Photos by John Albright/San Antonio Express-News/Associated Press
Democrat Pete Gallego, left, debates Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco, right, in Texas’ first Spanish language congressional candidate debate.
Alpine native Pete Gallego and San Antonio businessman Francisco “Quico” Canseco held a historic debate Tuesday night, en Espanol. We thought Pete’s family and friends in and around Alpine would like to see what different reporters took from the debate. Here are stories from the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News and Los Angeles Times.
Candidates Francisco “Quico” Canseco,
Pete Gallego air border concerns
By Zahira Torres
El Paso Times
SAN ANTONIO — The hotly contested issue of border violence was not lost in translation during a Spanish-language debate Tuesday night between the two men fighting for a congressional seat that includes far east El Paso County.
U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, a Republican, and former state Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine, squared off in the debate more than 500 miles from El Paso at Palo Alto College in San Antonio.
The distance did not stop the candidates from using El Paso to support their positions on border security.
During the hourlong debate, Gallego, 50, said it was important to make sure that measures are taken to prevent cross-border violence, but he chastised Canseco for incorrectly stating last year that bombs were exploding in El Paso.
“We need to do everything we can to make sure that our country is secure, but we have to be honest with what is happening,” Gallego said during the debate.
“There were no bombs in El Paso. The bombs were in Juárez, but Mr. Canseco said they were in El Paso. That harms every woman and every man with a business along the border.”
Gallego was referring to a newsletter Canseco sent to constituents last year stating that there were car bombs in El Paso.
Canseco was the second elected official — Gov. Rick Perry was the first — to publicly misrepresent a July 15, 2011, car bomb explosion in Juárez as something that happened on the Texas side of the border.
In a briefing after the debate Tuesday, Canseco, 63, said El Paso is grappling with cross-border violence, but he declined to provide examples.
“El Paso has a lot of problems right now,” Canseco said. “A lot of problems with cross-border violence. It’s very important that we look at that.”
Just how safe Texans are from the drug-related violence that has battered Mexico the past several years is a key point of contention in the race given the shape of the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from east El Paso County to San Antonio and includes many border communities in between.
How best to keep Social Security solvent and ensure that Medicare remains funded also shaped a large part of the debate sponsored by AARP and Univision.
Univision will air the debate at 10 a.m. Oct. 6 for its El Paso viewers, according to organizers.
The highest concentration of the district’s voters live in the San Antonio area, but the latest round of political redistricting gave El Paso greater say in the race than it has had in the past by transferring an additional 59,000 voters into District 23.
Canseco, a businessman and attorney from San Antonio, was elected to Congress in 2010 during a strong political wave that saw many Republican candidates elected across Texas.
Gallego, an attorney from Alpine, served two decades in the Texas Legislature before deciding to run for the U.S. congressional seat.
El Paso leaders have said that whoever is elected to represent that part of the county should not disparage the safety of the region.
Despite being adjacent to what many consider the most dangerous city in Mexico, El Paso was named the safest large city in the United States last year by CQ Press, an independent research company. The research company has ranked El Paso among the three safest large cities every year since 1997.
“The last thing any community needs is someone representing it who is telling untruths about it,” said El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar, a Democrat.
Canseco on Tuesday dismissed El Paso’s rankings as one of the safest cities in the country as political propaganda from a Democratic administration. He said he wants federal agencies to settle on a definition of cross-border violence and establish measures to track and report such violence.
“Homeland Security and the FBI and the Department of Justice don’t have a definition of cross-border violence,” Canseco said. “That’s why they can stand up there on the border with their hands on their hips and say the border has never been safer.”
In Spanish, foes for District 23 battle on issues
By John W. Gonzalez
San Antonio Express-News
As they often do, the major candidates for U.S. House District 23 disagreed vigorously Tuesday on issues facing Congress, but this time they made history by airing their differences entirely in Spanish.
The debate between Rep.Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, and challenger state Rep. Pete P. Gallego, D-Alpine, apparently was the first of its kind in the nation for a congressional race.
It allowed them to showcase their Spanish fluency before a packed house of supporters at Palo Alto College. English speakers listened to the translated debate on headsets.
Gallego aptly said the only thing the two candidates shared was their choice of ties — blue.
As the hourlong encounter unfolded, they clashed over Medicaid, Social Security and other issues affecting seniors in an event sponsored by AARP and Univision.
Also on the Nov. 6 ballot in District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso along the border, are Libertarian candidate Jeffrey C. Blunt and Green Party candidate Ed Scharf. Neither has been able to compete with the recent heavy advertising for Canseco and Gallego, much of it negative and paid for by third-party backers.
Canseco opened by praising the opportunities offered in the United States to immigrants like his ancestors, “but unfortunately the American dream is in danger from a liberal agenda ... that wants to destroy the economic force of this nation.” President Obama, Canseco said, “is in charge of blocking our success.”
Gallego touted his humble roots.
“I don't come from privilege. I’m here because of the sacrifices of my father,” he said, crediting education with his own achievements.
