MIguel Levario looks to upset Arrington for House of Rep seat
In anticipation of the election next Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Breckenridge American has republished both campaign profiles for District 19. The information in this article has not changed from its original publishing.
After over 20 months of campaigning, Miguel Levario said he is ready to try and be the first Democrat elected to represent U.S. Congressional District 19 since 1979.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Levario said he has always been an activist in his community. A professor at Texas Tech University since 2007, Levario has a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to this, he attended schooling at the University of Notre Dame and Stanford University.
According to his website, Levario has also served as a faculty adviser for the Tech Student Democrats, and worked in 2012 and 2013 with the LULAC Youth Summit. He also was a panelist at the 2016 Lubbock Regional Latino Policy Summit.
One thing that Levario said drove him in his work was the idea that these ideas being talked about should not reside only in academia, but be ideas that are applicable to the real world and help people.
“There was always this sense of, how do you serve your community and how do you use your capacity as an educator to not only educate students in the classroom, but how do you use what you’ve learned, what you’ve researched and what you’ve gained intellectually to better serve the community at large,” Levario said.
Opening up on issues, Levario said healthcare is far and away the biggest issue people have brought to his attention. He said people are concerned with the reduction of their healthcare services, and said he believes constituents who vote Republican can see the U.S. has gone backwards in healthcare after what has transpired with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
“Because [the Republican constituents] can see the cutting, the gutting of the ACA by the Republican Congress, they’re listening to our option of guaranteed healthcare for everyone,” he said.
Opponents of the ACA, mostly members of the GOP, have supported a full repeal of the act, saying it has had catastrophic effects on the healthcare market, which has increased premiums and deductibles. While many in the GOP see the gutting of the act as positive change and a step in the right direction to getting premiums lower, many from the Democrats think otherwise.
Levario said the idea of guaranteed healthcare, or single-payer as its called in some circles, centers around enrolling healthy individuals to help cover those who need medical services. In a system of guaranteed healthcare, Levario said these healthy individuals would automatically be enrolled.
On top of this, he said this is something taxpayers are already paying for, with medicare and medicaid taxes being taken out of their paychecks. He called this a fiscally responsible way of approaching healthcare.
He also talked about Gov. Greg Abbott not electing to expand medicaid under certain ACA provisions, which would have seen over $1 billion in federal funds come to the state if Texas agreed. He went on to attribute this to why a number of rural hospitals are now closing because they are unable to receive subsidies that would have come in with the expansion. Since 2010, estimations show around 14 rural hospitals to have closed in Texas, with some estimations showing as many as 90 nationwide.
Abbott and other Texas Republicans have stated they don’t support the expansion because they do not trust the government will fulfill its promise of reimbursing the amount stated, which is 100 percent the first three years of expansion and 90 percent in 2020.
Opponents of Levario’s single-payer system cite the raising of taxes in order to accomplish providing coverage. Many have also said while it would increase the number of people who have access, it would not necessarily increase how much care can be doled or rationed out.
Those in favor of a single-payer system say while taxes may go up slightly, it would ultimately save taxpayers money. Because rather than having to pay thousands of dollars every year for health insurance and coverage, they would pay a little more in taxes. Skeptics of the idea say taxes would go up more than those who support single-payer let on.
Economy and the Farm Bill
Levario said one of the biggest issues he is running on is wanting to help the economy. One of those factors he talked about was the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a policy passed renewed every five years that provides benefits, insurance and subsidies to various agricultural industries nationwide.
Levario said when the bill was renewed in 2014, it left out several benefits and subsidies for cotton farmers. This is mostly true, as cotton was the only program crop that did not have any long-term protections on revenue or prices. District 19 is the largest producer of cotton in the country, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has also been a central part of the debate. Levario said Republicans have attempted to politicize the program. This is because of a provision included by the GOP that requires nonexempt, able-bodied adults who are between the ages of 18 and 59 to work or participate in job training programs for at least 20 hours per week, in order to receive benefits.
