Immigration, economy top focuses in GOP congressional race

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Feb. 10, 2018 at 9:27 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2018 at 8:01 a.m.

Republican candidates for U.S. Representative, District 27, from top left, Bech Brunn, Michael Cloud, Eddie Gassman, Jerry Hall and Christopher Mapp. Not pictured is John Grunwald.

Republican candidates for U.S. Representative, District 27, from top left, Bech Brunn, Michael Cloud, Eddie Gassman, Jerry Hall and Christopher Mapp. Not pictured is John Grunwald.   Contributed photos for The Victoria Advocate

A half-dozen Republicans are vying for their chance to replace U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, many of whom say immigration, health care and economic development are the district's most pressing issues.

On the primary ballot for 2018, six of 10 candidates are running as Republicans for their chance to fill the congressional seat in District 27, which stretches across the Texas Gulf Coast around Corpus Christi and snakes north toward Austin.

The Republican challengers will face off during the March 6 primary before the winner challenges the Democrat's primary's winner in the November election.

The Republican candidates include Bech Bruun, former chairman of Texas Water Development Board; Michael Cloud, former chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party; and Christopher Mapp, a small business owner from Port O'Connor. John Grunwald, a retired accountant who lives in Houston; Jerry Hall, a mediator who lives in Corpus Christi; and Eddie Gassman, a contractor from Corpus Christi, also are seeking the seat.

So far, Bruun and Cloud are emerging two of the most competitive candidates, said Victoria County Republican Party chairman Bill Pozzi. The chairman said he's heard that Bruun has been successful in fundraising across the district, while Cloud is increasingly popular among grassroots movements in Victoria.

"I think it's my duty to promote to have as many good candidates as possible," Pozzi said. "And I'm very excited about the congressional race."

Bruun, a Corpus Christi native, has been endorsed by a number of organizations and individuals, including the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, U.S. Rep. Roger Williams and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is the secretary of energy in the Trump administration.

Before resigning from his position as chairman of the Texas Water Development Board last year to focus on his campaign, Bruun led the agency in charge of collecting data, providing financial assistance and developing new water supplies in the state.

If elected, Bruun said he would use his experience to ensure communities such as Victoria have water infrastructure in place to accommodate new businesses. For example, cities, such as Victoria or Corpus Christi, have roads, rails and ports in place, but they need to be able to provide large amounts of water for new businesses - such as Exxon Mobil, he said.

Once the infrastructure is in place, new and existing industries can grow, boosting the number of jobs and residents' quality of life, he said.

"I think water is the single most important policy matter that the state will face," Bruun said.

Helping communities rebuild stronger after Hurricane Harvey is another top focus for Bruun. He said his experience will help him navigate bureaucratic federal agencies to find streamlined solutions to deal with recovery efforts.

"It's going to involve working with state and federal agencies in a way that I have a lot of experience with directly," Bruun said.

In Victoria, Cloud, who identifies as a constitutional conservative, said working to reform America's immigration system, lowering health care costs and improving veteran services are among his top priorities.

So far, Cloud's endorsements include former congressman Ron Paul, Suzanne Guggenheim of the Tea Party Patriots and R.W. Brown, a Lavaca County commissioner.

The former Victoria County GOP chairman said one of the main reasons he decided to run is to bridge the gap between residents and their government. After working in grassroots political movements in Victoria, he said, he felt as if he needed to stand up to a "culture of corruption" in Washington, D.C.

"The way I view where we are in our nation is the greatest divide isn't between Republican and Democrats, even; the greatest divide is between the people and their government," he said.

Cloud, whose wife is from Mexico, said immigration is one of the most complicated challenges facing the district.

He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to deal with the legal migration process and wants to reform the system, he said.

But before tackling immigration reform, Cloud said he wants to secure the border with a combination of policies ranging from border walls "where it makes sense to build a wall" to dealing with the backlog of immigration cases, which can sometimes take years to resolve.

"You can't fix the problem while you're still creating it, so we need to secure the border," Cloud said.

For another candidate, this isn't his first run for an elected office.

Mapp, who owns Coastal Bend Marine, ran for the U.S. Senate about four years ago, during which he drew fire for telling the Dallas Morning News that ranchers should be allowed to shoot anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land and referring to such people with a racial slur.

Mapp said he was angry about former President Barack Obama being in office but now supports President Donald Trump's policies. He wants to run the country like a business and ensure the government serves its people - not just politicians.

Meanwhile, Hall and Gassman, both of Corpus Christi, and Grunwald, of Houston, tout the fact that they aren't career politicians and want to reduce bureaucracy.

Hall said his most important goal is to represent middle- and working-class Americans - not wealthy individuals or politicians.

"It's like all of us that are normal people that are fed up with the people in Washington," Hall said. "We need to go back to a citizen government."

Grunwald, of Houston, expressed similar sentiments, saying he was supportive of term limits and wanted voters to think about hiring him for a job - not electing him as a candidate.

Gassman, of Corpus Christi, said he was inspired to run for Congress after working as a contractor for two decades.

He's entered thousands of residents' homes, many of whom are struggling to pay bills, take care of elderly family members or dealing with medical problems, he said.

If elected, he wants to make it easier for families to make ends meet by helping part-time employees to purchase health care in addition to boosting job training programs in the area.

"You see so much suffering," Gassman said. "And I think a lot of people would say, 'Eddie, we need somebody who understands us and somebody who cares.'"



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