructure program where the feds pay 80 percent, and the state and local governments are paying the 20 percent.

What are you doing to engage young people to vote in this run-off?

Not enough. It's difficult to engage any age person in a run-off; you know the primaries in Mississippi in nonpresidential years just don't get much of a turnout. In 2014, the last time the Senate was on the ballot in a nonpresidential year, 83,000 Democrats turned out to vote. This year we had 87 or 88,000, so a bit of a tick up, and in a runoff you always have a drop. (Editor's note: In 2014, 85,866 Mississippians cast a Democratic ballot. In 2018, 87,931 Mississippians cast a Democratic ballot in the primary.) So could we do more to engage young voters? Absolutely.

One of the things I would like to see us do as a state is to give young people the opportunity to go to two-year colleges (with) tuition paid, as long as they keep a minimum GPA. We need to provide Internet in every community in this state, as well as better cell service. This is again part of our infrastructure. We just drove to Lawrence County today, on the way back from Lawrence County, I tried to call somebody three times and the call dropped three times. And this is not way out in the woods, this is just off the interstate, so we've got to take steps to improve that. ... Kids notice that more than old folks. ... Folks your age and younger—my kids' age—everything they do is through this phone in their hand, and they know when they don't have cell service. So in terms of engagement of younger voters, I definitely can and will do a better job of that as we move forward in November.

How?

Tuition is a big thing. Making Mississippi an attractive place to live by offering 21st-century jobs. I mean, we can do things that attract companies here, but we have to fix our own house first. I think we take the (state) flag, and we put the flag in a museum. Then we adopt a new state flag that everybody can be proud of, because if 40 percent of your population is offended by your state flag, then it's time for it to go. And I think a lot of young people see things like H.B. 1523. ... They see some of these carry-guns-in-churches kind of bills, the bills we see over there. They see the state flag and the reluctance to do anything about it. They see Confederate Memorial Day; they see these things as reasons why they shouldn't come to Mississippi. And hopefully, if they know that I'm the candidate who has opposed those things that are divisive in nature and give Mississippi a black eye, then they can get on board because I'm the kind of candidate who wants to change this 'us-versus-them' mentality that we've been suffering under for so long, and turn the page on this, and make Mississippi an open and inviting place for all ages.

Are you planning more town halls?

Between now and Tuesday the 26th, the answer is no. Going forward, yes. And I intend to ask Roger Wicker on June 27 if he will debate me, and what I intend to propose to him is at least four debates: one in each congressional district, live, televised debates. ... There will be two other folks on the ballot in November in this race. ... The people I think deserve to hear us talk side-by-side about the issues, and I'm not afraid of that.

I know I probably don't know (as much) about foreign policy at this moment as Roger Wicker, as he's been in Washington for 24 years. If he doesn't know more than me about foreign policy, that's his fault, but I will get up to speed. I think the people deserve to hear candidates debate, but no, I will not do another town hall between now and Tuesday the 26th. We just don't have the time and resources to do it right now. Our resources are better spent in other places.

Should you win the run-off, Wicker has a lot of campaign-finance resources. Do you have the funds?

Before I chose to get in this race, Wicker was sitting on four and a half million dollars, and I was sitting on zero. As I said earlier, I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support I got from Mississippians. I was able to raise roughly $300,000 between March the 1st and June the 1st. In three months, I raised $100,000 a month. If I can raise that between now and November, I'd be in great shape. I don't know that we can do that, but we are certainly going to work as hard at it as we did in the primary. Here's the other thing: A lot of money was sidelined in this race because some folks don't want to give when there's a contested primary. They don't want to pick and choose between Democrats. Those folks will be off the sidelines after June 26. And I can tell you that we believe that we can attract the resources necessary to run a competitive campaign, including some folks who are outside the state who have already expressed interest in the possibility of electing two Democrats to represent Mississippi to Washington.

So I think some money will come. Am I saying I will match Roger Wicker dollar-for-dollar? No, but I don't need to because I have people on my side. Let me tell you a short vignette, this is a lived experience for me. When I ran against Scotty Cuevas in 2007, he was a 16-year incumbent, and he raised and spent probably twice as much as me, and I won. In 2011, I ran against a Republican who was endorsed by the governor and financially supported by the governor, she raised and spent three times as much as me, and I won by 16 points. Then in 2015, the governor, lieutenant governor and the Speaker of the House all endorsed and raised money for my opponent. He raised and spent four times as much as me, and I'm still sitting here.

So I don't mind long odds; it's what I do in my professional life every single day. That's what I've done in my political life. I know that's what I've gotten myself into, and I still believe in our possibility and our ability to win November 6. Look, we're outspent in this primary. Hell, he's loaned himself $650,000, and he's raised and spent with his loans probably close to a million, which is three times what I've raised and spent, and I have no idea what he's going to spend in the next week—but that difference will probably go up.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. To read the JFP interview with Baria's challenger, Howard Sherman, visit jfp.ms/Sherman.

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