By Matt Dotray
April 18, 2017
Miguel Levario said he never set out to be a politician.
But the writer and Texas Tech professor said he’s rising to what he calls the challenge to unify his diverse Congressional district.
Levario officially announced Monday his campaign for the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S. District 19 seat currently held by first-term U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, in the 2018 election. Fellow Tech professor Dan Epstein earlier this month announced his intent to seek the Democratic nomination for the seat, so upon filing later this year, the two will face each other in the Democratic Primary next spring.
His campaign announcement was held at the Charles Adams Gallery in downtown Lubbock in front of more than 100 people who he greeted before and after his speech. The biggest cheers came when he spoke a few phrases in Spanish or when he discussed his party’s principals.
“We must rise to the challenge in unifying our country, and setting forth sensible, compassionate and effective legislation for all residents in our region – Not empty rhetoric and gridlock,” he said. “You deserve a representative ready to put himself in front of his constituents when he makes a decision that impacts you and your family. I want to be that leader.”
Levario became a resident of Lubbock about 10 years ago after receiving his undergraduate degrees at the University of Notre Dame and Ph.D from the University of Texas at Austin He grew up in a town just outside El Paso where he said being bilingual and bicultural was a way of life, and he’s richer for it. He said this background helped him understand the complexities of border life — and all it entails.
This had influenced on his professional career, as Levario is now an associate professor specializing in U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. His research, according to the university, focuses on immigration, militarization and Mexican American History. He’s also authored the book “Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy.”
Levario spoke on border issues, as well as other topics after introducing himself and his family. He said the most common factor contributing to one’s migration is economic need, so he argued the best relationship can be achieved through beneficial trade and smart immigration policy.
“Last year, when Jodey Arrington ran his campaign ads saying fences mean freedom and that we need to close our open border, I took offense,” said Levario. “Negative, inaccurate and hollow rhetoric have no place in our community… Our southern border has never been more secure, and I believe in a secure border. However, there are smart ways to do that. Building a big, beautiful wall has nothing to do with securing a border.”
Levario said rural communities need good teachers who can prepare children for life in a competitive world. He said the country needs to protect farmers and farm laborers because the whole country benefits from their success.
“I will not stand here and preach about how we need (the) federal government out of our lives. What we need is representation that will make sure our government will work for us, not frauds who skew the system for their benefit,” Levario said. “What I want to ensure is that government-funded programs help all of us, whether they’re through farm subsidies, the national school lunch program, Meals on Wheels, PBS and other programs.”
U.S. 19 is made up of 29 counties that include the cities of Lubbock, Plainview, Abilene and Big Spring. The district has elected only Republicans since the 1980s. The challenge isn’t lost on Levario, but he said he’s relying on the help of his supporters to form a grassroots campaign that’s a platform for the forgotten people in the district.
“We’re long overdue for change,” he said. “Let’s make history together — not for the bragging rights, but because by making history we help everyone in this district who feels left out, unheard, unseen, and flat-out tired of the same old song.”