Congressional hopeful makes a stop in Marathon
By John Waters
, one of four Democratic Party candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives 23rd District seat — which is currently occupied by Republican Will Hurd — made a campaign stop in Marathon, on January 27th. Treviño met with about thirty Brewster County residents who listened to the candidate at Eve’s Garden Bread and Breakfast.
This article appears in the February print edition of the Big Bend Gazette.
Treviño has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Texas, San Antonio, and a M.A. in Educational Leadership from Trinity University, also in San Antonio. Before running for Congress, Treviño taught Geography and History at San Antonio’s Sam Houston High School. In 2016, Treviño was a National Delegate for Bernie Sanders.
Gazette Publisher, John Waters sat down for a quick interview with Treviño. Here is a slightly edited version of that talk.
Waters: You are running on a “Progressive Platform For the People.” Can you elaborate?
Treviño: I was a national delegate for Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie Sanders opened the eyes of a lot of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum about what government can do for them. Peoples’ expectations about government have been jaded. Bernie was showing the possibilities of what government can do in terms of making better health care options, better opportunities for the economy. If you look at other highly industrialized countries all over the world, they guarantee health care as a right. They guarantee living wages in some areas. So, I think that what you are seeing is, if you have issues, issue-oriented politics has the ability to bring people together. This platform does not belong to Bernie Sanders; it belongs to the American people and if you look at the past few decades, polls after polls have shown that these ideas are popular with the American people. So, that’s why I call it the Peoples’ Platform: it doesn’t belong to one man — it belongs to all of us, and I believe it is our responsibility to make this a reality.
Waters: Have you ever held elected office?
Treviño: I was precinct chair — that requires you to be elected, but I wouldn’t call that being elected to public office. Within the Democratic Party, I was a precinct chair and deputy chair of Precinct 2, in Bexar County, and Secretary of the Democratic Party, in San Antonio. I’ve also been a state and national delegate.
I did run for city council in District 6. I’m very proud of that campaign — same kind of idea, getting that Bernie platform, a progressive platform — catering and tailoring it to municipalities and small city issues. The Bernie Sanders movement was all about making sure that these types of ideas are present at every level of government. These types of ideas, these type of candidates, should be there. I ran for city council and I missed in the run-off, by 28 votes. I was doing a very principled thing saying no to the lobbying community present in San Antonio: the contractors, the developers. They’re making a lot of money off this expansion, so they hedge their bets. Just like you see at the federal level, at the local level — that type of lobbying. I said no to that. The reason I was so successful, and I was working full time as a teacher, I would get off work and knock on doors on the weekend, all day long. What I saw is, that if you are running a campaign that connects with people on an emotional level, you have a real chance on getting them to vote. For a city race, talk about streets and sidewalks. You have a certain conversation about those potholes and things. I’m talking about economic lives: they start thinking about themselves, their kids and reflecting on that, they share stories. I wasn’t successful then, but I learned a lot from that experience and I learned the power of these politics. In one of the most venerable districts in the United States of America, how is it that this Bernie Platform, these new ideas, aren’t present? And I really do think District 23 deserves an opportunity to vote for these ideas. That’s why I decided to run.
Waters: When you say venerable, what do you mean?
Treviño: It’s flipped. It’s hard to see consistency, but the reason it flips a lot is Democrats, like [Pete] Gallego, ran to the center. If you looked at his voting record, a little over 60% of the time he voted with the Democrats, and over 30%, he voted with the Republicans. So, running in the center — I think lets down the base. I think that’s a problem with the Democratic party across the county. And we’ve lost one thousand seats all across the country since President Barrack Obama came to office. I think its because we’re not vision-oriented. We’re really running to the center in a lot of races. In my race, I think that you see that candidate in Jay Hulings, who is now backed up by the D-triple-C [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], the Castro Brothers, and Citizens United, which is a new organization. These districts have been sacrificed. These are districts that have high populations of minorities. They have been sacrificed to business interests because I think D-triple-C wants you to believe this is a conservative district. But when I’ve gone out there and spoken with people on both sides of the political spectrum, these ideas resonate. The D-triple-C wants you to accept that moderate, who is then going to have these backdoor relationships with Exxon-Mobile and the private prison industries. You see this all around Texas. This kind of politics can be successful. This is not a kamikaze race because I’m doing this to win.
Waters: To follow up on the district flipping — since 2003, we’ve had Congressman Henry Bonilla; then, Ciro Rodriguez, Quico Canseco, Pete Gallego, and now, Will Hurd. With that turnover, why would you want the job?