Democrats opposed this provision due to the restrictions it would put on a number of those already on the program. More than 3.7 million Texans are recipients of the program, according to the Texas Health and Human Services. Texas accounts for about 9.5 percent of the nearly 39 million recipients nationwide. In district 19, there are about 100,000 recipients, as of September 2018, 41,000 of which are in Lubbock. According to estimations from the Congressional Budget Office, 1.2 million nationwide would lose benefits with these provisions by 2028. The deadline to come up with a new Farm Bill to replace the expiring one from 2014 was on Sept. 30.
The last part of the economy he explained was the trade war between the U.S. and China and how it was proving to be heavy-handed against farmers and agricultural production. In response, Donald Trump’s administration announced in July a plan to set aside $12 billion in aid and relief to farmers impacted. Initial benefits totaling in $4.7 billion that began in September targeted corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat.
Levario went on to acknowledge Texas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but added the state also has one of the highest poverty rates as well. Texas ranks as No. 13 in terms of highest poverty rate nationwide, according to World Atlas. It ranks No. 26 in unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A topic Levario called his bread-and-butter, immigration has remained one of the biggest issues in Texas. Levario said he does not support a wall, calling it ineffective and a money drain.
He also elaborated on several elements of the immigration problem the U.S. is facing, saying if progress is to be made, he believes we must get past what he called, the negative rhetoric.
“I believe we are approaching this in a very ineffective manner,” he said. “We have to get past this negative rhetoric that is flatout false. We’ve [heard about] an open border. We don’t have an open border. In fact, it was made pretty secure and pretty closed under the Obama Administration.”
In a video on his website, Levario chastises the current leadership in place at the national level as using immigration as a political football and getting nothing done. He followed up saying he supports common sense immigration reform. He also rattles over several statistics, saying the southern border has never been more secure and cites his reasoning as immigration being its lowest since 1972, and our border patrol being increased by 500 percent since 1992.
He concluded saying he believes in a secure border and advocates for a country’s right to set their boundary. But added the way it is being dealt with is ineffective. He said he promises to work with both parties in order to pass reform that will replace what he called, the current piecemeal legislation.
One area Levario talked about was making sure social programs and their funding do not go by the wayside. One example he gave was programs that feed children at school who cannot afford lunch. He also talked about the student loan crisis, and said we should look to provide them relief. He said this could be done through loan forgiveness programs, such as loan reduction if a graduate agrees to work roles such as healthcare administration, or social workers in the state. Levario said these are areas in the state that are severely understaffed and are needing qualified individuals, and it would also provide a way to keep young talent in the state.
Having not held any prior office, Levario has no voting record at this time.
Thoughts on Jodey Arrington
Levario did not mince words when talking about his thoughts on Arrington, saying he has heard from around the district constituents think the current incumbent is “out of touch.”
“I don’t mean this because he moved his family to Washington [DC],” Levario said. “The thing is he is largely absent. He only meets with donors and small organizations that are like-minded. He has only had one town hall in the district.”
He criticized Arrington’s lack of presence in the district, saying he would rather put out a commercial than meet with people. He concluded saying he is more aware and in-touch of what is happening in the district and what problems are present.
Levario has raised around $81,000, as of Sept. 30. This compares to the nearly $1.2 million Arrington has raised. Levario said this is because he is grass-root and does not have any special interests in his campaign. He compared himself to U.S. Senate candidate for Texas Beto O’Rourke’s campaign or U.S. House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez out of New York.
“We have been able to do a lot with a little,” Levario said. “We have name recognition. We have facial recognition …. We’ve been able to do it with some new campaign strategies using digital media platforms.”
He called these platforms more efficient, effective and are cheaper than the traditional commercial or radio ads. Of his campaign staff, only his campaign manager is paid. The rest consist of volunteers.
Regarding the campaign trail, Levario described the area he is campaigning in as conservative. But since beginning his run, he said he is seeing changing demographics in the region. He said he believes these changes will bring new culture, and potential growth to the region not seen before. Due to these changes, Levario said he believes those on the conservative side are listening more to Democrats than they were prior.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m painting this picture of, ‘we’re turning into a liberal oasis out here in West Texas,’” Levario said. “But the social demographics and industry are changing and just flatout people are sick and tired of same old politics.”
Levario will face off against Arrington in the general election Nov. 6. Early voting began Monday, Oct. 22. For more information on Levario’s campaign, visit his website, levarioforcongress.com.