Paul Ingmundson is a San Antonio sleep disorder specialist running as a Green Party candidate for HD 123. Photo via Alamo Sleep Disorders Center website
In my efforts to explain the intricacies of Texas’ special-election law last week, I regretfully overlooked the fact that State Rep. Mike Villarreal does in fact have an opponent for his House District 123 seat on the Nov. 4 ballot: Green Party candidate Paul Ingmundson.
I caught up with Ingmundson today about why he’s running and the issues he feels most passionately about.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m a newcomer to politics. I have a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, and my sub-specialty in psychology is sleep disorders. I’m a sleep-disorder specialist and I run a sleep-disorder center in San Antonio. I’ve been active and engaged in Green Party politics for the past 10 years, but I have not run for office before.
What motivates you to run for office now then?
The reason I’ve decided to run for 123 has to with my overriding concern for climate change. My policy concerns focus on state policies concerning energy and education. As far as what needs to change, climate change is a catastrophe that’s happening right now in real time, and ... this needs to be a high priority at every level of government. In economic terms, an economist would call this a collective-action problem: climate change is no one individual's responsibility, but that we’re all involved in it one way or another. If we all continue to pump carbon dioxide into the air, we will heat up the earth and the climate will be progressively more difficult for human life.
What can Texas do?
Some of the things that we have to do in Texas include addressing regulatory issues as well as tax incentives for clean energy, primarily solar and wind energy and incentives for developing new energy sources. It’s also going to involve looking at the way we tax carbon. I’m interested in the Legislature examining the way we tax oil and gas at this point. Anyone who ran for any office on increasing the income tax would go nowhere in Texas, but I think there are opportunities for the Legislature to change the way we tax oil and gas, and I think it cuts across political ideologies.
Education relates to my concern on wealth and income and inequality. I think lack of educational opportunity is amplified by the rising cost of higher education. When people don’t have access to education they can’t increase their earning power ... . If you look at the big increase in income inequality, they tie closely, and I think that’s because as education becomes more expensive, it’s harder to increase their incomes.
The Legislature can look at funneling some of the additional oil and gas revenue into reducing student debt and the cost of the first years of college. What we see in Texas demographically is ... increases in the number of minorities represented in our population, but there haven’t been gains in education attainment. We’ll have more lower-income workers and less workers that contribute to the economy ... . Reducing the cost of the first two years of college is a very important place to start.
Your campaign flyer also says you support Tesla.
Right now, Texas has laws that make it impossible for a company like Tesla – which is leading in innovation – makes it impossible for them to sell their products in Texas. You can go to a showroom but they can’t sell it to you. The Texas Legislature needs to look at the laws for auto dealers and make Texas a place where they can invest.
How do you plan to reach voters? And what do you want them to know?
I need to increase and look at social media and let voters know that they do have an alternative (to Mike Villarreal) and let them know that the policies I support are consistent with the aspirations of the majority of the voters of District 123.
The voters have to decide what they want to do. They can vote for someone who does not want to serve and, ultimately, that will involve an almost $100,000 special election. And they’ll get another Democrat who will have no voice in the 2015 Texas Legislature (which is majority Republican). They could do that, or they could vote for somebody who is interested in some change in Austin, and electing a Green Party candidate would send a signal to Austin and nationally ... . People need to think about whether they want to vote for a guy who doesn’t want to serve. If I can just get that message out, I think we can change some things.