Voter's Guide, 2020 Fall Elections, Louisiana
Position U.S. Senator
NamePeter Christian Wenstrup

Campaign Information

Campaign Web Site

Bio Information

Party AffiliationDemocrat
Present Employer / positionSabbatical for Campaigning
Length of residence in Jurisdiction12
List of educational institutions and degreesBrown University, AB Mathematics
Prior elected and appointed positionsN/A
Civic involvement and affiliationsTeaching is an act of civic involvement. My day job requires coordinating and organizing in a school community of 1500 people. I have coached, led service projects, conducted meetings with parents, served on steering committees, and mentored teachers and students in my role as a teacher. I have served the Lusher Charter School community, Walter L Cohen High School community, and the Livingston Collegiate Academy community.

Questions specific to the position

1. The United States is formally withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, effective Nov. 4, 2020. The formal withdrawal is reversible. Explain your reasons why you support or oppose the United States joining with other nations to reduce global emissions. As a teacher and a father, this issue is personal for me. I have given my life to help young people develop into happy, healthy adults. I have dedicated every ounce of effort towards my community, my students, and my children. To know that we have large companies fighting to poison the process of development in young people, especially in Communities of Color, is a heartbreaking and infuriating. The current administrations dismantling of the EPA protections, starting with Mr. Obama's regulation of carbon dioxide and ending with Covid-19 Free Pass to Pollute this March, directly undermines the work we do as parents and teachers to nourish young people. The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is a direct affront to the people of South Louisiana who have spent their lives building communities and bearing the unique culture of the region. There are ways to work with oil and gas workers, and even oil and gas companies. For example, I have a plan to tie the price of oil to investment in job-training, plugging orphan wells, and building clean infrastructure. This way, green jobs would be a landing pad for oil and gas workers, not a bludgeon to their way of life. However, we cannot work together if folks in the energy are rigging the game and refusing to work towards a greener future in good faith.
2. In recent years, voters have expressed concern that their votes don't matter due to election security concerns, the possibility of foreign influence, and the role of large money in elections. What measures would you propose to address these issues? On the day after Trayford Pellerin's death at the hands of the police, I visited Lafayette and had a chance to listen to family members and community leaders speak. At a literal crossroads, there was a tension between older community leaders urging voting and voter registration and young members in disbelief that the system is salvageable. The moment resolved into unity, but the younger generation has a point. Even with a progressive mayor (which Lafayette does NOT have), there is little that could be done to reform the police. Our governments are mechanically unable to respond to the needs of the people.

I support measures to reverse the Citizens United decision, prohibit the holding of stocks by members of Congress, and expand FEC requirements to social media, including Facebook. However, I believe the problem is deeper.

Too frequently, I see national Democratic politicians focus on the fight for centralized, high-level power instead of re-framing the system to empower people and communities. Our environmental regulation is the province of a centralized agency which can be bought by big corporations. Federal agencies that protect against work place discrimination are also being co-opted. When we win power, we must find ways to empower communities to be agents of their own change. We must invest in radical transparency so that people can google the small-particulate pollution in their neighborhood and Women of Color can look up what their white male peers earn for the same position.

We also need to move decision-making to communities. We are struck my a mismatch between cash-strapped, responsive, local governments and big-budget, unresponsive, national government. Our police departments are unresponsive because we have given them low pay and ceded control. Our schools are so underfunded that 'choice' amounts to a lottery to get into one or two temporarily shining schools.