Gallego said he’s running for Congress “because the dream is still possible for each of our families. I want to protect our senior citizens who depend in particular on Social Security or Medicare. I want to support our veterans and strengthen the middle class.”
Then he launched into an attack on Canseco for his backing of the conservative budget plan of GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan “that does a lot of harm to our families.”
Canseco countered that “Medicare will be bankrupt in 10 years or less, more than anything because Obama’s and the previous Congress’ health plan took $716 billion from Medicare. But it’s totally false to say I want to reduce or end Medicare. What we have is a plan that if you are 55 years or older, Medicare doesn’t change. But if you’re 54 or less, you have options, and one of them is to quit Medicare as it exists.”
On the national debt, Canseco blamed Democrats for failing to control spending “the way we pay attention to spending in our homes.”
But Gallego faulted Republicans for giving tax advantages to the wealthy and to businesses that move operations overseas, adding, “we can’t balance our budget on the backs of the people with the most need.”
Describing Social Security as headed to bankruptcy, Canseco said the system “has to be strengthened and straightened out so it’ll be there for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Gallego agreed, but cautioned that Canseco has discussed privatizing the system, which he said would be harmful.
“For me, it’s important to strengthen Social Security the way it is,” he said.
The candidates also disagreed over approaches to Medicaid, with Canseco saying Obama plans to “destroy” it.
“We have to give states the power to implement reforms,” Canseco said.
But Gallego said savings imposed on the program must not hurt the poor.
While Gallego also portrayed himself as “the friend of small business,” Canseco attacked his votes for tax and fee increases.
Canseco closed the debate by claiming Gallego’s policies would harm families and “destroy the economic force of our nation. ... What I propose is a future full of possibilities to go forward. ... I will rescue and strengthen Medicare and Social Security.”
Gallego’s last shot: “Canseco went to Congress to change the system, but he became part of the problem. He’s voted against us, against Medicare. ... He wants to privatize Social Security and give our money to the bankers. He went to be our voice, but he’s nothing more than a spokesman for the most extreme ideas in Congress.”
An edited version of the debate airs at 10 a.m. Saturday in several Univision markets across the majority-Hispanic district, which covers parts of Bexar and 19 other counties and includes all the border communities from Eagle Pass to El Paso.
Texas congressional candidates debate — in Spanish
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Los Angeles Times
SAN ANTONIO — Two Texas congressional candidates faced off in Spanish in a debate that could help decide one of the closest races in the country.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, 63, a tea party conservative, and challenger Pete Gallego, 50, a Democratic state representative from Alpine in Far West Texas, participated in the hour-long debate sponsored by AARP Texas and the Spanish-language network Univision.
“Welcome to this historic event, in Spanish!” KWEX Univision 41 anchor Arantxa Loizaga, the debate moderator, said as she greeted the crowd of about 250 people at Palo Alto College in San Antonio late Tuesday.
The screen behind her read, “Destino 2012: En Espanol.”
The audience included many Latino seniors, as well as whites and younger voters from the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches along two-thirds of the border from San Antonio to El Paso. Some wore American flag T-shirts, others World War II veteran caps.
English translations for each candidate were provided to spectators via headsets distributed at the start of the debate.
Candidates fielded questions from a panel of reporters at KWEX, the San Antonio Express-News and Texas Public Radio. Most of the questions concerned Medicare, Social Security and the border.
The district, among the largest in the nation, is considered a tossup. Political analysts give Canseco a slight advantage because he is the incumbent, despite a recent poll showing Gallego with a narrow lead.
The district is 66% Latino, with 53% of the residents speaking a language other than English at home, according to the most recent census.
Both candidates positioned themselves Tuesday as self-made men, descendants of immigrants who came to Texas in pursuit of the American dream — an attempt to appeal to undecided Latino swing voters.
Canseco, a businessman and Laredo native elected for the first time in the 2010 Republican wave, said Medicare was on track to go bankrupt and that Republicans wanted to preserve it, along with Social Security, for future generations. He said the district needed more jobs and better border security.
“I was born on the border; I was born in Laredo. I know the border quite well; I know the dynamics. It’s a machine that could be producing a great deal of jobs,” he said.
At times, he voiced clear tea party positions.
“The best government is that government which governs less. This is the American dream our families came to this country for,” Canseco said, prompting applause.
Gallego, a lawyer from the small West Texas town of Alpine, attacked the congressman’s stance on Medicare, saying Canseco planned to turn it into a “voucher program.”
As the two contested the facts, the Democratic challenger resorted to a Spanish saying that translates as, “The truth will out.”
That prompted some whoops from the audience.
Later, when Gallego accused the incumbent of being a party pawn, the challenger used a Spanish idiom: “Más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león.” (Better to be a mouse's head than a lion’s tail.)
“He wants to be our voice, but he only has the most extremist ideas. In Congress he’s become a parrot for the ideas of his party. We need a leader, not someone who follows others,” said Gallego, who has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 1991.
After the debate, both candidates mixed with the crowd.