Democrat with Marathon family ties to run for Congress

DISTRICT 23 — Republican Tony Gonzales — who serves the Big Bend in the U.S. House of Representatives — will likely face an opponent with local roots this election season. Democrat Santos Limon, born and raised along the border, has been hitting the campaign trail hard in Texas’ vast District 23. 

Limon’s grandfather was born in Marathon to a Mexican family working the railroad. The family eventually settled in Del Rio, running an auto shop that served both sides of the border. These early experiences sparked an interest in bridging gaps between the two countries — and in exploring the vast Texas borderlands by rail, car and foot. 

His training is in civil engineering, specializing in light rail systems and working closely with Latin American markets. These facets of his work have helped him see the challenges the district faces with a unique perspective — for Limon, infrastructure is everything. 

Earlier this month, he met with local leadership in Presidio County to get a better feel for what life is like in the 23rd District’s most remote reaches — healthcare was a major issue. Though many locals live below the poverty line, hypothetically they should have access to healthcare through programs like Medicare, Medicaid and VA benefits for veterans. 

Limon wondered how effective those programs can be if there are not convenient physical locations for Presidio County residents to receive services. “We do have people with medical benefits, but what good can they do if you have to travel three, four hours to get to a clinic?” he said. “It shouldn’t be like that, but it’s been going on for years.” 

In addition to beefing up the region’s medical infrastructure, Limon would like to see more business come to the Presidio International Bridge. Texas’s District 23 includes the powerhouse port towns of El Paso, Del Rio and Eagle Pass — the candidate hopes to bring more money to what he referred to as a “forgotten city.” 

Having studied — and lived through — cross-border trade most of his life, he is intimately familiar with patterns of trade. Nearby Laredo — the country’s busiest port — and El Paso has been experiencing growing pains, with longer wait times to cross goods back and forth. Why not skim some business off the top of these overcrowded ports? “The border is overwhelmed and can’t keep up with that growth,” he said. 

Limon would like to see Presidio become an “agricultural hub,” focused on crossing raw materials for food, textiles and more. This project would require building out the port’s infrastructure — including a long-awaited USDA inspection station — but the candidate feels it is a worthy investment. “It will bring a lot of stability and growth,” he said. 

In terms of border security, both Limon and incumbent Tony Gonzales share an overlapping idea to ease the asylum-seeking process: building out the federal court system along the border to absorb the strain of heavy migration. Early last month, Gonzales introduced the SAFER Act, which aims to “surge immigration judges to the border” while enhancing requirements for viable asylum claims. 

Limon would also like to see “order at the border,” prioritizing the court system over further militarization and fearmongering. “The answer is not more policemen,” he said. “We’ve seen that [the government] can build walls as high as the sky, but immigrants are still going to come.” 

He feels that the major difference between his campaign and his potential opponent’s is rhetoric — he doesn’t echo Gonzales’ characterization of the state of the border as “the worst immigration crisis ever.” 

Instead, he would like to see more “humanity” employed in the conversation. “I’m against bullying the less fortunate or those who can’t help themselves.”

Limon hopes that building out infrastructure for safer, happier and more prosperous border communities will serve the ultimate goal of keeping local talent close to home, rather than fleeing to big cities. “My goal is to keep talented folks in these communities,” he said. 

The filing deadline for the congressional primaries ends on Monday, December 11–– so Limon may see another challenger in the upcoming spring Democratic primaries.

The other Democrats who have filed so far — Rocco Ciappa and George Lopez — could not be reached for comment.