The race for the newly drawn 18th U.S. Congressional District features two challengers to the incumbency of Congressmember Zoe Lofgren, who is vying for her 14th consecutive term.
But Lofgren has not yet represented San Benito County in Congress, as her district lines were redrawn earlier this year based on the 2020 U.S. Census data. She has previously served in the 19th Congressional District.
Challenging her in the 18th District are U.S. Citizenship Instructor Luis Acevedo-Arreguin and San Benito County Supervisor Peter Hernandez.
Voting ends June 7 for the primary election. The top two vote recipients will face each other in a tiebreaker in the Nov. 8 election, unless one candidate wins more than 50% June 7.
The Free Lance reached out to all three candidates with a list of questions so our readers could get to know a little more about them. However, only Lofgren responded.
Lofgren is a former partner in an immigration law firm, and has served on the board of San Jose Evergreen Community College and as Executive Director of Community Housing Developers. She was first elected to Congress in 1994.
Acevedo-Arreguin in the past 20 years has held several jobs, including as a lab technician for an agricultural company and a teacher, according to his candidate statement posted on the registrar of voters website. He currently helps immigrants become U.S. citizens by obtaining temporary legal status.
“I want to represent you in the U.S. Congress to work with other lawmakers so we can accomplish immigration reforms, to attain more affordable health care for low and middle class families, and to ensure that our rights and freedoms in the Constitution will always be protected,” his candidate statement says.
Hernandez, a Hollister business owner, is currently serving the final year of a four-year term on the county’s board of supervisors. He has previously served on the Hollister School District Board of Education.
“Our costs of living are skyrocketing. We are paying too much for gas, food, and all other daily needs,” Hernandez said in his candidate statement. “Crime is increasing in our neighborhoods. When elected to Congress, I will support policies/sponsor bills that will reduce inflation and put criminals in jail.”
For more information about the June 7 election, and to read the candidates’ statements, visit the registrar of voters website at sbcvote.us/registrar-of-voters/.
What do you think are the most pressing needs for the communities of District 18? How would you seek to fill these needs if you are elected to Congress?
Our country has been through a wrenching and difficult time with the most deadly pandemic in 100 years. It turned our lives and our economy upside down. Problems that existed before were exacerbated. I hear from the people who live in our communities about their concerns about the economy—the cost of everything from gas to food to housing is up. While employment is good, prices are growing faster than income for many. People are concerned about public safety, education, transportation congestion and climate change.
Immigration reform remains important, as well as the basic necessity of defending our Constitution. I am working in Congress on all of these issues—either in the Committees I serve on or with trusted colleagues in the California delegation.
Homelessness has become an increasing concern in the district. As a Congressperson, how would you aim to address concerns related to local homelessness?
The crisis of homelessness is something I hear about from constituents a lot. I see it in my own neighborhood. The situation is simply unacceptable.
It’s important that we approach the challenge in a multifaceted way. There are families living in cars or RV’s simply because they could not afford the rent. Others are camped in public. Others are suffering from substance abuse or behavioral health problems, in addition to the lack of shelter.
Action from all levels of government, as well as the private sector, both nonprofit and for-profit are necessary. There is no single solution, and, at the federal level, I have consistently supported measures to provide additional financing for affordable housing options in our communities.
Most recently, the American Rescue Plan included substantial funds for rental and mortgage assistance for those struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic. I am also a co-sponsor of bills to make mental health treatment services more accessible. Additionally, as Community Project Funding requests have returned in Congress after more than a decade, I have successfully secured millions of dollars for local mental health, youth training and anti-substance abuse programs for vulnerable populations. I plan to continue bringing home funding to help lift up our communities.
Some communities in the 18th District are growing rapidly. Are there any resources you would seek as a Congressperson to help alleviate the inevitable growing pains and impacts on infrastructure that come with residential and commercial growth?
Increasing growth is a local, not federal, decision, but as communities are growing, the “growing pains” need to be addressed at various levels. I recently voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure law, which will provide substantial benefits to communities in California. Infrastructure funding is starting to be allocated, and I am working closely with local governments and other partners to make sure we see our fair share. I hope to be an effective advocate for resources to deal with transportation—both roads and transit as well as other infrastructure needs. I’ve done so successfully in the past.
Inflation has become a growing challenge for many local residents in recent months. How would you address inflation concerns in Congress?
Families are alarmed at higher prices. In Congress, I am working with my colleagues on these pocketbook issues. In the past year, I have specifically supported legislation to address the financial challenges brought on by high housing costs, prescription drug prices, and childcare expenses.
Right now, we are seeing a fluctuation of energy prices aggravated by Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. I support the Biden Administration’s action to lower gas prices by releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve last fall and then again in early March. I have also supported House efforts to isolate and punish Russia, including legislation that bans the import of Russian oil and energy products into the U.S.
However, the war will aggravate the rise in food prices, impact fertilizer prices—causing food to cost even more—and will aggravate fuel costs. That impacts everything, since American supply chains rely on trucking. Add in the disruption of supply chains, especially with Asia, because of Covid that, in some cases, has led to manufacturing shut-downs—and we can see a problem with no quick or easy fix.
The American Innovation Act pending in Congress will help move manufacturing back to the U.S., as well as boost investments in science and technology so our economic competitors can’t take advantage of us. That’s an important and very large initiative, but it won’t fix things immediately. Ultimately, the transition to renewable energy will help in several ways: Make us less vulnerable to foreign adversaries, reduce costs and be an answer to the climate change crisis. Congress needs to continue to assist American families and businesses so we can get through this troubled period in our history together. We must advance policies that allow entrepreneurial Americans to seize their futures and lead our country forward.