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To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the November ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all candidates to answer the following questions. We edited answers for clarity, not substance or grammar, and we did not fact-check responses. We restricted responses to 200 words for each question.
Read other candidates’ answers here.
Link to campaign website:
Education background/degrees earned:
Bachelor of Arts, University of Texas at San Antonio; Master of Public Affairs, Baruch College; Juris Doctor, University of Texas Law
Current occupation, employer, or job title:
Previous elected offices held and/or sought:
Texas House of Representatives, District 116 (2001-2018; 2019-present)
Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?
I have been proud to serve the residents of House District 116 for nearly 20 years in the Texas House of Representatives. During that time, I have earned a reputation as a dedicated, knowledgeable lawmaker who never backs down from the good fight. My years of experience have given me an extensive knowledge of the Texas Legislature, which I will leverage to accomplish the hard work that lies ahead in the next legislative session. With COVID-19 recovery, redistricting, and a tough budget cycle looming in 2021, HD-116 will need a principled and experienced legislator advocating for them in Austin.
What three issues do you feel are most important to voters in your district?
One issue I hear about regularly is public education. Last session, lawmakers came together to pass landmark school finance legislation, House Bill 3. In 2021, it will be critical that Texas maintains its commitment to Bexar County students and teachers. Our schools need to know that even in a difficult budget cycle, lawmakers have their backs. We also must address health care access and insurance coverage. Our state once again leads the country with the highest uninsured rate for both adults and children. COVID-19 job loss has worsened the crisis, as many families received their coverage through their employers. Texas needs to be bold and finally accept the additional federal dollars available to our state through Medicaid expansion. We also need to address the barriers that keep people uninsured or underinsured, including the arbitrary data checks that kick thousands of children off Medicaid each year. Another major concern is support for working families, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Lawmakers will have our work cut out for us when we return to Austin in January. Small businesses need relief to stay afloat, and Texas workers need an unemployment system that works for them when they need it most.
If elected, what would be your top priorities after taking office?
My top priority looking ahead to next session will be health care. As legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act mount (including one lawsuit helmed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton), it is imperative that Texas affirm its commitment to protections for people with preexisting conditions. The first bill I filed last session would have codified those protections into state law, and I will make it a priority again next session. The next legislative session will also provide new opportunities to update our state’s antiquated unemployment system, to draw fair lines during redistricting, and to pass strong racial justice policies, such as the George Floyd Act and Bo’s Law.
How has the coronavirus pandemic shaped your priorities?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made systemic change all the more urgent in Texas. No longer can lawmakers deny the structural barriers in place to prevent poor and working class families from receiving assistance. For example, it is now hard for lawmakers to contest the need for major reform to our state’s unemployment system. Millions of our constituents have applied for benefits and assistance, many of them for the first time in their lives. I can’t tell you how often I receive calls from people who had never applied for unemployment before the pandemic and are shocked and frustrated at how difficult navigating the system is. Texas’ COVID-19 recovery will demand creative solutions to the most pressing issues facing our state: health care, the economy, public education, the budget, and more. I look forward to playing a leading role in that vision if reelected.
For incumbents: What do you consider your most significant accomplishments in office? What would you change?
In my nearly 20 years in the Texas Legislature, I have had my fair share of wins and, serving in the minority for most of that time, no shortage of losses. Looking back, I am most proud of the times I fought for the vulnerable among us, even when the path to victory seemed nearly impossible. In 2013, I led budget negotiations and restored $3.93 billion in funding to Texas public schools, despite being outnumbered by the majority party. As chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), I challenged a discriminatory voter suppression law in what would become the longest voting rights case in Texas history. I am also proud to have negotiated and passed landmark surprise medical billing protections in 2019, making sure that Texas families aren’t hit with expensive bills for out-of-network care that was beyond their control.
For non-incumbents: What, if anything, would you do differently from the current officeholder?