Who am I?
I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. My father emigrated from Mexico in 1945 as a bracero, a laborer brought in by the U.S. government to help offset the loss of skilled American ranch hands serving in World War II. My parents stressed the importance of education to their three children. It was that encouragement that led me to my career in public service. My wife, Ramona, and I have been married for almost 40 years. We have three daughters, Adelita, Raquel and Marisa, and three grandchildren, Adelina, Ralito and Joaquin.
From 1974 to 1986, I served on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, serving as chairman during my last three years on the board. During my tenure at TUSD, I worked with the courts, Superintendent, and educators on a desegregation plan and was the lead Board member in implementing the plan. Upon my retirement, an elementary school was named after me in honor of my service and contributions to education in the district.
I served on the Pima County Board of Supervisors from 1989 to 2002. My leadership led to the creation of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, an innovative approach to species and habitat protection in concert with land-use planning in the community. As a Supervisor, I led a successful campaign for a $10 million bond package to reinvest in older, poorer neighborhoods and to fund a county housing trust.
I was elected to Congress in 2002. It was a true grassroots campaign we were outspent three to one, but by staying true to progressive values and standing up for whats right I came out ahead. I am currently a member of the House Committee on Education and The Workforce and the House Natural Resources Committee, where I serve as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. I am an active member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Why am I running?
Im running for re-election because as much as we've advanced the progressive movement in America over the past few years, theres a lot I came to Congress to achieve that we havent done yet.
Ive introduced several bills in this Congress of which Im especially proud. The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act (HR 855) is one of the centerpieces of my agenda in this Congress, and it couldnt be timelier. Uranium mining lobbyists want to open new projects on more than 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon as we speak, but so far theyve been held up by a Department of the Interior moratorium thats set to go into effect for the next 20 years. Right now a group of House and Senate Republicans is pushing a bill that would overrule the moratorium and open the area for business as soon as possible. My bill permanently protects the land so that we dont have to have this debate in 20 years or 100 years. When we open the Grand Canyon area to more uranium mining, nobody wins except a few mining companies and their lobbyists.
Ive also reintroduced my Right to Rent Act (HR 1548), which would go a long way to solving the ongoing housing crisis that the banks wont touch. The bill would allow homeowners facing foreclosure to stay in their homes for up to five years as renters by paying fair market value set by a judge. If banks dont want to act as landlords, they can reduce the principle owed on the home. Either way, we reduce homelessness, help neighborhoods maintain property values, and head off the scourge of foreclosures banks have visited on the American people. Its a common sense measure that deserves a hearing in Congress. So far, the Republicans wont give it one.
Ive introduced the Border Infrastructure and Jobs Act (HR 3049), which would upgrade ports of entry at our Arizona/Mexico border to allow goods and commerce to start flowing freely again and create jobs all over this country. Right now, a lot of the goods and produce we consume - whether were talking about the South, the Midwest, or even New England - comes through ports of entry in places like Nogales, Arizona. Those ports are woefully underfunded, understaffed and unable to handle the volume of traffic a modern economy should be handling. My bill would open up economic opportunities that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide, especially in states that rely on trade just as much as manufacturing.
Im glad to have the opportunity to introduce these and other simple, progressive pieces of legislation and advocate straightforward solutions to our nations problems. Im doing my best to make the most of my time in Congress, not just as an advocate for causes I believe in, but as a legislator who understands how to identify issues that need attention and write bills that make things better.
We need to extend the offer of a good public education to every child in the United States, regardless of race, income or anything else. We cant expect things to get better when students dont know their civic duties, dont understand their civil rights, and dont have the math, science and language skills to compete in a modern economy. Expecting public schools and vouchers to take the place of thousands of public schools across this country is simple wishful thinking. If were serious about the future of our country, we have to get our schools back up to par and then go further - rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, hiring more and better teachers, and upgrading curricula that havent been reviewed for years. I ran in 2002 because Ive seen the difference between good and bad education policy, and we cant afford many more bad decisions like No Child Left Behind. This promise hasnt been fulfilled, and Im going to continue to make this challenge one of my signature issues in Congress.
We need to commit the federal government once and for all to a job creation policy that sticks. We cant keep implementing half measures and hoping everything works out for the best. Nor can we expect temporary programs to fix our larger structural problems. As Prof. Jeffrey Sachs told a Progressive Caucus hearing on job creation not long ago, median income for working men and women in this country peaked in 1973 and manufacturing employment peaked in 1979. Were facing a structural crisis that requires a structural transformation - theres no doubt about it. Im going to continue making job creation and labor market policies one of my centerpieces as long as Im in Washington, because unless we get America working again were just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
Accepting and Valuing Diversity
One of the least mentioned and I believe most important things we can do as a Congress is make sure America accepts and values diversity. My home state of Arizona started a trend of punitive, unproductive statewide anti-immigrant bills that have sent a message to communities of color all across the country that one part of the population is keeping an angry eye on another. Instead of embracing fear and division as political weapons - instead of looking for people to blame and abusing our authority in order to punish them - we need to rebuild a nationwide community of trust and respect for one another. We can do that as legislators, we can do that as community leaders, and we can do that as advocates. Each of those capacities is an important part of how I view my role in Congress, and I mean to use each of them to keep pushing for a healthy, diverse America. If we continue down the road of treating community and diversity - words I grew up with - as code words for some sort of criminal enterprise, were never going to succeed as a nation.
My DFA Values
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My Campaign is People Powered!
Our voter outreach is centered around door to door voter contact in promotion of my candidacy and turning out the vote for all Democratic candidates that run in my district. My campaign is driven by volunteers who help guide our outreach messages, and their voter contact helps us to gauge voter support and concerns about issues. For the general election, we will have a weekly minimum of 100 volunteers walking door to door driving voter turnout and encouraging people to vote by mail, as we have each of my previous elections. We operate a volunteer driven phone bank for the general election to promote voters returning their vote by mail ballots. Engaging the online progressive community has also added an entirely new dimension of people-power to my campaigns. Not only do I have the opportunity to share ideas and news with them, I also get feedback and support, both in the way of donations and actual people power on the ground. As an example, last year, I enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteers from across the nation to call voters in Southern Arizona to help counter the Tea Party and GOP lies that were clogging the airwaves. The Netroots have become a truly critical component of our people-powered campaign.