Laura Pichardo, the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants, believes her party needs “more open-minded representation.”
Laura Pichardo rejects President Trump’s claim that windmills cause cancer. She also accepts the science behind climate change, supports renewable energy, and opposes mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.
These are not remarkable positions for a North Carolina millennial, but they are surprising for a congressional candidate in the Tarheel state’s newly drawn 6th congressional district—running as a Republican.
In December, a three-judge panel approved new district maps across the state for 2020. Since Republican incumbent Mark Walker has declined to run again—his district now appears to favor Democrats—Pichardo will face Joseph Lee Haywood, a small business owner and a N.C. district-level delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, in her party’s March 3 primary.
The Democratic field is decidedly more crowded: Five candidates are vying to represent the district, which includes all of Guilford County and part of Forsyth County, including Winston-Salem.
Recent developments in the district, she said, had little bearing on her decision to seek office for the first time. Instead, her party’s rhetoric raised concerns.
“There needs to be a more open-minded representation,” said the 28-year-old global transaction accounts payable analyst for Hanes Brands in Winston-Salem. She takes issue with her party’s attacks on the Latino community. “I wanted to follow Trump’s ideals, [but] I would go to the rallies, where he said all Hispanics are bad [and] it didn’t sit well with me.”
The daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants—both of whom benefited from a 1986 amnesty program—diverges furthest from her party on immigration. For example, her website states that undocumented immigrants in the military should be eligible for U.S citizenship. Instead of forcing immigrants to leave the country for 10 years before re-applying for citizenship, she advocates imposing a $10,000 fee on undocumented individuals and recipients of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants beneficiaries temporary protection from deportation without a pathway to citizenship. Though she would allow immigrants five years to raise the sum, she rejects enacting a no-fee amnesty similar to the Reagan-era program her parents benefitted from.
“That’s where I’m going to have a difficult time with my party,” Pichardo said. “I have to make it clear to [Republicans] that we will charge [undocumented immigrants] a fee [before] letting them apply for amnesty.”
Pichardo also expects GOP pushback against her advocacy for renewable energy. She acknowledges that the Republican-controlled General Assembly allowed tax credits for renewables to expire in 2015. Even though Wall Street supports investment in renewables, Pichardo said, older Republicans oppose them because they wish to avoid market competition with the oil and gas industries.
“If they close out opportunities to provide more clean energy, they’re not really Republicans because Republicans believe in a free market,” she said.
On other issues, Pichardo hews closer to the party line. She supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying the burden of reducing healthcare costs should be shifted to the medical industry by requiring it to streamline operations. Consumers, particularly younger patients, should only be required to pay a percentage of doctor and hospital fees instead of skyrocketing deductibles, she added.
“Younger members of the population shouldn’t have to pay that much, because they don’t get sick as often,” she said.
Pichardo sticks closest to GOP orthodoxy on the economy and social issues. She credits Trump’s tax cuts for stimulating the economy, despite a May 2019 Congressional Research Service report that indicates the rich benefited more than others from the cuts.
Pichardo also maintains that most Latinos vote Republican because they are pro-life—which contradicts a September 2019 Equis Research study that found a growing dislike of President Trump among this demographic.
The growing visibility and influence of white supremacists among Republicans also does not concern Pichardo. The anti-Latino rhetoric that inspired her to run will not be a feature in her party’s future, she said.
“It’s not really about race,” Pichardo said. “It’s about older mindsets.”
When asked if younger candidates like herself convince older party members to come around, her reply was emphatic.
“Yes,” Pichardo said. “Of course.”
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