David Sellers is a candidate in the Democratic Party primary for Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, on June 7, 2022. The Mississippi Free Press sent the following questionnaire to all Mississippi congressional candidates prior to the June 7 primaries. We are are presenting the answers as we received them (including hyperlinks) with only light edits.
What are your policy proposals for education?
One of my top priorities is universal access to high-quality pre-k. Mississippi already has a great pre-k program, but too few families have access. Pre-k sets children up for success for the rest of their lives and, importantly, makes sure that children are tested for learning disabilities as early as possible so that we can better support them. We also have childcare deserts in much of South Mississippi, particularly our rural areas. Universal pre-k is part of the solution.
What are your policy views when it comes to guns, gun violence and mass shootings? What specific gun regulations do you support, if any?
The time for thoughts and prayers is over. It’s time instead for adults to step up and lead through common-sense laws that most Americans and most Mississippians agree on. Let’s make sure there are universal background checks on all gun sales. Let’s implement red flag laws. Let’s bring back the assault weapons ban which was proven to help prevent mass shootings. And let’s finally ban people on terror watch lists and no-fly lists from buying guns. If you’re too dangerous to fly, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun.
What are your criminal justice policies and your ideas regarding police violence and brutality?
America’s longest war isn’t Afghanistan; it’s the failed war on drugs. I want to end it by legalizing marijuana at the federal level, expanding access to veterans court and drug court, ending mandatory minimums, and prioritizing treatment over incarceration. We can only solve the overdose crisis in this country by fighting addiction instead of fighting addicts. On the topic of policing, I see two priorities: 1. True community policing, meaning bringing officers into the communities they are supposed to protect and seeing them build real relationships with members of those communities. 2. Universal body cameras
What will you do to improve health-care quality and access in Mississippi, including for mental health?
The number one way to improve health-care in Mississippi is to expand Medicaid. Our state leaders have dragged their feet long enough; now is the time for Congress to look at ways to expand it in every state through federal legislation. And let’s not forget that Medicaid expansion doesn’t just mean physical health-care; it means access to mental health-care for hundreds of thousands more Mississippians. I also support expanding Medicare to include coverage for vision, dental, and hearing. I’ve talked to many seniors in South Mississippi who have to choose which of those three things to pay for, because they can’t afford all three. That’s plain wrong.
What is your position on abortion access and what sort of federal legislation, if any, would you support related to abortion? Please describe any penalties you would support for those who obtain abortions.
As a pastor, I know that there is no theological or scientific conclusion on when life begins or when ensoulment occurs. I’ve sat with women who have wrestled over these kinds of reproductive decisions. I’m fearful of a world where we turn a womb into a crime scene. We cannot and should not regulate reproductive rights. That’s why I support codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law. At the same time, I understand that we may not have the votes to get that done. But I know that Mississippi’s trigger law makes insufficient exceptions for rape, incest, and safety of the mother; and I also know that lawmakers all over the country are talking about going further by banning birth control. So if we can’t codify Roe, let’s at least come together to pass a bill for some bare minimum reproductive rights.
Please list any forms of contraception that you believe should be banned, including birth control pills, Plan B/the morning-after pill, IUDs or others.
What are your ideas for improving our voting and election systems?
The very first thing is to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but that’s just a beginning. Voting is the most fundamental right of any citizen of a democracy, so we need to reduce the barriers to doing it. Let’s make Election Day a national holiday. Let’s make registering to vote easier. And let’s finally agree that felon disenfranchisement is wrong. My view is simple: If you’ve done the time and paid your fine, it should be a straight line to vote! I’ve heard critics say that this is a “states’ rights” issue, but the Founders took a different view; that’s why the Constitution empowers Congress to set national standards for federal elections.
What is your view on systemic racism and taking its impacts into consideration when crafting policy?
Too often, policies are created in echo chambers. I have always said that I want to be a leader who listens, and when I’ve introduced policy proposals on the campaign trail, I’ve only done so after listening to a diverse group of voices. We have to do the same thing in Congress. No matter how good our intentions, we should always go out of our way to minimize unintended consequences and take care that policy doesn’t push anyone to the margins.
