GALLEGO: Serving the distinct 23rd Congressional District
The 23rd Congressional District is like no other.
It takes nearly 23% of Texas by land, two time zones, and runs along 800 miles of the Texas- Mexico border. It sprawls from south San Antonio through the Trans-Pecos/Big Bend region and into the lower valley of El Paso. From the Espada Mission in Bexar County founded in 1731 to the Ysleta Mission in El Paso founded 1682. It is larger than several states combined.
The district is nearly 70% Latino, 25% Anglo and 4% African American. It takes in urban, suburban and rural areas. All or part of 29 counties are contained in the 23rd with populations ranging from 275,373residents in Bexar County to 82 in Loving County.
No other district in the country contains as much of our nation’s international border. This shared border gives the district a unique perspective on issues such as trade and commerce and immigration. Even during the time of our great-grandparents, these issues were of vital importance to the hardscrabble folks making a living in the region.
Agriculture has long been a core pillar of the local economies. As of 2007, there were 22,172 farms in the district. An estimated 40,400 jobs in the area depend on the production and sales of agricultural commodities.
Like agriculture, the local economy has also depended on a large military presence. In the 1800’s, a string of forts (Fort Inge, Fort Duncan, Fort Clark, Fort Lancaster, Fort Stockton, Fort Davis, Fort Quitman, etc) guarded settlers and commerce along the difficult road from San Antonio to El Paso. Today, the district is still home to a large military population. Many residents work as civilians or serve as active duty personnel at Camp Bullis, Laughlin Air Force Base, Lackland Air Force Base, Brooke Army Medical Center or Fort Bliss. Further, many more residents have served their country honorably and well as members of the armed services.
The district is neither liberal nor conservative. It is evenly split ideologically. In the November 2012 elections, the voters in the district favored Mitt Romney by a small margin. Four years ago, the voters favored President Barack Obama by a small margin.
During the last election, the people of the 23rd district entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of representing them in Congress. I do not intend to disappoint. To serve constituents well, I sought and obtained two major committee assignments - the Armed Services Committee and the Agriculture Committee.
From these positions, I will do everything I can to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need and the support they deserve. I will also make sure our nation keeps its commitments to those, rural and urban, young and old, who have already served our nation. I will advocate for ranchers, farmers and small businesses. And, I will be a strong voice for our families and our future.
My guiding principle in Congress will be the same principle that served me well for 22 years in the Texas Legislature: vote the district. Every decision I make in Congress will be centered on the needs of the district. The voters sent me here to be their voice. To fight for them. To serve them. It is a mission I will not forget.
The 23rd District is not “my district.” It is “ours.” My service in Congress depends on the service my office provides and the will of the voters. Every two years, voters will have the option to renew my public service or to thank me for my service and ask me to move on. It is the democratic process.
For now and for the next two years, I look forward to serving as a voice of reason in an institution full of partisan bickering. And, I look forward to showing that members of Congress can still work together towards a common good.
The 23rd Congressional District as a whole deserves this. And, as an individual, so do you. I ask your prayers as I embark on this journey.
This column was written by U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.
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