"Give people their right to vote" on whether gambling should be allowed in Texas says Rep. John Kuempel (VIDEO)
The following interview with Texas State Representative John Kuempel is one of a series of interviews conducted by VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote with members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. Rep. Kuempel is a member of the Texas House of Representatives representing District 44 which includes Wilson, Guadalupe, and Gonzales Counties.
John Kuempel was sworn in on December 30, 2010, and he is serving his first term as State Representative from District 44. He took a few minutes to come off the House floor for a short interview.
Rep. Kuempel is a freshman who won in a special election due to the fact that his father Representative Edmund Kuempel suddenly died two days after the 2010 general election. Rep. John Kuempel mentioned that he had a meeting with his family and decided he would run for his fathers seat. He also spoke about Hispanics and the Republican Party, and to my surprise, Mr. Kuempel speaks Spanish quite well.
I asked Rep. Kuempel a controversial question regarding his position on gambling. He explained why he believes gambling could bring revenues to Texas and that the people of Texas should have the right to vote on the issue. Mr. Kuempel is also a member of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the Texas House of Representatives.
The Hispanic Republican Conference has been growing. Originally it was formed by the House’s five Hispanic Republicans but has since been joined by other State Representatives whose districts have at least 30% Hispanic constituents. The Hispanic Republican Conference will be addressing some issues that have been controversial in parts of the state with large Hispanic populations.
Hispanics make up 36% of the Texas population and this percentage is growing. Hispanics share Republican conservative values of fiscal responsibility, faith, hard work, family values, and are pro-life. VOCES Action has been educating and empowering Americans with Hispanic backgrounds, and who hold conservative values, to make more responsible and informed voting decisions.
Adryana Boyne: Hello, we are here with Representative John Kuempel. Representative, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule in session to come out and give us this interview.
John Kuempel: Yes Maam, absolutely.
Adryana Boyne: Well first of all, I would like to know briefly, how did you get involved in politics?
John Kuempel: Well my father was a lifelong State Representative for the same district Im serving now, and we had come to a decision that I would fill his vacancy because this was going to be his last session, and unfortunately, he died two days after the general election this year. So circumstances changed and I sat down with the family, and the people that needed to be involved, stakeholders in the decision with me running, we sat down and decided that it would be a good thing, so I ran in a special election, December 14th of 2010, and I was honored that the people of House District 44 elected me to succeed my father.
Adryana Boyne: Well that is wonderful to know. You are part of the Hispanic Republican Conference, can you tell us why you decided to join this conference?
John Kuempel: Im a very proud part of it, coming from House District 44, which is made up of Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Wilson Counties, the percentage of Hispanics in that district is close to 40%, so its a big part. I was born and raised in Seguin, Ive been there for 6 generations, our sons are seventh generation, so weve been there a long time. Saying that, growing up in a community with so many Hispanics, I grew up with some of my best friends in the world, so I never really think of it being a race thing, its just my neighbors, and its important, and what we bring up here from the district is good conservative family values, hard-working, less government, the kind of things the religious approach, but what it comes down to is conservative values and everybody in that House District agrees with me.
Adryana Boyne: One of things that I do with VOCES Action, my organization, is that I educate and empower the Latino community with conservative fiscal and moral values, but I use Spanish a lot to go into media and interact with those Hispanics who still speak Spanish. We encourage the people to learn English, but we still use Spanish, and I just learned a few minutes ago that you speak Spanish. What can you say to those people who speak Spanish, and also do you believe Spanish is a tool to outreach to the Hispanic community so they can understand that conservative values are the Republican Party.
John Kuempel: Theres still people in my district that are challenged with English and obviously understand Spanish a lot better. Thats just a conduit to them. Their values are still the same, whether it be morally or conservative-based values. If we just have to use the conduit has a language, we need to approach them in Spanish as well, but more times than not, theyre going to agree with us and agree with our conservative stances. Its helped me a lot in my district.
Adryana Boyne: Tell us about the people in your district. What are the issues that they are concerned with?
John Kuempel: Well, I think statewide, quite obviously, its the budget deficit this year. Theyre concerned about public health care, those are the ones I hear about repeatedly over and over again. Were passing HB 1, so its a good first step in getting it to the Conference Committee where we can take a conservative approach. In the end, our priorities, my priorities on the budget will be children and health care, and truly making sure that those people are taken care of.
Adryana Boyne: I know that there are some issues that seem to be a little bit controversial, but it is important to listen to a State Representatives position on the issues, and gambling is one of them. Gambling in Texas is a controversial issue, on one hand, potential state revenue is being lost to neighboring states, but on the other hand, many Texans are opposed to gambling in Texas. What are your views on this?
John Kuempel: Well right now, and I serve on the Licensing Committee, so weve overheard all the gambling, and all the bills, testimonies, on, for, and against gambling, but consistently hearing, and a statewide poll, 80% of Texans want the right to vote, whether it be for or against gambling, so what better way to represent the state than passing a Constitutional Amendment and maybe sending it to a ballot in November to give people their right to vote, like I said, for or against it, and the state is losing a lot of money to the bordering states, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Youll see as much as up to $4 billion dollars a year. When you look at it, thats money we can keep at home, not only just for gambling revenue, then you can think about subsidiary revenues such as food sales, more income tax because it creates more jobs, and I think that the footprint gambling would provide would be a good way to raise revenue in the state. It comes down to existing footprints of gambling already, destination casinos, and places like that, and thats a debate well have on the floor, but I think when it comes down to it, giving people the right to vote is the right thing to do.
Adryana Boyne: Can you also give me some of your thoughts about how you think we can resolve the problem of illegal immigration?
John Kuempel: Well, illegal immigration is just a matter of securing our borders. I understand that once we do that, you know Governor Perry was very involved in doing that, but you know our borders are so controversial right now, its really, Im not so far south, but I consistently have conversations with some of the members that represent border districts, and its really terrifying to hear, especially driven by the drug trade, thats a number one concern, we cannot let that cross our border. So well take that approach, its an issue weve seen, realized itself within the last 2-3 years, but its turning out to be a dire situation that we need to address.
Adryana Boyne: I want to thank you for serving the people of your district, and also thank you for serving the people of Texas. Thank you very much.
John Kuempel: Thank you so much.