The National Hispanic Professional Organization is known for a lot of good things, and putting on candidate forums is one of them. At Doneraki’s Gulfgate this morning, almost all of the candidates showed to shake hands, visit, and give a short stump speech, while the folks enjoyed some good food.
Sylvia Garcia, the former commissioner, was an early arrival and visited for a bit with attendees; unfortunately, she had to leave early for a funeral. In her place was surrogate and community activist Robert Gallegos. Gallegos spoke about Garcia’s record of serving East End constituents, especially regarding the METRO rail underpass for which she advocated and recently became a topic promoted in her direct mail campaign. Gallegos stated that Garcia “was the only elected official who responded” when the community stated its position against a proposed bridge.
State Rep. Carol Alvarado spoke on the various issues citing that people are “tired of negative campaigning.” Alvarado is in favor of restoring cuts made by the Republicans to education to the tune of $5.4 billion. She also gave mention to the need for vocational training because of the lack of a skilled workforce to fill Port jobs. Higher Education was also a topic in which she called for controlling tuition. Alvarado called for the Legislature to lower college tuition and ensure grants are available to those who need them. Finally, health care was another topic as Alvarado called for Republicans to vote to expand Medicaid to increase access to health care. One particular issue within health care was the cuts to reimbursement of Medicaid to nursing homes, thus affecting an increasing number of elderly Texans.
Republican Break: The two Republicans in the mix took turns defending vouchers, Rick Perry, and stayed within the confines of their Republican Party platforms. The Latina Republican, Dorothy Olmos, explained that she became a Republican because of her “Christian values,” which left me wanting to ask, “Are you saying my 82 year-old Chicana mother who has been a Democrat for 64 years, and prays more than most Catholic nuns is not Christian?” Anyway…
Joaquin Martinez agreed with what most have been saying regarding schools, but believes that community’s leadership not changing is one of the problems. Stating there is a sense of complacency, he points to the low voter turnout as an effect, which has given him the drive to get involved and do something. He also pointed to his experience at a local nonprofit in which he has directly affected lives positively. Martinez called for a new conversation with new leadership that will create a support system community-wide.
Martinez’s challenge that the lack of change in leadership is the problem brought a couple of challenges from the audience. One East End resident defended the work of the late State Senator Mario Gallegos and his effectiveness. Martinez stated that he intends to continue the work of the Senator through community conversations, thus, involving the people in the process.
Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes continued the line of ensuring health care for the elderly, expanding Medicaid and supporting a return of the $5.4 billion cut to education by the Republicans in the Legislature, as well as the creation of student support programs. Reyes also pointed to community complacency as a cause for low voter turnout which is not helped by the Houston Chronicle’s lack of reporting on all candidates; instead, it only reports on the two major candidates. He pointed to people he has visited in his blockwalks wanting change in their leaders stating that the people were not well-represented. This also brought a challenge from the audience with a defense of the late Senator. Reyes disagreed.
The Green Party’s Maria Selva spent her time promoting alternative and green energy as a means of expanding the energy industry and bringing more jobs to the area. Selva stated that the Transcanada oil pipeline will negatively affect the area, and that big oil’s interest must be curtailed with campaign finance reform; pointing to legislation being promoted by Senator Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. Selva supports expanding Medicaid. Selva also stated that she boycotted a Transcanada-sponsored debate last week.
Selva was asked what the Green Party represented. Stating that the Democrats have moved to the right, the Green Party has taken up the positions that the “old” Democratic Party used to support.
Also given time to speak to the group were Theresa Gallegos, widow of the Senator, and Lillian Villarreal, sister of Senator Gallegos. Both thanked the organization for hosting the forum, as well as thanked the candidates in the running. Mrs. Gallegos stated her strong support for Carol Alvarado, which is also what her late husband wanted.
There weren’t a lot of fireworks, but what was exhibited was a clear divide between experienced candidates and the new guard of candidates in the running. I have noticed the frustrations from the grassroots campaigns who have been trying to earn some name recognition in this vast district (Over 200,000 registered voters), while the two well-funded candidates have been running your usual disciplined campaigns. It makes sense that mainstream media will gravitate toward the moneyed campaign. That’s just political reality, unfortunately, but not a reason to simply stay out.
NHPO provided a forum for all to speak with equal time and should be commended for doing so. We all have our favorite candidates, me included, but when we have these kinds of forums (live or online), then it is important to be as inclusive as possible. Given my lefty attitude, I’ll sell the lefty side a lot more than anything else. (C’mon, I’m just a Chicano blogger!)