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On May 1, voters in Texas' 6th Congressional District will head to the polls to pick a replacement for Republican Congressman Ron Wright, who died in February after contracting COVID-19. Michael Wood, a Republican running for Wright's seat, spoke to "Red and Blue" host Elaine Quijano about the pandemic, the future of the GOP and the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
ELAINE QUIJANO: In six weeks, voters in Texas will cast their ballots to replace the first sitting member of Congress to die from complications related to COVID-19. Republican Ron Wright had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer for years before contracting coronavirus earlier this year. He died in early February, at the age of 67. Wright's widow, Susan, has already entered the race to fill his seat.
The historically Republican district in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has been trending toward Democrats recently. In 2012, Mitt Romney won by 17 percentage points. Last year, President Biden lost by just three.
I want to bring in one of the Republican candidates in the race, Michael Wood. He's a small business owner, father of four, and recipient of two purple hearts awarded for service as a marine in Afghanistan.
Thank you very much, Michael, for being with us.
MICHAEL WOOD: Thank you for having me. It's good to be with you, Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO: So because of the events leading up to this race, I want to start with the pandemic. A new poll by CBS News finds that less than half of Republicans say that they have been or plan to get vaccinated. Do you think that is an issue, and if so, what do you think should be done to address that?
MICHAEL WOOD: I do think that's an issue, and I think it's important for everybody to get the vaccine whenever they're able to get the vaccine. This has been a horrible year for our country, and Operation Warp Speed and other efforts by government [AUDIO OUT] and business have just done amazing things, achievements that are on par with the Manhattan Project in terms of developing this vaccine and getting it out to the American people. I think it's important for Republicans and all Americans to get the vaccine whenever they can.
ELAINE QUIJANO: How is it, though, that you would address a reluctance on the part of some Republicans, as we saw in that poll, to go ahead and get vaccinated, though? What would specifically, you know, the next steps be, in your view, to try to fight some of that hesitancy?
MICHAEL WOOD: Well, with this issue, as well as a whole host of issues that are facing our country, I think it's important to speak plainly to the American people and tell them the truth. Hear them out with regards to their concerns, their hesitancy in getting this vaccine. But I think the first step is telling them plainly that it's important to get this, not just for themselves, not just for their families, but also for their communities and the country at large.
ELAINE QUIJANO: So you say that you are running because the Republican Party has, quote, "devolved into a cult of personality," and you also say that you voted for President Trump in 2020. What's your view of President Trump now?
MICHAEL WOOD: Well, I think that President Trump has forfeited his right to lead my party and to play any sort of constructive role going forward for the country as a whole.
You're right. I did vote for him in 2020. I felt like he was a better president than I expected back in 2016. I also think that the Democratic Party has grown too extreme, too comfortable with socialism, and I felt like we didn't really have a choice. I was very much affected and shaken but pretty much everything that the president himself and his administration did after election day, including on January 6th.
We used to be a party of ideas. We devolved into a cult of personality. We used to stand for things like limited government, strong economic growth, and a strong national defense. I fear that, over the past few years, we've become too much the party of QAnon, too much the party of conspiracy theories. And I think that that's bad for the party. And I'm doing what I can here in Texas to fight back against that.
ELAINE QUIJANO: What was that like for you, as someone who has served in combat? We mentioned a bit of your biography in your intro. But when you saw those events unfold on Capitol Hill on January 6th, what went through your mind?
MICHAEL WOOD: It's one of the worst things that I've ever seen. I think I had the same reaction that a lot of Americans had. That was probably the worst thing that, you know, I've seen, the worst attack on our country since September 11th. That wasn't just an attack on a building, wasn't just an attack on the Congress. I truly did feel like that was an attack on the American people.
And here's the thing. There's a certain raw and noble patriotism that exists within the American people. And I feel like that's been taken advantage of. That was taken advantage of after election day, and that was taken advantage of on January 6th.
We're a nation born of revolutionary struggle. We threw off tyrants, and that's a huge part of our national psyche. And I felt like Donald Trump tapped into that irresponsibly, along with other members of the Republican Party and leaders of the Republican Party. And I feel, just like I felt a few weeks ago, incredibly disappointed and more than a little bit angry about it.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Our time is running short here, but I do want to ask you about this influx of migrants that we have been seeing at the southern border, many of them unaccompanied children. What is it that you think the federal government needs to be doing to address this influx of unaccompanied minors at the border?
MICHAEL WOOD: Well, I think it's important, first of all, to recognize that migrants respond to incentives just the way everyone else responds to incentives. The message was sent by the Biden administration's rhetoric as well as their policies that unaccompanied children could be let into this country and that there would be a quick path to citizenship thereafter. The American people are generous, but you can't blame them for not wanting to pay for the health care, the education of people who break laws in order to get into our country.
I think it's important, as soon as possible, to reinstate the migrant protection protocols that placed a number of these migrants in Mexico while their asylum claims are being adjudicated, and also send the message that the United States isn't going to stand for this. If we can get this current crisis under control, then I think that we can start to get the ball rolling again on long-term immigration reform. And that's really what this country needs.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Texas Republican congressional candidate, Michael Wood. Mr. Wood, thanks very much for your time.
MICHAEL WOOD: Thanks for having me.