A pro-choice union lawyer from Colton, California, Eloise Gomez Reyes is considered the more progressive candidate for the state’s 31st congressional district.
Gomez Reyes took reader questions about her plans for office and how she hopes to help her district. She is facing Pete Aguilar, the 34-year-old mayor of Redlands, Calif., in the primary. Republican Gary Miller won the seat in 2012, even though constituents also voted heavily for President Obama.
To view the questions in their original context, click on the user name.
@kdm615: I am a college student graduating this June, and I want to go to graduate school to get my teaching credentials, so my biggest concern is college affordability not only for myself but for the future generation of college students.
Last summer, interest rates increased and Congress passed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which tied student loan interest to the market. This, however, brings a lot of uncertainty as to how affordable college is because, for students, loan interest rates can go as high as 8.25% for undergraduates and 10.5% for graduate students. It seems unfair that for someone who plans on being a teacher and won’t be earning as much as other professions, I will have to pay back about $18,000 plus in loans, not including interest or future loans I will have to take out once I go to graduate school. If elected, what will you do for us?
Eloise Gomez Reyes: I know how expensive an education can be. Even with grants and outside work, I still had to take out student loans for college and law school. After receiving my degrees, I had to take time to pay back the loans.
As a country, we have to view student loans as an investment in our people and in our country’s economic health. Student loans should be affordable. I will work to make sure interest rates are low. I will also work to expand loan forgiveness programs for graduates willing to invest in the underserved communities by working there.
We need to focus on assisting indebted graduates who become victims of the widening wealth gap when they are straddled with high student loans at high interest rates.
I believe we have to make college affordable and accessible for those who want to pursue a degree. When students graduate college with their degree and affordable loan repayment plans they are able to buy things like homes and cars and start families – and, generally, they can invest in America. This widens our tax base and everyone benefits when that happens.
I also would like to comment on a troubling development I see with for-profit online colleges. We are starting to see more and more cases of online for-profit colleges targeting our returning veterans for their GI Bill funds. Increasingly we are seeing examples of these for-profit schools using up a veteran’s GI Bill funds and not providing the education they promise. That’s wrong and I will work to stop it.
Alex Beltran: What do you think Washington needs now?
EGR: Washington needs representatives committed to solutions that serve the needs of the nation. I’m running because Washington is broken. It’s broken because too many politicians go to Washington to get a job and spend all their time working to keep the job. Not me. I am going to Washington to do the job! There is work to be done and I will roll up my sleeves to do the job.
Washington needs representatives who will put the priorities of the community above partisan bickering. I am running now because I’ve seen Washington become more and more dysfunctional over the last decade. The Republicans are fighting for big business and special interests. I want to be the voice for the working people, for seniors on fixed incomes, for veterans who have served us so admirably, and for women who earn less than men for doing the same job.
Washington needs representatives willing to work hard. I know what it is like to work hard. I started working when I was 12 years old picking onions in the fields. I worked my way through college and law school. I saw my parents struggle. My father left to go to work early in the morning and returned late to eat and go to bed only to get up early the next day.
I’ve worked hard as an attorney, but never forgot where I came from. I want opportunities to come back to our community and the Inland Empire and I decided to go to Washington to fight for it.
I am going to Washington to fight for you and to push open the doors of opportunity for Inland Empire families.
Christopher R. Stone via Twitter: There is a problem with representatives identifying with constituents. How do you identify with the people?
EGR: I am grounded in my community. I see myself as a servant of the needs of the community. The disconnect you speak of does not exist for me because I am not a career politician beholden to special interests. In fact, this is why I am running for Congress. There has been too much partisanship in Washington and it’s getting worse.The problem is many of our elected officials go to Washington to get a job. I am going to do a job.
It will be easy for me to stay connected with the community here because I have always been of this community. It’s in my blood. I grew up here in the Inland Empire. I worked the onion fields as a 12-year-old with my family to earn money for school clothes. I worked my way through law school and started a law firm right here in San Bernardino County representing injured workers. I raised a family here with my husband Frank. As a working mother, I had to prioritize what needed to be done and this is not happening in Washington. Politicians are more interested in scoring political points.
No one should agree with a political party 100% of the time and I know I won’t always agree with mine. My vote will be based on what is best for working families here at home.
I will stay connected with the community here because I have the right priorities. For me, it’s good jobs for working families, protecting Social Security and Medicare, making sure veterans get the benefits they’ve earned, providing a good education for our children, and ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work.
