This week TLI’s Brian McLaughlin had a chance to talk to Ruben Corvalan, a Libertarian who is running for U.S. House District 23 in Texas against Republican incumbent Will Hurd and former seat holder Pete Gallego (Democrat).
In 2014, Corvalan drew 3% of the District 23 vote against the aforementioned candidates, as Hurd knocked off then incumbent Gallego by about 2 points.
District 23 is a large one – ranging roughly from San Antonio west to nearly El Paso. Corvalan lives in San Antonio.
Corvalan was born in Santiago, Chile—“At a very early age,” Corvalan joked.
He is 63 years young and is an electrical engineer by trade. He is the son of a surgeon, so as he put it to TLI: “I don’t have any sad stories to tell you, that I came out of nothing. No challenges or anything like that.” He said he studied engineering in Chile but like many young Chileans at the time he wanted to come to the United States because, “we all thought the streets were paved in gold in the U.S.” He finished his studies at Cleveland State University in Ohio and began his own consulting company. He is the owner of AmpSAFE, LLC.
Corvalan is married with two children, a 19-year old daughter and a 22-year old son.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Next up on Saturday? A conversation with Libertarian National Committee chair Nicholas Sarwark, or as we like to call him “The Lion Tamer”.
TLI’S MCLAUGHLIN: “So Ruben, we will ask this of every LP candidate we talk to—how did you arrive at the Libertarian Party? What is your story?”
RUBEN CORVALAN: “When I became an American citizen, maybe five years after I graduated, I started voting Republican without even thinking about it. The reason is I thought the party promoted self-reliance and fiscal responsibility and after a while I realized that I was voting without even thinking. Our national debt was insane, and I thought this was to blame on the Democrats but when I studied the debt I realized the Democrats were in partnership with the Republicans in this. I started seeing that the Republican Party also had some very harsh policies and I decided the Republican Party was actually not really my thing, and of course the Democrats weren’t either because of big government. I realized a lot of Latinos were slaves of the state. I felt like we needed to take ownership of our own lives and get our self-esteem back. I felt they were becoming receivers of this help without being able to break loose, to break free. They were being patronized by the Democrats and even a little bit by the Republicans as well.”
TLI: “So a disenchanted Republican eh? Sounds like a pretty normal response. How’d you become a LP candidate?”
RC: “Well, by then I was looking for another option and about three years ago and I stumbled on the Libertarian Party. (Past LP Texas Gubernatorial candidate and current Supreme Court candidate) Kathie Glass contacted me. I was in Houston doing a seminar for engineering and I met them while there and they told me the principles of the party and asked me if I wanted to run as a candidate. Everything I learned and read was right on the money. I told them “yes”—but I don’t have any experience in politics. And they said that’s why they’d like me to run. I told them I am going to tell the truth and I’m not particularly loyal just to the Libertarian Party, but I’m loyal to the people and the principles. And if you think that’s OK I’d be willing to contribute and spread my wings and try to help others. Then I became really committed about learning more about the philosophy.”
TLI: “Good story, for sure. So we like to ask each candidate—rank your top three issues. What gets under your skin the most?”
RC: “That’s easy—immigration, debt and term limits. After that, privacy—the NSA issues. And I think free choice of schools within education. But my main three would be immigration, national debt and term limits. With immigration, we have a lot of people living in the shadows who are not contributing to society. They should be contributing. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Corvalan’s position is that it is “irrational to deport all these undocumented immigrants. The economic and social cost would be catastrophic”. He supports a temporary work visa for all qualified adult undocumented immigrants, to be renewed every two years.” With the national debt, the first thing we have to do is balance the budget, and with term limits? That would solve a whole bunch of the above programs in the first place. That’s one big subject for me.”
TLI: “You received 3 percent of the vote last time, even with all of the usual circumstances stacked against an LP candidate—money, media coverage, etc. Many LPs don’t get 1 percent, you received 3 percent and this year seems to be the perfect storm for the party with all of the attention the LP presidential candidates are getting. Do you have some goals in how you’d like to affect this election?”
RC: “I really can’t accept any accolades for that performance. I did the minimum because I didn’t know what to do then. I went to some forums and I think the majority of the 3 percent I drew were voting across the line Libertarian but didn’t necessarily know a lot about me. This time I’m much more committed and I’m receiving more contributions. You know, I do seminars for a living and I’m not afraid to speak in front of people. I don’t usually get nervous and I do motivational speeches in Spanish—but when I talked politics I felt a bit insecure. But with practice and exposure I’m getting much more comfortable with this.”
TLI: “So do you have a statistical goal with November?”
RC: “I think it’ll at least double from what happened last time. If I don’t get 6 percent it would be a failure, but also a failure of the voters. There is another option and people should pay attention. I’m here to win, so in my brain if I have a winning attitude that I have a chance to win. It won’t be easy because I don’t have the money. But who knows? Maybe it’ll be like the ‘Hundreth monkey effect’ that is talked about (where new behavior or an idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means … once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea). Abrupt change? A revolution?
TLI: “Your district is considered one of the true battleground Congressional districts this fall by BallotPedia. Why do you feel that’s the case?”
RC: “People have been switching back and forth in this district for the last four elections, and people who live here are more open-minded and depending on what is going on in the country, they will switch from one to another. There’s not a lot of difference. I was probably the spoiler last time for Pete Gallego. I may have pulled some of the Hispanic vote away from him.
TLI: “How well do you get along with Hurd and Gallego? Is it polite and professional, or maybe a bit contentious? What do you think of Hurd’s refusal to back Trump?”
RC: “William Hurd contacted me … well, first actually his campaign manager called me. Then William Hurd called me personally, but I missed the call and we haven’t connected. He wanted me to know that we could do a lot of things working together. I just told them that I’m not a politician. Hurd is very establishment, and he’s also one of the most liberal Republican congressmen in Washington. A lot of the Tea Party is mad about him, they don’t like him at all. But I really don’t talk much about those guys, I want to talk about the principles of the Libertarian Party and the status of the country.”
TLI: “I hear you loud and clear on that. Lastly, we have to ask you a very, very important question—with you being born in Chile, how are you feeling right about now with the Copa America championship win over Argentina and Messi last week? You must be on cloud nine, eh?”
RC: “I haven’t screamed that much in a long time. But I have a problem you see. See, my wife was born in Mexico and my children were also born there, and when Mexico lost 7-0 to Chile (in the June 18 quarterfinal), we had a domestic problem. The whole family was mad at me. I’m hoping they will all still vote for me. Hopefully they will. But if they don’t vote for me I’ll quit.”
TLI: “Ruben, thanks for your time, sir.”