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Vicente Gonzalez and Lorena Saenz Gonzalez are pictured in the McAllen law office of V. Gonzalez and Associates, P.C.

McALLEN, RGV – McAllen-based attorney Vicente Gonzalez has announced he is running as a Democrat for the 15th Congressional District of Texas.

Gonzalez is married to Lorena Saenz Gonzalez, a McAllen native and a former teacher and administrator in McAllen and Edinburg.

Congressional District 15 will become open in the 2016 election as longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa has announced he will not seek re-election.

Vicente Gonzalez
Vicente Gonzalez

“I have a lot of respect for Congressman Hinojosa. He did a very good job representing District 15. I want to build on his legacy and keep improving South Texas,” Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian, in his first interview as a congressional candidate.

Gonzalez said he would be self-funding his campaign and would not be beholden to campaign contributors.

“I am a self-made person. I did not inherit anything. I am putting my own resources into this campaign. I am not beholden to anyone. I am only beholden to my constituents and my district and I want to go to Washington and do the right thing,” Gonzalez said. “I am pretty much self-funding this project. I think that is a very important part of getting this done, without being lobbied before ever being elected. I think that happens a lot in congressional races and then you get to Washington and you are making decisions that are not in the best interests of your constituents. That is one thing that I intend to never, ever, happen in my office.”

Asked if he had always been a Democrat, Gonzalez said: “I support Democratic candidates. I vote Democrat regularly. My family is Democratic. My Dad was an old union guy. He was a merchant marine in Corpus. He was a Korean War veteran and staunch union man.”

Gonzalez was born and raised in Corpus Christi but has lived in the Rio Grande Valley for the past two decades. He founded the Law Office of V. Gonzalez and Associates, P.C., in McAllen in 1997. He is a member of the Texas Bar & New York Bar. His law firm maintains an office in New York. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

According to his official biography, Gonzalez “received his Bachelor in Science Degree from the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University on the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. After graduation, he attended present day-Texas A & M University School of Law in Dallas/Fort Worth, where he earned his Juris Doctorate Degree. While in law school, Gonzalez served as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C., and worked at a large reputable national law firm in Dallas. Post Law School, Gonzalez continued his training in Negotiation at Harvard University School of Law School.”

Asked if he had always wanted to be a member of Congress, Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian:

“It has been in my mind for years and years, since I was a young man working in Washington in the Congress while going through law school. I was inspired then and I am inspired today. Fast forward over two decades, I have been working really hard, fighting for the under-privileged and winning for them. In this critical time we need a congressman that can deliver the goods for the 15th Congressional District and I am ready to do it.”

Asked what attributes he possesses that would make him a good or great member of Congress, Gonzalez said: “For almost two decades I have been fighting the largest corporations in the world and winning. I plan to do just that for Congressional District 15 in Washington. I want to fight to get our equal share of tax revenues. We should not be treated any different to Connecticut or New York or Dallas. I plan to go to Washington to make sure the Valley and District 15 get what they deserve. The people I have been fighting for are the working class, the people who have been victimized by major corporations. These are the same people who are being victimized in Washington. It is really just taking my battle to a different forefront.”

Gonzalez said among the key issues he would be campaigning on are better paid jobs, equal rights for women, helping the elderly, and protecting Medicaid.

“This congressional race should not be about the candidate it should be about the issues. The issue is we have thousands of families in South Texas that are working 40-plus hours a week and they still cannot make ends meet. We have too many low-wage jobs. We need to bring more jobs, more higher-wage jobs to our area,” Gonzalez said.

“We need to go out to bat for women. We need women to have equal pay for equal work and we need women to be compensated when they are on maternity leave. I think I need our elderly need to be taken care of. We have taken a lot of hits with Medicaid lately and we need to go out and fight for the elderly so they have the proper Medicaid compensation and fight to prevent cutbacks. We need to fight for Social Security stay in tune with inflation. And, lastly, we need to fight to protect our doctors and hospitals. They have gone through a lot of battles in Washington and with all the cutbacks we need to protect them so they can take care of our elderly and take care of our community health-wise.”