Treviño: I want that job because I really do think the reason there is turnover on both sides is you see both parties run to that center. In these off-year elections, whoever is controlling the narrative that inspires, is going to flip it. I think Democrats can win and keep the seat if they inspire the base. One thing Democrats do a lot — we saw it in the 2016 race when Chuck Schumer said, “For every blue collar worker we lose we’re going to get two suburban housewives.” Well, actually all three were lost. 93% of Republicans went for Donald Trump and that is with hardcore pandering at the national level to these, quote, independent or traditional Republicans. No, they voted for Trump. I think instead of getting Republicans to vote for Democrats, I think what Democrats need to do is see there is a strong base of Democratic voters there already — even though a lot of them stay home, at times. Inspire them to vote by giving them something tangible: how about healthcare? How about a living wage? How about housing as a right, or free public colleges and universities? These are tangible things people can wrap their minds around. With vision, you can inspire that base and bring in new voters. That’s how you hold onto a district, but if your strategy is to get your Democrats, basically you’re managing their expectations and really your catering and pitching to the right. I think that’s why we lose, and that’s why Donald Trump is president of the United States. Until we start electing progressives and politicians that are not there to support the party but to support the people. That’s how we are going to get there. Yes, I’m a Democrat. The Democratic Party isn’t perfect. I wasn’t a voice in the Democratic Party in San Antonio that’s critiquing the Republicans, because that’s easy. There’s like a dime a dozen of us always talking smack about how foolish the Republicans are, and how they use cultural provocation, and dog whistle politics. What you don’t see is a real critical voice within the Democratic party.
Waters: What is your position on the proposed border wall?
Treviño: The border wall is a terrible idea. I think it is a symbol of the bigotry of the Trump campaign. On day one of his presidential campaign, he talked about the wall, he called Mexicans murderers and rapists. I foolishly expected the Republican Party to disown him. But he did it and they kept quiet and, if anything, embraced him. I was shocked when Chuck Schumer put that funding on the table. [Late last month, it was reported that Schumer agreed to offer at least $1.6 billion to border wall funding. Schumer later rescinded the offer.] I don’t remember one Democrat running for office on that, the border wall. And now, the wall seems palatable to our leaders. It’s not to me. I’m not for the border wall. I see HSI [Homeland Security Investigations and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] as an arm of the federal government that’s really there to target a venerable, underserved population. And really to make sure the Geo Group, or whatever they are called now [Geo Group Inc. is a publically traded company that is engaged in the detention and correctional facilities business], that their quotas are being met. I think this is playing along with dog whistle politics.
Waters: Amtrak passenger train service stops in Alpine. Early last year, the Trump administration proposed eliminating funding for long-distance trails. What is your position on funding Amtrak long-distance service?
Treviño: I think Amtrak and other types of transportation that are not personal vehicles is a positive. I see the defunding of Amtrak and other types of public transportation as just an attempt to consolidate power with the oil companies. If there were more options for people to travel across it, this state would be better. I think funding should be there. We need not to just fund Amtrak but to fund high-speed rail.
Waters: Any final thoughts you would like to convey to our readers, the voters?
Treviño: We need the perspective of working people in Washington D.C.. Gina [Ortiz-Jones] and Jay [Hulings] both come from backgrounds in the intelligence agencies. Gina, with the Defense Intelligence Agency. If she gets elected, more than likely, the committee position she will take is in the House Intelligence Agency (sic). Jay? The same thing. If he were in D.C., he would be on a committee that would complement that type of experience as well. I was in Carrizo Springs and Will Hurd [the Republican incumbent, who serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform] was talking about Ukraine. I think this district deserves someone who is 100% committed to the domestic issues of District 23. Look at just the size of the district. I think its inappropriate for anybody to be a representative of such a large district to be spending most of their time in D.C. not focusing on the domestic issues of District 23, but doing foreign policy stuff that really isn’t there to make us safe, but to really make the defense industry more money. I think our foreign policy has been destabilizing the Middle East and the world. I don’t think drones have made us any safer. This district deserves someone who is 100% committed to it.
Photo: Congressional candidate Rick Treviño of San Antonio visits with Ann Christopherson at a meet and greet in Marathon on January 27th. Treviño will face off on the March 6th Democratic Party primary with challengers Gina Ortez-Jones, Jay Hulings and Judy Canales. The winner of that primary will challenge incumbent Will Hurd in the November General Election.