I believe we need more women in Congress. When women win, families win and when families win America wins.
Rocio Aguayo: Pollution, obesity, and STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) are a common health hazard for constituents in the 31st district. How can you ensure health programs and nonprofits continue to not only be funded, but also work to create legislation to better the lives and health of constituents in the 31st district?
EGR: In Washington, they wouldn’t link the three together, but I am glad to see that you did just that. Basically, you are looking at the big picture and long-term solution to our health care. I have a history with health care. You may know that I helped found a community health center in Bloomington, Calif.
We can’t go back to a time when insurance companies made our health decisions for us.Thanks to the new health care law, kids can stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 – insurance companies can’t deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition – and an emphasis is put on preventative care so that we keep people healthy to begin with.
As we look for ways to make the law work better for our communities, here are some of the things I would do. I will hold town hall meetings to educate the public about signing up for health care. I will hold workshops where my staff and I help people sign up. I will put accurate information on my website to explain the law and how to sign up. Americans deserve affordable health care. They deserve preventative care. Too many Americans rely on the emergency room as their health care provider. That’s wrong and I will work to fix it.
As for pollution, we must shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. I support extending a proposal to regulate carbon standards for new power plants to include existing plants as well. We also cannot stand idly by while polluters get away with their business. We must step up enforcement of environmental regulations, and we must provide sufficient funding for this enforcement. I also support providing financial incentives, such as tax benefits, for the development and application of clean energy alternatives, such as wind, water, and geothermal.
While I acknowledge that transforming our energy usage cannot occur overnight, I believe that there are simple, effective steps that we should take to move towards a fossil fuel-free future. In particular, I support ending subsidies for fossil fuels, which are neither renewable nor effective long-term solutions to our energy needs. Such subsidies underwrite the creation of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, destroying our environment, and challenging our way of life. Moreover, these subsidies make it more difficult to encourage investment in clean energy resources.
In addressing SDIs, it will be important to increase immunization for the HPV vaccine and it needs to be readily available for both boys and girls. The research shows that it works and that it works really well. Our health care professionals and our communities have an obligation to educate themselves and others on the benefits of this and other immunizations.
Obesity is becoming a long-term health crisis. There is inadequate physical education and lack of healthy snacks/meals. The answers provided are usually short-sighted. We must look for long-term solutions otherwise we will all pay for the increased health care costs, loss of productivity, and decreased quality of life and life expectancy.
@SimoneKnows: Eloise. I am a constituent in the 31st district. I am a queer woman who is sexually harrassed (and sometimes assaulted) on a fairly regualr basis. Many of the women I know who live and work in the Inland Empire have given up on fighting back against daily street harassment. If elected, how will you work to make the 31st district safer for women of all ages, sizes, sexual orientations, and colors?
EGR: One of the biggest problems we see with sexual assault and harassment is that so much of it goes unreported.
Campus administrators have an obligation to provide a safe environment for its students. This can be addressed with changes in policy, including immediate response and ongoing confidential assistance. There must be a clearly defined sexual assault policy and a comprehensive campus sexual assault prevention program.
It is insufficient to merely have the policy as the U.S. House of Representatives enacted the victim’s Bill of Rights. There must be enforcement and education to make it effective. If necessary, federal funding to the university should be tied to the effectiveness of the enforcement.
I want to applaud what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is doing to eradicate sexual assault in the military. If elected, I will support her efforts in the House and I will drive my own agenda to expand that attention to university assault and harassment of women.
Lizbeth Gomez: I come from a background of an immigrant family and the immigration reform has been standing without any promises of being passed. How do you plan on getting immigration reform passed?
EGR: We will get comprehensive immigration reform passed by working hard on collaborating and coalition-building among key stakeholders, including communities of faith, businesses, educators, government officials, law enforcement, and elected officials committed to building an effective immigration system.
There is no question that we need serious comprehensive immigration reform, but we have to be smart about it. For generations, Italians, Irish, Germans, Asians, Latinos, and every other creed and ethnicity have been coming to America. I would support the DREAM Act. That should have been passed. Comprehensive immigration reform with a true path to citizenship has to be passed. I will support that and I will work with Republicans, Democrats, and the White House to pass a bill that ensures that families are kept together, that a true path to citizenship is created, and that our borders are protected from outside threats.