September 30, 2023
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* State Senate candidate: Restaurant experience ‘prepares us in a way to serve’

By Trevor Hawes,

A slice of Midland got the chance to meet Victor Leal, Republican state Senate candidate for District 31, on Wednesday as he took part in a luncheon forum hosted by the Midland County Republican Women at Midland Country Club.
The two-term Muleshoe mayor and restaurateur shared his message of smaller government, local control and property rights, but to him, running for statewide office is much bigger than political platforms. Leal is primed to serve.
“I believe the service industry — in particular, the restaurant business — prepares us in a way to serve better than any other segment,” he told the Reporter-Telegram. “For us, day in and day out, we have a diverse set of associates working with it. … I understand their issues. The diverse people we serve: the guy at the radiator shop with his name patch on his chest, the president of the bank, teachers — this diverse group comes in, and I listen to their concerns.”
It’s his professional experience in service that makes him more grounded, he said, particularly in terms of access.
“(State Sen. Kel Seliger’s) office is at the top of Amarillo National Bank. A working class person that works at the radiator shop or is a single mom has to hop in an elevator and go up 15 floors to an opulent office for a state senator,” he said. “To me that’s an egregious offense when serving working class folks. If I win, I want a modest office with a refrigerator full of Shiner bock, queso from Leal’s and couches where you can come in and feel like I can talk to this guy.”
Leal calls himself a populist and says he wants to represent everybody, “but working class folks will always have a special place in my heart.”
The candidate is a former director of Austin-based conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, which he said demonstrates that he truly wants to limit the scope of government. “What are the core functions of government: roads, police and fire protection at the local level, great schools,” he said. “But we have to be very careful when we step on the toes of the free market and pick winners and losers.”
He said communities grow at the local level, not the state, and that he’s not necessarily keen on economic incentives. “I’m a little wary when you do too much economic incentive because it creates fluctuations in the marketplace. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.”
Leal said West Texans don’t get enough respect in Austin. “I think I’m going to be the guy who fights hard for West Texas. Most of the folks live east of Interstate 35, and they don’t understand how we live and operate here.”
What’s needed here is the expansion of vocational education. “In the past, we assumed every child would graduate and go on to college. I think that’s not good policy. We need plumbers, welders and electricians that are well-trained and can serve this area. We still need folks who can work with their hands, and we need to teach them at the local level in public schools.”
Leal said that a win for him would be historic because he would be the first Hispanic Republican state senator in Texas history. However, he runs on his merits as a candidate, not his race or culture.
“My dad would break every tooth in my mouth if I came home from school and said I didn’t make the football team because I’m Mexican and the coach is prejudiced. We didn’t play that game; we didn’t play victim,” he said. “I’m the best-qualified candidate, hands down. However, I happen to be Hispanic. That’s groundbreaking. The Republican Party needs a shot in the arm and a good messenger.”

Rhea Gonzales


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