What proposals do you support regarding the environment and climate change?
More and more strong hurricanes are hitting the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tornado alley has descended into our area. We were just dealing with mosquitoes, which carry terrible diseases, as late as December. Make no mistake: South Mississippi is on the frontlines of climate change, so we have to be on the frontlines of solving it. That means heavy investment in clean energy, both by the government and by the private sector. I’ll never understand how Mississippi politicians could side with Big Oil after the damage they’ve done to the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy and ecology.
What are your policy views on our nation’s immigration system?
As the husband of an immigrant, I take this issue personally. I’m sick of immigrants being demonized. The fact is, immigrants are and have always been vital to both our economy and our culture. None of that means I support open borders. But it does mean I want to see policies implemented that could actually help, policies which both sides often ignore. Chief among them is hiring more immigration attorneys and immigration judges to speed up the legal process, which is far too backlogged right now, leaving many migrants in limbo.
What are your views and policy ideas related to LGBTQ rights?
They’re human rights. It’s that simple. Politicians are attacking LGBTQ+ communities as a cheap way to score points with their base, and that’s unacceptable. This is a matter of basic humanity. Right now, I’m particularly concerned that the Supreme Court may overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, and that’s why I support federal legislation codifying the right to same-sex marriage into federal law.
What are your views and policy ideas related to the rights of people with disabilities?
Across many segments of federal laws and regulations, a common theme is lack of enforcement. As I have heard from people with disabilities in South Mississippi, the Americans with Disabilities Act is no different. We need more enforcement to ensure that every public space is ADA-compliant. I also see universal pre-k as a crucial way to identify developmental disabilities quickly so that we can begin early interventions.
What changes, if any, do you support making to federal marijuana laws?
I want to legalize it on the federal level for several reasons, not the least of which is that prohibition serves no practical purpose. But right now, even in states that have legalized medical marijuana, our veterans can’t be prescribed it through the VA because it’s still considered a Schedule I narcotic. And entrepreneurs operating dispensaries are denied banking opportunities for the same reason. These disparities have to end.
What are your economic policy ideas?
I want to protect and support Mississippi workers. Let’s raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so that we never have to fight about it again. Let’s pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which, unlike the sham of a bill recently passed in Jackson, actually guarantees equal pay for equal work. Let’s join the rest of the developed world and finally implement universal paid family and medical leave. And let’s finally protect the right of every workplace to organize for better pay and benefits through unions.
What is your vision for addressing our infrastructure needs?
The bipartisan infrastructure law is a great start in restoring our overburdened infrastructure, but there’s more to do. Without a plan to actively maintain our physical infrastructure, Mississippi will inevitably slide back to its D+ infrastructure rating. Let’s explore creating a system that implements automatic safeguards for any state that falls to a C rating for infrastructure. Another common concern I’ve heard as I’ve traveled South Mississippi is that federal infrastructure money is appropriated from Jackson with far too little input from local leaders. When appropriating infrastructure money, Congress should look at bypassing state capitals and putting the money as close to the people as possible.
What other policy proposals, if any, do you have that we did not ask about?
I’ve talked to a lot of veterans who are unhappy with how they’re being treated by the federal government. One issue is health problems related to burn pit exposure in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the unruly hoops our vets are asked to jump through to qualify for any sort of disability assistance. I want to make it easier by implementing a policy of presumption: If you were exposed to those toxic burn pits while serving our country and are now suffering from medical conditions which could have stemmed from that exposure, we should presume that the exposure caused it, rather than forcing you to try to prove it. Beyond that, I want to better fund VA hospitals to make them the best healthcare providers in the world. We owe our veterans that much, and so much more.
Tell us anything else about yourself that you think voters ought to know. I have been endorsed by the United Rural Democrats of America, College Democrats at Mississippi State University, AFL-CIO, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Communication Workers of America. Rural voters, college students, and the Mississippi labor movement: This is a coalition that can finally unseat Steven Palazzo. That’s what we can do together.
Congressional District: 4th (Incumbent is Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo)
Party: Democratic Party