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Joaquin Castro visits Victoria for fundraiser (w/ video)

By Jessica Priest
June 16, 2014 at 1:16 a.m.
Updated June 17, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro poses with Victoria resident Clara Ramos during a Democratic Party fundraiser at Club Westerner on Monday night.Hear Joaquin Castro speak about his grandmother in a video at  VictoriaAdvocate.com.

In between jokes about how to tell him and his twin brother apart, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro reinforced the mission for Victoria County Democrats during a fundraiser Monday night: Build upon an infrastructure that makes the American Dream possible.

Castro did so by expanding on a story his brother, Julian Castro, told about their grandmother at the Democratic Convention in 2012.

She immigrated to the U.S. in 1922 and never made it past the fourth grade. She worked as a maid, babysitter and cook to support her only child, their mother.

"He (Julian Castro) said, 'What's special is not that story, but the country, the America that makes that story possible.' And I agreed with that, but if I could go back and add a line to my brother's speech, I would also say that that story is also not unique," Castro said to a crowd of about 260 people at Club Westerner. "It's not unique to my family. It's not unique to Mexican-Americans. That is the story of so many Americans."

Castro, who represents District 20 in Congress, advocated for raising the minimum wage, which has not seen an increase from $7.25 since 2009. He also spoke about how while Texas enjoys a low unemployment rate, it is a "mixed bag" economically because it does not have a lot of high-paying jobs.

He encouraged Democrats at the grass-roots level to capitalize on the division within the Republican Party to accomplish those goals, which also include improving public education and health care. Texas, one of the states with the most uninsured, has seen a million people sign up under the Affordable Care Act, he said.

"This is not the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation," he said.

This is the Republican Party of Gov. Rick Perry, who compared gay people to alcoholics, and "those are not words of hope or unity," Castro said.

Lt. Col. Wesley Reed also mingled with attendees.

Reed is challenging U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold for the 27th District, which encompasses Nueces, San Patricio, Aransas, Refugio, Calhoun, Matagorda, Jackson, Wharton, Lavaca and Victoria counties.

Reed said he is qualified to represent this district, which includes about 67,000 veterans, because he enlisted in the military when he was 19 and has deployed to Asia for peacemaking several times.

"I can make sure we get the best bang for a buck on our defense budgets and Veterans Affairs budgets," Reed said.

He agreed with President Barack Obama that the U.S. should not send ground troops into Iraq without clearly definable goals and rules of engagement.

While his opponent may cater to special interest groups, Reed said he was willing to work for the lay person and did not consider "compromise" to be a dirty word.

"We have a two-party government for a reason - to make sure there's a healthy debate of ideas," Reed said.

Colby Winzer, 34, followed Reed from his speech in Edna to Victoria, signing up to eat and listen to Castro speak at Club Westerner at the last minute.

As the owner of Sam Houston Land Company, which provides three-dimensional mapping for Eagle Ford Shale formation, he thought it was important to stay up-to-date on politics.

"We ought to have a construction bill or money earmarked for construction," Winzer said. "We use the roads a lot in our activity."

Joe Cardenas III, who teaches world history, U.S. history, career studies and Spanish III in Louise, thought Castro's visit would put Victoria on the map.

Cardenas is also a delegate for Wharton County and will attend the Texas Democratic Convention later this month. He was impressed with how Castro was able to explain why he is a Democrat succinctly.

"A lot of times, people fumble with their answer," Cardenas said. "In the end it's, 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"

Others were encouraged by the turnout.

"This proves that the fringe is not taking over," local civil attorney John Griffin said.

Jennifer Foster, a candidate for Victoria County treasurer added, "Democrats are not invisible. We're here, and we're here in force."

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