Across every topic, I have pursued or authored policies that vastly increase our investment in communities while also pushing decision-making as close to the people as possible. In six years, I want to tell those young people in Lafayette that their vote for City Council or State Legislature can turn around a school or bring an extra mental health worker to their neighborhood.
3. What can the Federal government do to raise the basic economic health and even the playing field so all U.S. citizens have equal opportunities? What measures would you support to address the following goals (please provide examples of specific legislation or programs)? a. A living wage for all workers:
I support $15 minimum wage, and I will evaluate Supreme Court Justices based on their support for labor, including overriding Janus.
b. Paid sick leave for all workers:
Mr. Cassidy 'supported' limited paid sick leave, but six years later we don't have it. He was a member of a 49-51 Senate, but he never used his leverage to fight for it. I will be willing to hold up business as usual to fight for families.
c. Ensuring pay equity for all workers:
I support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and I will also fight for pay transparency to empower workers to fight for themselves and to organized.
d. Providing access to quality child care and early childhood education:
My two daughters participate in a joint tuition and Head Start program. We are incredibly happy to be a part of it. I have not decided whether to support a $4000 refundable child care tax credit, expanded Head Start, or universal Pre-K. I pledge to listen to community members, not just my Party, when making my decision.
e. Improving the quality of K-12 education for all children:
I have a plan on my website that would vastly increase our national investment in education while eliminating waste and delivering decisions to states, Parishes, communities, and families. The key here is that the federal government funds teacher salaries - the most fundamental education expense - and push all other spending to the state level. The federal government would fund teacher salaries at a progressive rate depending on the child-poverty rate of the district, from $60,000 to $108,000 in districts with a child poverty rate over 48%. There are additional elements of local accountability and re-imagined family choice.
f. Providing affordable higher education:
I am strongly considering three plans: Free community college, 'Three Free', and expanded Pell Grants. My 'three free' plan would pay for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th semesters of all students and set up income-based loans based upon a market evaluation on the quality of the education of the school. 'Market evaluation' can be scary when we discuss education, but it would just be a measure of the income of alumni compared to the price of the degree.
g. Removing barriers to financing and housing:
First and foremost, issues with financing and housing start with the drastic income inequality in this country. With greater wages, working people will have greater negotiating power with negligent landlords and more access to credit. When you can make a living on 40 hours a week, working people will be able to invest time and money into their own homes. We must start with wages. I accompanied a young man that I mentor to a credit union. I gave him $1000 for finishing his GED. It was intimidating and challenging for him to learn about banking. Three months later, the account was closed. He lives with his family of six in deep poverty, and he took out all of the money to care for them. Wages first. Next, I support Postal Banking. My community and others like it bleed income to predatory pay-day loan companies and expensive tax services. Folks could choose to opt into these services with free checking and saving offered through the Post Office. Next, we need to continue programs that offer credit and support for Communities of Color to access credit and housing.
h. Providing access to affordable healthcare for all:
I believe that we need to offer Medicare-for-Young Adults. Young adults are in- and out- of school, often saddled by student loans, starting businesses, and switching jobs. Providing stable healthcare for this group would revitalize our economy by encouraging workforce development, skills matching, and new business starts. We must also increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to provide equity in provider choice for working people. Finally, we must reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices and manufacture generic drugs for which there are 0 or 1 producers.
4. What can be done at the Federal level to improve public safety and confidence in law enforcement? Would you support measures to address the following (please answer yes or no and provide examples of specific legislation): a. Reallocate resources and funds from policing/law enforcement to address social ills that plague many disinvested communities:
Our system has failed because local and state governments chronically under-invest in resources for the community. As a result, we pay public safety officers in promises, not pay. My policing plan will reverse this. States that opted into the program would receive grants to pay public safety salaries of $85,000 per officer with the requirements that officers be employed at-will and civilly liable, like the rest of us. In addition, my plan will empower communities to decide what constitutes a public safety officer. My plan would empower cities to dedicate these salaries to armed patrol, mental health workers, social workers, addiction support, or other officers. My plan will empower our best police officers with higher wages for a job well done. You can read more on my website.
b. Reform qualified immunity:
I support the 'End Qualified Immunity Act', though I believe my plan has a better chance to gain the political support to pass by welcoming the best members of the police force into the movement for change.
c. Ban use of excess force (e.g., chokeholds, shoot to kill):
I support the George Floyd Justice for Policing Act, though I believe my plan has a better chance to gain the political support to pass by welcoming the best members of the police force into the movement for change.
d. Establish a nationwide database of law enforcement officers found to have used excessive force:
I support the George Floyd Justice for Policing Act, though I believe my plan has a better chance to gain the political support to pass by welcoming the best members of the police force into the movement for change.
e. Ban the providing of local police departments with military equipment:
This was last accomplished through executive action. I believe we need to address the problem at a more systemic level. I will consider legislation that accomplishes this.
5. Do you support a system for undocumented immigrants already in the country to earn legal status and to have a path to citizenship? If so, what steps do you consider necessary? One of America's greatest strengths is its ability to attract the bravest, most ambitious people from around the world. The decision to leave one's country and family to travel halfway across the world requires courage and industry. I have seen personally in immigrant students that I have taught over the course of my career. From the children of graduate students at Lusher to undocumented Hondurans at Cohen, I have witnessed the tremendous strengths of our immigrants.
That said, native Louisianans rightfully worry about more competition for jobs at a time when unemployment is over 10%. We must craft a solution that addresses the concerns of jobless natives while appreciating the fact that economic growth lifts up everyone. First, I would advocate for more highly-skilled immigrants and student visas to stimulate new businesses in the economy. Second, I would honor international law and our highest ideals and welcome legal refugees. Finally, I would tie unskilled immigration and nationalization to unemployment. The lower our unemployment rate, the faster we could process new immigrants and naturalize new citizens. When unemployment is high, we would protect native workers by slowing down those processes. These decisions shouldn't be subject to the whims of power-hungry politicians; they should be tied to the job-market experience of the people.