San Antonio, Texas — Outgoing Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair and Texas Congressman Charlie Gonzalez is currently working on a graceful exit, given that he has chosen not to seek reelection, but he is still focused on the things that need to be done in his district, and the country. Gonzalez’s exit represents the first time someone from his family will not represent the 20th district of Texas since his father, Henry B. Gonzalez, first took office in 1961.
“Next year there won’t be a Gonzalez in Congress. It will be the first time since the 1950s that there won’t be a Gonzalez on the ballot,” he said. Looking back on his 14 years of service, Gonzalez had a lot to say on a recent Friday morning about his proudest moments, his regrets, and thoughts for the next person to fill his shoes, likely current state representative and Democratic candidate for the seat, Joaquín Castro.
He told us that he had been considering leaving the office for a while, but there were a few key reasons why he finally decided to retire this year. First, he told us that ensuring that the 20th the district remained as unaffected by the redistricting wars in Texas as possible was important to him for personal reasons, but also because it is the only district entirely based in San Antonio. The fact that he had earned seniority in Congress also pushed him to stay on longer, but at 66, he told us he feels he has another career in him, and would like to pursue life in the private sector.
When it comes to his father’s legacy as compared to his own, Gonzalez told us that he has had plenty of time to think about the differences, and ultimately thinks that — on the big issues — both Congressmen Gonzalezes were very similar. “My father was very effective for San Antonio and, hopefully, people will view my tenure as being productive for the City of San Antonio,” he told us. The younger Gonzalez called his father and iconoclast, an individual who love to be in individual, who worked closely with the Democratic leadership. For his part, the current Congressman Gonzalez sees himself as somewhat more bipartisan, but feels that he continued his father’s legacy of strong constituent services.
Congressman Gonzalez is one of the seven Latino co-chairs of President Obama’s re-election campaign, and as one of the first Latino politicians to come out supporting Obama over then–candidate Hillary Clinton, he says Obama needs a second term. He said the president is the type of man who believes that you can win an argument with facts and figures, and that logical people will outlast politics. “I think the American people should reelect him. Then the Republican Party will see that there are diminishing returns at that point, they cannot appear to be as unreasonable as they are right now since they have to prepare to take back the White House,” he said.
“He needs another term because I think that the opposition will finally accept him as President of the United States. What they have done to frustrate him is beyond anything that has ever been done to any other president,” he told us. “Never in the history the United States has the filibuster been employed to the degree that you have it employed today in the Senate.”
Work that stands out most in his mind during his 14-year tenure is varied, and includes everything from voter ID and suppression, to constituent services, to his “no” vote for the Iraq war, as well as health, education and energy. He was very proud of his work with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to make sure more Latinos and minorities were considered for judicial and other appointments during both the Bush and Obama administrations, “It’s so important that all aspects of government look like our country,” he told us. When it came to other specific votes, the aforementioned “no” vote for the Iraq War was powerful, he noted that the problems with Iran are a direct consequence of that war. The Affordable Care Act, work in energy efficiency and conservation, as well as creating more opportunities for educational student loans were other high points the congressman mentioned.
And when it comes to things that remain to be done, the congressman was especially concerned about education in the Latino community. “We’re just not graduating the young people to the degree that we need to, not preparing them to be relevant in a modern workforce,” he said. “That really does worry me.” Immigration at the national level, in the economic interest of the country, is also something that remains to be done, he said.
For the next congressman of the 20th district, Gonzalez has endorsed Castro, he said it would be important to try to restore the district to its former boundaries. But more importantly, working with local businesses and governments to create a fecund business environment, as well as working towards better education towards the same end, would be of the utmost importance. “On the education front we are truly lagging,” he said. “There is no real future of the 20th congressional district, or the city of San Antonio, if we don’t [address this].”
Next up, Gonzalez said he would like to work either as an attorney, or dealing with energy, health, or telecommunications issues.[Photo By Charlie Gonzalez Campaign]