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Canseco and Gallego in Spanish-Language Debate for Congressional Seat

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine
Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio
State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, answers questions in English with reporters following an all-Spanish debate. Gallego and Congressman Francisco Canseco are vying for Texas District 23, which runs from El Paso to San Antonio.

From his stance that big banks are his opponent's focus and not small business, State Representative Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said U.S. Congressman Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-Texas, went to Washington, D.C. and became a part of the problem. Canseco said he wants growth in the private sector, where his opponent would destroy the country's economic force.

Each of the candidates argued back and forth on a stage at Palo Alto College Tuesday night. The debate was hosted by Univision and AARP, and conducted entirely in Spanish.

Gallego said turning Medicare into a voucher system - as Republicans have suggested - is not fair to voters. Canseco argued that the system proposed would strengthen Medicare.

"If you are sicker and poorer, you get more premium support," Gallego told Texas Public Radio. "But if you are richer and healthier, you don't get that much premium support. And therein lies the difference and what will save Medicare from collapse in 10 years."

Following the debate, Canseco defended his position on issues like the Dream Act and said he has strong sympathy for people who came to the U.S. at a young age. But he said Democrats have lied to Hispanics and failed to move forward with policies that could change immigration.

Gallego stressed how Canseco opposed the Dream Act, and how on border issues, Gallego wants a limited number of border patrol agents to protect the border.

"Any more is a waste of money and any less doesn't do the job," Gallego said. "So the first question is to figure out exactly how many we have and how many it is that we need, and nobody's ever really done a study of that."

Marc Rodriguez, who is closely following politics, said he was impressed by Gallego, but Canseco was demonstrative and acted like an incumbent. He thinks it's important for candidates to speak directly to Latinos - especially now.

"It's a growing constituent; it's going to continue to grow," said Rodriguez. "And it's good to see both parties reaching out to that constituent and finally starting to speak to them."

Some polls show Canseco and Gallego neck and neck; just over 40 days remain until the election.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.