Gabriela Saucedo Mercer jumped into the Congressional District 7 race Wednesday, to a chorus of "amens" and a chant of "Gabby, Gabby" from about 80 enthusiastic supporters at a downtown hotel.

Mercer said she is seeking the Republican nomination because America is no longer the country she immigrated to when she left Mexico in 1986, before obtaining her citizenship in 1991.

Delivering part of her speech in Spanish, Mercer said politicians are taking the country in the wrong direction and ignoring the Constitution, criticizing U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva for his vote in support of the federal health- care overhaul and calling him "a reckless cheerleader for irresponsible deficit spending."

Mercer, a mother of three adult children, said she will focus on jobs, will protect defense funding and cut back on spending. "I want the United States of America to be No. 1 again - and I don't want to hear politicians apologizing for it," she said, to a standing ovation.

After the event opened with an invocation, Henry Vega, emcee of the event and a former administrator at Tucson Unified School District, compared her to "David going after Goliath."

One attendee, Claire Morgan, 60, met Mercer in a Constitution class and said she supports her in part because Mercer is a "staunch" constitutionalist and isn't a career politician. "The founders wanted just regular Joe Blows to go to Congress, not someone who's going to be a fixture," she said.

Mercer gained some notice after the passage of SB 1070 when she told the City Council she was ashamed of it for trying to overturn the law, and ashamed of Grijalva for his call for a boycott to pressure state leaders. She volunteered last year for Grijalva's Republican opponent, Ruth McClung, as well as for Congressional District 8 candidate Jesse Kelly.

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at or 573-4243.