Jaime Vasquez said he jumped into the race for Congress to help create jobs and to help solve the country's economic slump.
Vasquez, 60, who calls himself a Reagan Republican, said he would try to funnel federal job-training grants to local businesses that are hurting for skilled labor.
As a small-business owner, "I strive to keep people working," he said
Vasquez will face conservative activist Gabriela Saucedo Mercer in the primary election for the new Congressional District 3, which includes portions of Pima, Pinal, Yuma, Santa Cruz and Maricopa counties.
Democrats in the race are incumbent Raúl Grijalva and challengers David Crowe, an engineer and businessman, and Manny Arreguin, a physician.
But Vasquez said he doesn't think of himself as running "against" anyone, adding that he is proud of his opponent for deciding to run for Congress.
"I know who I am; I know what I'm about. … I don't see people as Democrats or Republicans," he said. "We're all Americans, and we need to get together now. We have to think as one so we can pull out of this economic nightmare that we're in."
Vasquez previously ran for state Senate in 1992 in District 6, losing to John Huppenthal.
He was a Democrat then, but he switched parties about eight years ago, he said. Before that he had considered himself to be a very conservative Democrat, he said, but others said his views aligned more with the Republican Party.
While introducing himself to constituents in Tucson, he is finding support from many longtime Democrats who have registered as independents, he said.
Border security is high on Vasquez's list of things to get done in Congress.
He lives in Three Points, where it's a common event to see Border Patrol agents chasing people through the desert, he said.
"It's in my front yard," he said. "When people say, 'We have border security under control,' I say: 'Come and sit with me at my house. I'll show you. We have to secure the border.' "
Vasquez said he fears terrorists could be crossing the Arizona-Sonora border and said the government should deploy the military, better technology and more Border Patrol "boots on the ground."
He said the U.S. should not spend money on fences that would "put us deeper in debt."
Senior issues are also of concern to Vasquez. He said Congress should save Social Security and Medicare by restructuring it for people under 55 years old.
He would also vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he said.
"The current administration, they're really not looking out for us, for our future," he said. "With Obamacare, we're slowly finding out that whole system is not going to be good for anybody."
Vasquez was born in El Paso and grew up in south Phoenix. He enlisted in the Marines at age 17 and is a veteran of the Vietnam War.
He worked at the Salt River Project for 16 years, first as an apprentice and then working his way up. At the same time, he took pre-law classes at Arizona State University but decided that's not what he wanted to do.
He moved to the Tucson area nearly 20 years ago. He owns Artisan Ironworks, which is a welding company, and he is a general contractor.
He has two adult children and two grandchildren.
On StarNet: Read more of the Star's election coverage at azstarnet.com/election
• Office: U.S. House of Representatives, District 3
• Name: Jaime Vasquez
• Party: Republican
• Age: 60
• Employer and position: journeyman metal fabricator and owner of Artisan Ironworks
• Education: apprenticeship and some community college and university classes
• Political experience: ran against John Huppenthal for state Senate in 1992
• Top priorities: create jobs, fund job training, secure the border using technology, repeal Obamacare, restructure Social Security
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.