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On The Record: T.G. Caraway

Lauren Molidor's picture

This week I spoke with T.G. Caraway, organizer for the SEIU and co-host of the Democrats of Texas podcast.

How did you get started in politics? Did you come to it in your youth or later on?

Pretty much when I was younger. I was raised around Lubbock, and I remember going to Sam Rayburn Library when I was four years old. I was a good reader. Sam Rayburn is pretty much one of my heroes. The first time I really got involved was in 1977 when the farm strike happened, and I was 14. There were lots of protests and I got to go to D.C. and drive a tractor in a march. That’s also when I really figured out I was a Democrat.

What was your personal progression from the role of activist to where you are now?

I would say I’m still an activist; I just get to travel a lot now. I am basically knocking on doors asking people to join unions, and it is very similar to knocking on doors getting people to vote. Only now the SEIU is paying me to do it.

What is the political make-up of your family and how do local politics affect them?

My father was a veteran, but the issues that affect my family are issues that affect everyone. I was raised a Democrat. Once, my father strayed because of Reagan, but he came back. My whole community that I was raised in was a very strong Democratic community. I was brought up believing that the Democratic Party is about us and the Republican Party is about me.

Do you have any ambition for office?

I’ve thought about it, and if I’m in a situation at some point in my life where I’m able to, I would like to. But I’m really enjoying the labor movement right now.

Who are some of your political heroes?

Harry Truman, and I’m really impressed with John Edwards. I think he’s a great guy. Ralph Yarborough, who is a former Senator from Texas. Also Eddie Rodriguez; I don’t consider him a politician but a public servant. Whenever you have been politics as long as I have, you see folks that are in it for themselves, and some that are in it for the people. Sam Rayburn once said that the definition of a politician is someone that helps people.

What would you say has been the single most defining moment in your political life?
I think I’m still waiting for that day to come. I’m waiting for the day where the Democrats are really back in the fire.

What are you looking forward to in the coming cycle?

What’s real interesting this time, is that there is no one that is a real big front-runner. In the end, John Edwards is probably going to do best and be our nominee. He is the only one talking about what really needs to happen in our country. I would rather have someone working the trenches as my president.

What advice would you give to young people just getting into politics?

Once you get involved, you are going to find out that there are people that are really in it for themselves. When you go out, be consistent and be sincere. If you tell people you are going to do something, do it. Also limit yourself. Whatever you do, do it great!

What one thing would you say a political organization never has enough of?

Manpower. We need volunteers. That was really proved when Sanchez ran. He had all this money, but no manpower to use it. In 1990, people turned out and it worked to have volunteers, and now that never happens. You have a much better chance at winning if you have volunteers. If you are really getting your message out, people will come forward too. You always need volunteers to do things. Money isn’t everything. Having a good message is one of the most important things. The money doesn’t matter, but the manpower and message does.

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