- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Virginia Republicans will select their nominee today for the redrawn 49th District seat, and the Hispanic candidates vying for the spot say they want to provide a voice for a community where minorities are the majority of the population.
The candidates — Edgar Gonzalez, William Garcia and John Nande — said they are running for the House of Delegates seat because they believe it's time to begin integrating the minority population into the political mainstream.
"We're tired and afraid that if we don't do it now it could take us longer to get our voices heard," Mr. Gonzalez said. "We're here and we need to start integrating into the system. If we don't have political representation, we're lost."
Intent on keeping control of the state House, the Republican Party recruited the three Hispanic candidates to appeal to the heavily Democratic district's ethnically diverse community. None of the three candidates has run for public office.
The Republican nominee will be chosen at a mass meeting today at Wakefield High School in Arlington, and the winner will face Delegate L. Karen Darner of Arlington, who has represented the 49th District for the past 10 years.
Republican Party officials said Thursday they believe a Hispanic delegate would better look out for the interests of the residents, who live in one of the poorer communities in Northern Virginia.
The new 49th District includes three of the most ethnically diverse communities in Northern Virginia — Del Ray in Alexandria, Arlandria in Arlington County and Culmore in Fairfax County. The district's population is 42 percent Hispanic, 27 percent white, 20 percent black and 11 percent Asian. Each new district has an ideal population of 70,785.
The district is the only one of the state's 100 House districts that does not have a white or black majority. It also is the first to have a Hispanic plurality.
Each candidate has said, if elected, he would work to bring tax dollars back to the district.
The money, candidates have said, would help fund English classes for non-English-speaking schoolchildren and reduce class size.
Each candidate also has said he wanted to have the car tax fully phased out by next year, a sentiment shared by Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley. The three candidates have said most of the district's residents cannot afford to continue paying the tax.
A Realtor and real-estate investor, Mr. Gonzalez, 45, said his priorities are education and transportation. He wants to integrate non-English-speaking children into regular classes so they could learn subjects at the same pace as other students.
"We don't want to alienate anyone," Mr. Gonzalez said.
A El Salvador native who lives in Arlington, Mr. Gonzalez also said he would tackle the issue of gang violence. Culmore was the scene of a slaying last year that police linked to a Salvadoran gang. Mr. Gonzalez said he would create outreach programs for children to keep them off the streets after school.
"It's a social-economical problem," Mr. Gonzalez said. "Parents are at work all day and the gangs become a family to these children. We need to change the family structure."
Mr. Nande, 33, of Alexandria, wants to work on getting more cars off the street. He said he wants to look into expanding Metro and telecommuting that would allow employees to work from home.
Mr. Nande, who is part Spanish and Cuban, also said he wants to expand English As A Second Language courses so that children and adults can have more opportunities to learn the language.
"Education is clearly the only vehicle for career advancement," said Mr. Nande, who owns a publishing company. "It's the key to economic development."
Mr. Garcia, 38, did not return repeated telephone calls this week. But in an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Garcia, an Ecuadorean-American, has described himself as a more moderate Republican, which he has said is an advantage in Northern Virginia.
Mr. Garcia, an Army reservist who teaches English as a second language to graduate students at George Washington University, said education would be a priority, particularly shaking more funds out of Richmond for the region's schools.
"I've been teaching English as a second language since I was 11 years old," Mr. Garcia told AP. "I know how important education is."

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