Dinner With Congressman Max Sandlin

"Oh man okra!," exclaims Congressman Max Sandlin as he serves a plate for his sit down dinner with the Binions. All questions again tonight are fair game, but will his answers convince these undecided voters to elect him to another term. First issue? Sandlin's voting record, something they've seen questioned in negative attack ads. "We very rarely get to vote on one particular issue, like issue by issue, whether it's an education issue or gun issue or anything you just don't vote. You vote on big bills and you have very many facets to them. And you just have to go on balance, is this a good bill or is this a bad bill? Is there enough in it that I want to support it or is there something so repugnant to it that I'm opposed to it?" He adds, "My voting card is very special because it represents the will of the people in the 1st District of Texas... and I'm not going to go over there and march and lock step with a political party."

More controversial issues were raised including abortion; something Chris and Tracy say they're completely against. "The partial birth abortion thing...that was kind of a little bit disturbing to us," says Chris. "In fact to show you how political the other side is on it," says Sandlin, "when that bill came up, not only did I vote to ban partial birth abortion, I voted to ban all late term abortions but the Republicans would not vote for that...I have voted every single time that's come up in Congress since I've been there and it's only come up six times and I voted against it six times."

Chris: "I know stem cell research is really big now what's the issue with stem cell research scenario?"

Max Sandlin: "We really need to pass stem cell research it's not a pro-choice pro-life issue...I've talked to a lot of doctors, I've talked to a lot of scientists, I've talked to lots of folks about this, in the areas of juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's and those things and scientists believe they're really on the edge of getting a cure for juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries."

Chris chimes in and says, "But what about all those people who don't have any medical insurance?" "It's a horrible issue," Sandlin says; and The Binions can agree through experience. They, at one point, didn't have the income to get medical insurance for their children. Tracy remembers the hoops they had to jump through to get help from the government.  Tracy recalls, "I know the lady at the human resources told me--I said 'What is the minimum [my husband] needs to make in order for him to qualify?', she said 'You just need to tell him to quit his job.'"

Sandlin says, "A couple things I like to see happen is number one, the state did the wrong thing by taking kids off CHIP and taking away their dental care. They cut about 175,000 kids on CHIP and took away dental care for 536,000 as you probably know from your job and that was a misplaced priority. When you get in a financial bind you don't immediately cut children. But they did." He adds, "We've got 45 million people in the country that don't have insurance headed to 50 million people. I'll tell you another statistic that's really embarrassing, Texas has the worst record of any state in the nation of uninsured working families. 27% of Texans that are working have no insurance because they can't afford it, they just can't afford it"

As the night winded down and the dinner plates were cleaned, the Binions felt this experience not only satisfied their appetites, but their ability to finally decide which name they'll punch for U.S. Congress on Election Day 2004.

"Well, sounds good I'm all out of questions," Chris says, bringing the dinner to a close.

Christine Nelson, reporting. cnelson@kltv.com