Eight Democrats to run for Congress in District 34
U.S. Representative District 34 includes the following counties: DeWitt, Goliad, Bee, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kenedy, Willacy, Cameron, and parts of Gonzales and San Patricio.
Editor's note: The Advocate is profiling candidates in the May 29 primary election. This profile features candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. House of Representatives District 34. The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary in November.
Eight people are vying for the chance to become the Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative District 34.
All candidates come from the deep south of Texas to represent the newly-created district that stretches along the coast and into Goliad, DeWitt and Gonzales counties.
Anthony Troiani, 45, is a former Marine and city commissioner in Brownsville, who said he has experience trying to get Washington to fund projects in the district he seeks to represent.
His priorities include education, veterans issues, growing businesses and jobs and investing in infrastructure, like the region's ports and highways. He said the newly-minted District 34 is shaping up to be an asset to the area.
"What I like about the district is it has so many diverse components. We have the Eagle Ford Shale in the northern part of district, which could make us energy independent. Then you have this alternative energy down south," like wind turbines, he said.
Salomon Torres, 47, moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 4 and later became the director for U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa. The Harlingen resident said his experience in Washington and in hitting the ground in the district make him equipped to deal with the issues most important to the area. He hopes to focus on diversifying the economies of both small and large communities, improving infrastructure, including the water supply and creating solutions that get young people to stick around rural communities, where they can have opportunity for employment.
"I'm actively traveling to learn from the constituents what they're looking for in terms of representation," Torres said. "I'm definitely not going to pretend I have all the answers, but I know how to find the resources. I've done it for Congressman Hinojosa."
Elmo Aycock, 35, is a small business owner from Brownsville who said he understands the plights of everyday people: high gas prices, corruption, lackluster schools and lack of jobs.
"I have the same experience as the people. I spend half my paycheck on gas, just like they do. I worry about my child's public school education just like they do," he said. "I know that feeling, and I'm going to help people overcome that."
Aycock is also a Marine veteran, who served for 12 years, including in Iraq.
Ramiro Garza, 37, is the city manager in Edinburg who has 15 years of experience working on economic development. He said his platform is simple: people are looking for opportunities.
"I built my career in economic development and job creation, so I know how to get the economy moving again," he said.
His strategies include broadening access to higher education, expanding transportation and protecting social security and Medicare. Garza said he grew up in a working family in a housing authority in Port Isabel, which instilled in him hard work and the ability to overcome challenges.
Armando Villalobos is the district and county attorney for Cameron County. His platform includes supporting farming and ranching, which have suffered setbacks after last year's wildfires. His website also lists alternative energy and oil and gas among his top concerns.
"We have a rich abundance of natural resources, as well as a skilled labor force necessary to be energy self-reliant. Congress needs to come up with a comprehensive plan to rely on our own natural resources," his website says.
Denise Saenz Blanchard was born and raised in Brownsville and has spent more than 20 years working on economic development. She bills herself as a political and bureaucrat outsider whose career has been dedicated to job creation, according to her website.
"I'm going to work to save Social Security and Medicare from the Washington politicians, focus on giving our kids a 21st century education they can actually use one day and do my part to root out political corruption to clean up South Texas politics," her website reads.
Filemon Vela, of Brownsville, has been active in law, public service and politics for 20 years. His platform includes a focus on the economy, medicare and Social Security, immigration and jobs. He supports tax cuts for small businesses and companies who hire people who have been unemployed for more than six months, according to his website.
"We need to fight Washington bureaucrats who seek to stop us from exploring for new wells throughout South Texas," his website reads. "The energy industry creates good high paying jobs here and frees us from depending on hostile dictators in the Middle East that want to do our country harm."
Juan Angel Guerra, of Sebastian, is the former district and county attorney for Willacy County. He's also running in the primary election but did not return requests for comment.