Congressional candidates want to help with hurricane recovery
Feb. 9, 2018 at 9:42 p.m.
Updated Feb. 9, 2018 at 10:51 p.m.
With U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold retiring this year, Democratic candidates are hoping they have a shot to fill the congressional seat in District 27.
Ten candidates are competing for his seat, four of whom are running as Democrats with campaign promises to increase economic development, invest in education and help residents recover from Hurricane Harvey.
Voters casting ballots in the Democratic primary will be asked to choose between Eric Holguin or Raul "Roy" Barrera, both of Corpus Christi; Ronnie McDonald, of Bastrop; or Vanessa Edwards Foster, of Houston.
With less than a month before the primary, Victoria County Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Tally said Holguin and McDonald are increasingly popular, while Barrera, who ran for the seat in 2016, is still a favorite among some voters.
She said the outcome of the race will depend entirely on who comes out to vote throughout the district, which stretches across the Texas Gulf Coast around Corpus Christi and snakes north toward Austin.
"It's going to depend on Corpus Christi," said Tally. "And it's going to depend on who comes out to vote."
In the southern part of District 27, Barrera is taking his second shot for the congressional seat. Barrera grew up in Robstown and was born to parents who were migrant workers. He remembers one day when he was picking cotton with his mother, he decided he wanted to help improve other families' lives.
"I did promise her that day that I would be somebody important and do for others what nobody was doing for us," said Barrera.
The former Robstown police officer said he learned from his last campaign and believes he's had enough publicity to win this year. If elected, he wants to improve health care for veterans and work to fund Social Security and Medicare in addition to supporting equal pay for women.
Barrera said he also wants to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Working across the aisle with Republicans to solve complicated issues is another priority.
"I know that I'm the person who can properly and personally represent the people - whether they are Republicans, Democrats or Independents," Barrera said.
Holguin, a South Texas native, also lives in Corpus Christi, one of the largest cities in the district. Holguin, who graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was recently working at the Office of the New York City Comptroller until moving back to the Coastal Bend last year.
Holguin said he felt frustrated that South Texas' working families were struggling to make ends meet in a region largely dependent on volatile oil jobs. If elected, he plans to focus on increasing residents' quality of life by laying the foundation to attract new industries, investing in education and boosting access to health care.
"It's about rebuilding everything and infrastructure so we can get our communities moving forward," said Holguin.
Among Holguin's priorities are creating incentive programs to attract new businesses and rebuilding aging infrastructure so it withstands natural disasters, he said. Dredging the port of Corpus Christi, burying power lines and boosting broadband internet in rural communities are on his list of projects, along with upgrading water systems and increasing technology in schools.
"We need to rebuild Texas," said Holguin.
McDonald, who served as Bastrop County judge for 14 years, is running on the platform that he wants give residents a voice who otherwise may not be heard. While campaigning and serving as county judge, McDonald found if he connected residents, they could come up with more robust solutions to solve problems facing the county.
Most recently, McDonald worked with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to connect agencies and community members to deal with issues facing rural communities. If elected, McDonald said his top focus is to use a similar model to help communities recover from Hurricane Harvey.
"It's everybody coming to find our assets and how we can connect," said McDonald.
If McDonald wins the seat, this would not be his first time serving as a government leader following a disaster. McDonald was serving as county judge when a 2011 fire scorched 34,000 acres and killed two people. The disaster was deemed one of the most destructive fires in state history.
McDonald said he has experience dealing with federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency firsthand and knows how to advocate for residents.
"You have to have that mentality to continue," said McDonald.
Vanessa Edwards Foster, who lives in Houston, is the only woman running for Farenthold's seat. She said she was inspired to run by the #MeToo movement and was upset with how Congress dealt with sexual harassment - including how Farenthold used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Foster, who has worked as an activist lobbying on behalf of transgender citizens, said she was disappointed more women didn't run for the seat. When the deadline to file was looming in December and no other woman had filed paperwork, she decided to enter the race, she said.
"We do need more women in Congress," said Foster, who grew up in Corpus Christi.
If elected, she plans to feverishly advocate for more funding to recover from Hurricane Harvey and invest in infrastructure, such as dredging Corpus Christi's port, she said. She also wants to push to diversify the economy and grow new industries, including technology, seafood farming and green energy.
"We do need something other than oil," said Foster.