When Willie Vaden first ran against Solomon Ortiz for the District 27 U.S. Representative seat in 2004, he was one of the few that believed the longtime Democrat could be unseated. But after three unsuccessful campaigns, Vaden feels the political climate is shifting, as evidenced by the recent "Tea Party" movement and the fact he now faces three opponents in the Republican Primary March 2.
"What's happened is people think there's 10 or 15 percent more voters, and they tend to be more conservative or independent, who are really (upset) with Solomon Ortiz," Vaden said. "To me, they're saying 'We're going to ride Willie's shirttail. He went out here and spent a fortune, getting people to say a Republican's not afraid to run.'"
What separates him from his three opponents, Vaden said, is his experience both in elected office and as a businessman.
Vaden was born in East Texas, but grew up in the Corpus Christi area. He joined the Marine Corps in 1965, and served until 1969, including a tour in Vietnam. He returned to the Coastal Bend in 1969 and began working for Texaco Inc. He continued to work in the oil industry until 1987, when he created his own cargo company. He sold that company in June 2007, although he continues to work as a consultant in the industry.
He is a former mayor of the City of Ingleside and a current city council member. He has been married to his wife, Donna, for 15 years and he has two children and two step-children.
Vaden said the key issues about which Nueces County Republicans are concerned are healthcare and "runaway spending" in Washington D.C.
"We're deeper in debt today than 100 percent of the gross national product of the United States," Vaden said. "Every time the president opens his mouth, I lose about 10 percent of my portfolio."
Vaden says he supports the implementation of a flat tax, and believes economic recovery will only happen once regulations that restrict business growth are lifted.
As for healthcare, Vaden said the bill proposed by the Democrats is not the solution.
He said he would change the focus from the patient to physicians. Incentive programs should be provided to allow medics who leave the military to obtain a license as a physician's assistant, and to fund residency costs for individuals seeking their medical degree. Those who benefited from the programs would be required to serve a set amount of time in clinics established in communities that lack medical services.
With the debate over healthcare in Washington currently at a standstill, Vaden said the solution is to bring in new ideas.
"None of us want to just kill the health bill. There's good parts of it and there's bad parts," Vaden said. "We want to start over and really design something that would take care of people."