Your Vote Counts: District 17 candidate Elianor Vessali

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BRYAN, Tex (KBTX)- Elianor Vessali is one of 11 Republicans running to replace Representative Bill Flores as District 17’s Congressional Representative.

Vessali a graduate from Texas A&M University. Later she enrolled in law school. After a few years in law, she earned her teaching certificate and taught high school chemistry. After eight years of teaching, she joined her family's real estate business.

In 2018, Vessali was elected to College Station City Council.

Vessali participated in the Congressional Candidate Forum hosted by KBTX and KWTX on Jan. 25 held at Texas A&M University’s Rudder Theatre.

On the Issues:

Immigration: Vessali wants to increase border security, build the wall and deport criminal aliens. She also wants to reform legal immigration towards a merit-based system.

"We need to build the wall and we need the use of technology as well," said Vessali at the Candidate Forum on Jan. 25. "Once that border is secure, we need to deal with reforming our legal immigration. We need to move to a merit-based system."

Healthcare: Vessali believes that for the healthcare industry to work, Obamacare must be repealed and it must become a competitive market.

"We need to repeal Obamacare and we need to provide private market-place solutions. Healthcare needs to be separated from the employer," said Vessali. "You need to be able to travel with your healthcare wherever your employment should be and not be locked into a job because of your healthcare."

Gun Control: Vessali supports the Second Amendment and will support the right for Americans to bear arms.

KBTX has reached out with additional questions from viewers. Vessali’s answers are below.

Q: The unemployment rate in the United States sits at its lowest in a half-decade. Increasingly, employers are struggling to find quality candidates to fill skilled roles, especially trade workers. At the same time, the U.S. just ended its second-slowest decade for wage growth since the Great Depression. Compensation for hourly wage workers has remained flat since the seventies. What responsibility does the federal government have to make sure our jobs bubble doesn’t burst, and is it time for a hike in the federal minimum wage?

A: The government’s role in "assisting" in job and economic growth should be to restrict and limit its role and refrain from creating a regulatory environment that burdens or stifles job creation and the economy. A hike in the federal minimum wage would only provide limited gains with significant job losses. In areas that have adopted a $15 minimum wage, we already see the expedited replacement of low-income workers with automation and those with less education or experience disproportionately harmed as they are the first to be let go. As a conservative, I believe in economic freedom and the free market and do not believe that it is the government's role to bail out businesses. Government should engage in negotiations that move us towards free and fair trade, thereby leading to greater opportunities for economic freedom and prosperity.

Q: Governor Abbot recently declined new refugee resettlement for the state of Texas. Do you agree? What specific steps would you propose that the US government could do to help refugees? –JL to KWTX

A: I support President Trump's executive order regarding refugee resettlement which gives State and Local governments discretion as they are best positioned to determine whether they have the resources and capacities to dedicate to sustainable resettlement. Gov. Abbott has determined that Texas has not only received more refugees than any other state but is also disproportionately affected by the failure of the federal government to secure the border or to reform failed immigration policies. I support Gov. Abbott's right to come to this decision as Governor. Additionally, his decision does not deny refugees access to any other states, nor does it preclude refugees from later coming to Texas after first settling in another state.

Q: What is your position on immigrants already in the country who entered illegally? Should they be deported, given a pathway to citizenship, or something in between?

A: Amnesty is not the answer. We need to continue to identify and deport those with criminal records. Sanctuary city and state practices should be discouraged and cities and states must cooperate with immigration enforcement in order to provide speedy process and deportation. By creating an environment of strict compliance with our laws, this serves to not only reduce current unlawful presence but will also discourage future illegal immigration. Only after substantial and sustained reductions in illegal immigration might Congress consider any relief that allows the cancellation of deportation. This relief, however, should not include a pathway to citizenship.

Q: What is the US’s role in maintaining or creating peace in the Middle East? -Daniel Vines to KBTX

A: The U.S. should continue to support Israel, the only democracy in the region and a vital ally. We should also continue our efforts in combating the terrorist efforts of regional proxy forces. In submitting a plan for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the administration has made it clear to our friends and allies in the region that we are serious in continuing to engage in the region and be part of the solution.

Q: Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow and fueled largely by consumer spending. How will you work to grow and diversify our economy while in Congress?

A: We need to continue to enact significant regulatory reform and free the marketplace of burdensome regulations. The federal government should also take the lead in supporting negotiations for both free and fair trade.

Q: How do you feel about Texas Central’s proposed high-speed rail project and the potential use of the eminent domain to acquire land necessary for construction? -Paula Williams to KBTX

A: Texas Central Railway has stated that it is a privately funded project and that it will acquire land through private commercial sales. Therefore, it is my understanding that they will not need taxpayer funding and should not receive it. As a privately funded project, the company must acquire any needed land by negotiating with property owners but should not be allowed to use the powers of eminent domain.

Q: As US Representative, you will be called to serve on committees. Please name one of your committee preferences and explain what in your past experience would help you serve. –JL to KWTX

A: I think my unique background affords me the ability to be a true conservative voice who understands much of the rest of the world and thus I’d like to join the foreign affairs committee.

Q: Name one thing you respect about another candidate onstage.

A: I appreciate David Saucedo's record of service to the community. I believe service to the community is an important requirement for holding political office as the position should truly be about serving and representing constituents.

Q: What’s one word you use to describe yourself?

A: Conservative

Q: Do you support the legalization of marijuana at the federal level? -Diektrich Morgan to KBTX

A: I believe questions regarding marijuana legalization should be left to the states to decide.

For more information on Vessali's campaign visit the Related Links section on this story.