Canseco faces protest at local speech (and delivers lamest D.C.-earthquake joke yet)

It's August recess time, and Francisco “Quico” Canseco's back in town. But while he enjoyed a nice quiet gathering downtown Wednesday inside a South San Chamber of Commerce luncheon, dozens of protesters rallied in triple-digit heat outside Canseco's speech, claiming the freshman GOP congressman refuses to meet with working-class parts of his district. Ysidro Solis says he and others approached Canseco's office early this month asking for a South Side town-hall meeting with the congressman, but that congressman's office quickly denied the request. Working-class constituents and retirees, he says, wanted answers from Canseco over his vote for a House GOP budget plan last Spring that would have drastically restructured Medicare, cut taxes for corporations and called for massive spending cuts over the next decade. Analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found the plan – still touted by Canseco – would have killed over 2 million private sector jobs over five years, and outside Canseco's “State of the District” speech to the chamber Wednesday, protestors charged that the budget plan Canseco supported would have cost Texas some 200,000 highway infrastructure and healthcare jobs, citing the same EPI stats (when asked about that figure later, Canseco scoffed, “I would like to see how they substantiate that. It is a fallacy. People tell me all sorts of things and I have to go, 'Oh, what world do you live in?'”). T.C. Calvert, a longtime local activist who helped organize Wednesday's protest, chided, “Canseco's out of touch with the working-class parts of his district. He's got no sympathy for the folks in Harlendale or anywhere else on the South Side, but if you live in Fair Oaks, then you're good. He'll listen to you then.” Non-chamber members wanting to see Canseco's local speech Wednesday paid $45 a head. Nick Lee, a retiree who joined Wednesday's protest, remarked, “We're deeply concerned with the direction he's taken since he took this seat. From what we can tell, he's listening to the people who fund campaigns and give out financial support, not the constituents in his district.” A wave of Tea Party support last year helped launch Canseco to victory, beating Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in the massive congressional district that spans from the edge of El Paso to north and south San Antonio, and the Texas Democratic establishment is already gearing up for a fight to win the seat back. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this month started running radio ads targeting Canseco, as well as another vulnerable Tea Party-backed GOP newcomer, Congressman Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi who squeaked past longtime Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz in the 2010 GOP wave. The ad slams Canseco for voting to “end Medicare, forcing seniors to pay more to protect tax breaks for big oil and millionaires,” and to “Tell Canseco to stop choosing millionaires over seniors” (the message is basically the same for Farenthold). And the Democratic primary to challenge Canseco for the district is starting to take shape. All signs point to Rodriguez jumping in for another run, and local patent lawyer John Bustamante, son of a local Democratic Congressman who served in the 80s and early 90s, has already thrown his name into the hat (his official campaign kickoff event is set for this Friday at Las Cazuelas). After Canseco's address to the chamber Wednesday, (in which he delivered what could possibly be the lamest D.C. earthquake joke yet: “As you all know, there was an earthquake yesterday in Washington. Washington got shaken up. Unfortunately, those of us in Congress who really needed shaken up weren't there"), the congressman vehemently defended his record, saying he's not out to destroy Medicare, but to save it for future generations. Acknowledging the protesters outside, he said, “I share their concerns about saving Medicare, and that's what I'm working on. Right now Medicare is about to go bust. By the end of nine years we won't have Medicare if we continue.” - Michael Barajas, [email protected].com
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