Gabriela Saucedo Mercer sometimes finds it hard to stop talking to voters when she goes door to door.

They want to talk - about jobs, the economy, education, local issues and more.

"You need to stop and listen to them, not just pay lip service," she said, sometimes staying until campaign volunteers come looking for her.

She does more than listen. She encourages people to call their elected officials, and she gets people's email addresses so she can send them links to bills or bits of legislation relevant to their interests.

Saucedo Mercer, a political newcomer, is hoping to build on the effort by Ruth McClung two years ago to oust Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Two years ago, Saucedo Mercer backed McClung, even translating her campaign materials into Spanish. She said she was determined to challenge Grijalva herself, if McClung didn't make it to Congress, which is exactly how events played out.

Her opponent in the Republican primary is Jaime Vasquez, a business owner, Marine Corps veteran and former boxer who lives in Three Points.

He is a small-budget candidate, running his campaign on $3,000 or so. "My bank account is full of faith," said Vasquez, who said he prayed about a possible run for Congress for two years before deciding to run.

But he has knocked on a lot of doors, too, listening to voters talk about the need for jobs, educational opportunities and a Social Security solution, he said in an interview last week.

"The main objective right now, first on our agenda, is to create good-quality, long-term jobs where someone can retire or raise a family," Vasquez said.

Both candidates agree jobs are the priority, but they would go about spurring job creation in different ways.

Saucedo Mercer said she would work on repealing unnecessary and excessive regulations.

Vasquez said he would support major infrastructure projects, including nuclear power plants and a desalination plant.

Saucedo Mercer has been directly involved in Republican and tea party politics in Pima County.

Besides McClung, she helped with the campaigns of Republican City Council candidate Ben Buehler-Garcia and congressional candidate Jesse Kelly.

She first started making a name for herself when a friend posted a video on YouTube of her talking to the City Council about SB1070.

"The federal government has failed the state of Arizona, and our local government has the right to enforce the laws and protect our state from foreign invasion," she said in the video. She also said the council and Grijalva should be ashamed of themselves for opposing the law.

One thing that sets Saucedo Mercer apart from McClung, who won 44 percent of the votes in 2010 but lost Pima and Santa Cruz counties, is she's a Spanish speaker.

"I went to Nogales, and I was received by Democrats really warmly, because I speak Spanish," she said. "In talking to some of these people, they told me, 'We knew about Ruth McClung, but we didn't know her.' "

Vasquez is rather independent from the party, having switched parties about eight years ago.

Vasquez said he is the best candidate to challenge Grijalva because of his business experience.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 573-4346.