The gathering was sponsored by the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy and the Tracy Young Dems at the Holiday Inn Express conference room at 3751 N. Tracy Blvd.
Candidates for the 10th Congressional District and state-level 13th Assembly District were present.
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, a candidate for the 5th State Senate seat, could not attend due to a family emergency.
Each candidate was given four minutes to introduce themselves and speak about why they are running for office. A question-and-answer session was held with the more than 20 audience members after the individual time.
Susan T. Eggman, 13th Assembly District (Tracy, Stockton, Mountain House)
The Stockton city councilwoman said she became interested in running for political office following the second presidential election of George W. Bush in 2004. Eggman said her background as a social worker compelled her to seek her first office — ambitions that have grown to include a seat in state government.
In addition to being on the Stockton council, she is also serving her third year on the Delta Protection Commission.
“I will run an aggressive grassroots campaign and really get out and meet the people,” she said.
She wants to aggressively target three areas of growth in the district: health care, agro-tourism and steps toward a greener economy.
Eggman said she supports agriculture in the region by continuing to fight to keep water from being exported to Southern California. She also stressed making economic development a priority.
“We have a huge problem with economic disparity in this community,” she said. “Our young people need to have hope for the future, they need to have something to look forward to.”
Eggman served in the U.S. Army and is currently a faculty member at Sacramento State University. She has a Ph.D. in social work and social research.
Xochitl Paderes, 13th Assembly District (Tracy, Stockton, Mountain House)
The former U.S. Marine and third-generation Tracy resident said she is running for office because her family has extensive history in San Joaquin County. If elected, she hopes to restore the hometown feeling that she said used to define the cities of Tracy and Stockton.
“Within the last year, I was shot at on my way home, my house was hit by a hit and run, my house has been broken into,” said the Stockton resident. “I remember growing up in Tracy — it felt like there was a parade every weekend.
“Tracy was a family unit, it was a hometown feeling. But some of that has been lost because Sacramento has forgotten about us.”
Paderes said job creation and attracting businesses to Tracy are both problems that she wants to address, if elected.
“I’m proud of what Tracy has done through the economic crisis that has come here over the last four years,” she said. “It’s amazing that a city like Tracy can have such recognition in the League of Cities. We need to keep that going.”
Paderes is a graduate of the Tracy Unified School District and is involved with the San Joaquin Juvenile Justice League, city of Stockton cultural heritage board, various veterans’ charities and is vice commander for an American Legion post in Stockton.
Mike Barkley, 10th Congressional District (Tracy south of Interstate 205, Stanislaus County)
Since August, Barkley said he has knocked on more than 10,000 doors within the newly created district — an activity he was doing prior to coming to the forum. He believes in the importance of identifying issues and creating solutions.
“I listen to people, I learn their problems and I accumulate suggestions for legislative solutions,” he said.
Barkley is lawyer and inactive CPA who can “read and write” legislation, budgets and tax codes and is not running for office “to gain notoriety.”
“I hate unfairness and the way our country functions,” he said. “I am uniquely skilled at legislation, budgets, data, information, and empathy to be your congressman and look out for your interests.”
The Manteca resident is “appalled at the way we are shooting too many people,” and said he will work to limit the number of guns available and restrict how easily they can be purchased.
He has drafted legislation, including a Constitutional amendment, that would achieve such ideas, he said.
“Congress is the only place anything can be done, so I am running for Congress,” he said. “I have no illusions how hard this will be. Somebody needs to start this, and I hope to be the one.”
Jose Hernandez, 10th Congressional District (majority of Tracy, Stanislaus County)
The French Camp native and veteran NASA astronaut, who has flown aboard the space shuttle Discovery, has returned home for his first political campaign at any level. Hernandez, a first-generation Mexican-American, said he is running on a platform of education and a strong family structure at home.
“I went and flew in space and came back and got a hero’s welcome in my community that I’m very thankful for,” he said. “But what I saw scared me. Education starts at home, and what I saw was the parents were losing their children. And I think we need to restore that faith.”
Hernandez, who has dubbed himself a “citizen candidate,” said his lack of political ties should make him an attractive option at the polls.
“I’m bringing something different,” he said. “Lawyers are trained to litigate, they are trained to argue. That’s why we don’t get anything done in Congress — we have a bunch of lawyers up there. I’m an engineer, and I’m trained to solve problems. I’m going to bring that mentality to the Congress in Washington, D.C., to solve problems.”
Hernandez was one of four Latinos to recently receive the Congressional Hispanic Caucasus Institute’s highest honor. He has also earned a master’s degree from University of California, Santa Barbara.