POSTED: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 9:10pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 11:19am
EL PASO — CURRENT: Barbara Carrasco: 30,127 votes (34.75%) VS. Beto O’Rourke 55,296 votes (63.80%)
One, is a well-known former city council rep who knocked out a 16-year-incumbent for the democratic nomination.
The other, is a small business owner and political outsider who's on the republican ticket.
In less than a week, El Paso will decide whether it'll be Beto O'Rourke or Barbara Carrasco headed to Washington D.C. to represent District 16.
But once there, what will they do to help the borderland?
We're taking a look at the three most pressing federal issues in our region.
BRIDGE WAIT TIMES
City of El Paso leaders, in a resolution last March, say commuters on average wait up to two hours on our international bridges, while commercial trucks wait up to an hour during peak hours.
But more than $69 billion in trade dollars are crossed at El Paso international bridges alone each year.
Some argue, because of wait times, that more money should be crossing, and helping local economies.
So how does Beto O'Rourke resolve the slowdown? More manpower.
"So I propose that we staff each of the lanes on each of those bridges, each hour of each day that they're open, and to do that, we'll need customs and border protection officers added to those who are already here," he said.
How will that be possible, when CBP's budget is expected to be cut by $712 million if congress doesn't step in at the end of the year?
"We need to make the case in Washington, D.C. that investment in the U.S./Mexico border not only helps our local economy, which it will, but also helps the national economy," he said.
"These problems should have been addressed years ago," said Barbara Carrasco, who owns a freight brokerage business and says she knows firsthand the issues at the bridges.
"We have the technology, we have the resources, so the job can be done."
But, as O'Rourke pointed out, several lanes are closed each day because of understaffing.
That's why Carrasco says the feds need to look into the private sector.
"Kay Bailey Hutchison has a bill, which would promote public and private contracts, I think we need to pursue that."
That bill, called the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012, would look to entering into partnerships with local governments, like the City of El Paso, or private companies, to make up for the shortage.
"Funds, moneys, that are collected at the bridges could have been addressing the bridge problems. So we need to work on that," she said.
William Beaumont Army Medical Center was the worst ranked V.A. hospital by FindtheBest.com.
They said there are only 1.7 physicians staffed per 1,000 patients.
That's something Carrasco says needs addressing.
"There are a lot of things we need to work on to clean the image of El Paso, to attract doctors to want to come to El Paso, the pay rates, there's so much we need to do in regards to the VA for our veterans, who so rightly deserve it," she said.
She says she's already tackling the issue, demanding for a new VA hospital, getting support from New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce and by contacting the head of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Congressman Jeff Miller.
"I've asked him to come to El Paso, to look at our area, to look at the bi-state issues, because we are unique. And it may be that El Paso is an exception to how veterans' hospitals are ultimately decided on," she said.
O'Rourke, on the other hand, says the VA needs to live up to its promise to vets.
"We need to turn it around, we need to hold the VA accountable for the level of care and service that they provide," he said.
He agrees that a new, full-service VA hospital needs to be built.
"So that we're not sending veterans to Albuquerque, New Mexico for treatment, or to Big Springs, Texas for treatment, but instead we're able to take care of each and every veteran who needs it right here in El Paso, Texas," he said.
While the two can agree on a new hospital for vets, their outlook on the drug war couldn't be further apart.
THE DRUG WAR
"We need to acknowledge that what we're doing is not working," said O'Rourke.
"We're seeing that law enforcement is succeeding in Mexico," said Carrasco.
With headlines filled with gory beheadings, kidnappings, and deaths just in the state of Chihuahua since the cartel war began in 2008, it's hard for some to see exactly how anyone is succeeding.
"We've seen more than 10,000 people lose their lives in Ciudad Juarez over the last five years, and yet the easiest place to find a drug like marijuana today is in a U.S. middle school or high school," he said.
Carrasco says the recent turn in the country's economy is a positive sign, one that shows the U.S. needs to continue supporting Mexico's police.
"I know that it's been said that the failure of law enforcement which is causing the deaths in Mexico, and yet on the other hand, we see billions and billions of dollars coming back into Mexico in investments because they see the decrease in violence. So drug enforcement is working," she said.
But O'Rourke, who helped push El Paso into national headlines years ago as a city rep by supporting a city resolution pushing for the end of marijuana prohibition, and the candidate who's received donations from political action committees like the Marijuana Policy Project, says the drug war's gone on longer than any other war.
"Over the last 40 years of the drug war, we've spent a trillion dollars, we've imprisoned more of our people than any other country on the face of the planet," he said.
"We need to stop doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result when it comes to the drug war," he said.
Three significant issues, and each candidate has their own way of dealing with them.
"So there's a lot of work we need to do in Washington. And as a congresswoman, I'm going to go over there, and I just know I'm going to be a thorn in a lot of men's sides," said Carrasco.
"We're running a very positive campaign, about the great things we can do for this community, whether it's bringing down the unemployment rate, fixing bridge wait times, doing better for veterans and then leading on those issues that we know better than anybody else in dealing with the U.S./Mexico border," said O'Rourke.