By Congressional Quarterly
Hinojosa was a well-known figure in the Rio Grande Valley long before he jumped into the race to succeed Democratic Rep. E. "Kika" de la Garza, who retired after more than three decades in the House. Hinojosa had been serving as president of his family's successful meat packing and food manufacturing company, which has operated in the Rio Grande Valley for five decades, and had been active in education issues in south Texas.
Among Hinojosa's top priorities are expanding employment and educational opportunities in the district, which includes some of the poorest areas in Texas. One way to increase job opportunities, he says, is by modernizing the district's infrastructure, which could help facilitate business development.
Hinojosa says he will work to secure funding for a new highway that would serve as a trade route from Mexico and would help relieve the traffic bottleneck that has been exacerbated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
He also favors providing incentives to help boost economic development in the district. Hinojosa supports reducing the capital gains tax and providing investment tax credits for businesses to make capital improvements. Hinojosa also favors adding new nations to the the NAFTA trading bloc to increase trade.
But another key way of improving life for the district's residents is by increasing access to education, he says.
A former state Board of Education member and founding regent of South Texas Community College, Hinojosa says he plans to work to increase funding for Pell grants, scholarships and other educational programs for colleges, universities and residents in the district.
Hinojosa landed a seat on the Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, a panel which will provide him with an opportunity to work toward this goal.
His predecessor, de la Garza, had looked after farming interests in south Texas as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and more recently as the panel's ranking Democrat.
Another area of concern for Hinojosa is access to housing for district residents. He says he will work to expand current federal initiatives that help provide affordable housing to the poor.
Given the 15th District's strong tradition of voting Democratic -- it is one of the party's most loyal districts in the state -- Hinojosa's biggest challenge in capturing this seat was winning his party's nomination. Hinojosa came out on top of the five-way Democratic primary but was forced into a runoff with lawyer Jim Selman.
Selman, an Anglo, made a big push to garner support in the Hispanic community. He also focused his campaign on his efforts to fight corruption and promised to use his position as a member of Congress to ensure that federal dollars that have been misused by local officials in the past are used as intended.
In the closing days of the primary campaign, the candidates turned on each other. Selman questioned Hinojosa's Democratic credentials. Hinojosa criticized Selman's judgment for hiring a campaign worker who allegedly had brushes with the law in the past and a controversial work history. At the same time, Hinojosa stressed his roots in the district, his business experience and his work on education issues.
Both candidates helped finance their campaigns out of their own pockets, but Hinojosa was able to dig deeper into his own wallet than Selman could.
Hinojosa prevailed in the runoff and had little trouble securing victory in the fall over Republican minister Tom Haughey, the 1992 and 1994 GOP nominee.
Haughey attempted to snag Hinojosa by questioning some of his business dealings and his knowledge of key issues. But the Republican was unable to overcome the district's strong Democratic tilt and Hinojosa's huge fundraising edge.
Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas (16) By CQ Staff
Born: Nov. 10, 1944, Canutillo, Texas.
Education: U. of Texas, 1964-65; Texas Western College, 1965-66; El Paso Community College, A.A. 1977.
Military Service: Army, 1966-68.
Occupation: U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Family: Wife, Carolina Gaytan; three children.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Political Career: Canutillo School Board, 1968-70.
Capitol Office: 514 Cannon Bldg. 20515; 225-4831.
Reyes is the first Hispanic to represent the 16th District, where Hispanics make up 70 percent of the population.
A former U.S. Border Patrol regional chief, Reyes achieved national recognition before he was elected to Congress for his efforts in helping to reduce illegal immigration along El Paso's border with Mexico. Reyes developed "Operation Hold the Line," a program that significantly reduced the number of people who crossed illegally into the United States in the region he oversaw.
But Reyes notes that there are many other issues on his congressional agenda in addition to illegal immigration.
Reyes says he intends to focus on the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the district, which borders Mexico.
He promises to work for federal funding to maintain the roads and bridges that must handle NAFTA-related commercial traffic. He is also concerned that American workers displaced as a consequence of NAFTA get the retraining they need to land new jobs.
Reyes says he would like to see the United States work with Mexico to open three additional ports of entry as a way to boost commerce and tourism in the region.
He also plans to work on producing agreements with Mexico on environmental issues, such as air pollution, water conservation and the transportation of hazardous material.
He advocates the creation of a research and development center to examine issues involving the conservation, reclamation and treatment of water, a precious resource in the Southwest.
Finding ways to lure more high-tech jobs to the district is also a priority for Reyes.
El Paso has yet to capitalize on the flow of high-paying jobs to other cities in the Southwest, he says, because of a lack of "leadership and initiative" on the issue by his predecessor, Democrat Ronald D. Coleman.
Given the importance of Fort Bliss to El Paso's economy, Reyes sought and won a seat on the National Security Committee. Reyes plans to work to protect the military installation from funding cutbacks and to pursue new military and civilian research projects.
An Army veteran who lost the hearing in his right ear in Vietnam, Reyes says he is sensitive to veterans' issues and wants to protect the benefits they earn as a result of combat.
Reyes announced in October 1995 that he was retiring from the Border Patrol after more than 25 years and was widely believed to be weighing a primary challenge to Rep. Coleman.
But a few weeks after Reyes' announcement, Coleman announced that he would not seek re-election.
Even though Coleman had suffered some close electoral calls in recent years, the district has been reliably Democratic. As a result, much of the focus on the race to succeed Coleman was on the Democratic primary.
Reyes and four other contenders competed for the Democratic nomination. Reyes took first place but was forced into a primary runoff with lawyer Jose Luis Sanchez, a legislative aide to Coleman.
Reyes cited the need to restore integrity to the district, a veiled reference to negative publicity surrounding Coleman in his last few years in Congress stemming from the 673 overdrafts he made at the House bank and other matters.
Sanchez, who had the backing of Coleman and many labor groups, questioned Reyes' Democratic loyalty by noting that he had hired a campaign treasurer who had worked for Republicans in the past.
But Sanchez was unable to overcome Reyes' name recognition and popularity in El Paso from his work with the Border Patrol.
In the fall campaign, Reyes had little trouble prevailing over Republican insurance agent Rick Ledesma.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
Texas - 16th District
Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas)
Election: Defeated Rick Ledesma, R. Succeeds Ronald D. Coleman, D
Born: Nov. 10, 1944; Canutillo, Texas
Home: El Paso
Occupation: Border Patrol agent
Family: Wife, Carolina Gaytan; three children
Religion: Roman Catholic
Highest Degree: A.A., El Paso Community College
Last Elected Office: Canutillo School Board, 1968-70
By Congressional Quarterly
Reyes intends to deal with the impact of the NAFTA trade pact on his district, which borders on Mexico. He will push for funds to maintain the roads and bridges that must bear NAFTA-related commercial traffic, and to retrain displaced workers. By working with Mexico to open up three additional ports of entry, Reyes says, the region can enjoy the resulting additional commerce and tourism.
He says he will focus on trying to produce agreements with Mexico on environmental issues, such as the transportation of hazardous material, air pollution and water conservation. Reyes also advocates the creation of a research and development center to examine issues involving the conservation, reclamation and treatment of water, a precious resource in the Southwest.
A veteran who lost the hearing in his right ear in Vietnam, Reyes says he is sensitive to veterans' issues and wants to protect the benefits they earn as a result of combat.
Reyes says he would like to serve on the National Security, Transportation and Infrastructure and Science panels.
(Profiles by Congressional Quarterly Inc., © 1996. All rights reserved.)
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