Regarding border security and immigration, Gonzalez said: “I am real big on border security. I think border security is very important. We need to have a tight grip on our border but we also need to find a way to fix our immigration issues. We need to have a comprehensive immigration plan, an intelligent plan that won’t divide families between countries. That is what Republicans have been proposing lately. We need somebody who is going to go to bat on these issues.”

Asked about how much emphasis he will give international trade, Gonzalez said: “I am big on border trade. I think trade is very important. We need to continue doing trade with Mexico. They are our most important trading partner, particularly here in Texas. I believe we can have trade and security at the same time. I don’t think one prevents the other from occurring. I think there are ways to come up with intelligent plans to give us the proper security at the border while at the same time allowing commerce to continue.”

The southern part of Congressional District 15 has been growing fast. Asked how he could help with the challenges that brings, Gonzalez said: “I consider myself to be an expert negotiator. I have negotiated thousands of deals through my career. The great majority of them have been successful and I plan to do the same thing when I get to Washington. I think everything is a give and take but always keep an eye on your district and the people you are representing. Never forget who put you there and who you should award your alliance to.”

Congressman Hinojosa has been lauded for his focus on education and bringing tens of millions of additional dollars for minority-serving educational institutions. Asked if education will be a key part of his legislative agenda, Gonzalez said: “I have a huge passion for education. Education is the key to progress for the young and for the future of America, to keep us competitive globally. I believe we need to fund the Pre-K, which is very important to give kids the head start they need. I believe we also need to find ways to address the college graduates when they leave college. Too many of them are indebted with debt with high interest rates from banks. We bailed out the banks and then they trapped our college graduates with high interest rates. I think that is wrong and we need to do something about it. In fact, I propose we should have a plan where American high school graduates have two years of tuition-free education, whether it is at a technical school or a university or a community college. We need to invest in our future. That is how we can continue to be competitive globally. I think the plan could be paid for by taxing the billionaires that don’t pay their fair share or by taxing corporations that are moving their labor to foreign markets and maybe shaving a little off foreign aid.”

Asked how committed he would be to veterans’ issues, given that South Texas has a high number of residents who fought for their country, Gonzalez said: “Veterans went to war for us and we have turned our back on many of them when they came home. I think we need to work on getting a VA Hospital down here and getting them the healthcare and economic benefits that they deserve. They took care of us abroad. We need to take care of them when they come home. That is another priority I am going to take very seriously.”

Asked how active he has been in civic life, Gonzalez said: “I normally deal with the community head on. I have thousands of clients that I represent. I do a lot of pro bono work. I help non-profits every way I can. That is the way I try to help our community. I do not think being named to a board or being in some political office qualifies you to go to Congress and do a good job. In fact, that is one of my biggest concerns. I see a lot of the candidates who have been talking about running, I am sure some may be qualified but there seems to be a slew of them who I do not think have the qualifications to go to Washington and get the job done.”

Seniority is important in Congress and it usually takes a long time to get a major committee chairmanship. Asked if he was in this for the long haul, Gonzalez said: “I plan to be here for a long time. I plan to continue working for District 15 to maximize what the people deserve. I am going to go up there as a freshman congressman and forge alliances and make friends and negotiate through legislation to prioritize my district.”

Gonzalez said Josh Reyna, a former legislative director for state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, will be his campaign manager Reyna has extensive campaign experience in South Texas, having served as campaign manager for his mother, Judge Rose Guerra Reyna’s 2014 re-election campaign, Senator Hinojosa’s 2012 re-election campaign, and state Rep. J.M. Lozano’s 2010 Democratic primary campaign.

Texas’ 15th Congressional District includes part of Hidalgo County and all o Jim Hogg, Brooks, Duval, Live Oak, Karnes, Wilson and Guadalupe counties. An estimated 850,000 residents live in the congressional district.