Born to a father and mother, who were both jockeys, Eric Estevez grew up around the track at Salem’s Rockingham Park. So, if anyone could handicap the 2016 political races, it should be the 32-year-old first term state representative from Pelham.
But he’s not plunking money down on any of the presidential candidates.
“This is a horse race impossible to bet on,” he said. It’s an unpredictable year in politics.
He is betting on himself, though.
“I’m going to work very hard to be the best Congressman that New Hampshire has ever had,” he said.
Estevez filed on June 10 as a candidate for the District 2 seat held by Democrat Annie Kuster. He’s running because he’s concerned about deep divisions in the country as illustrated by a recent poll showing 50 percent of the voters dislike both presidential candidates.
“That really concerns me. I love this country,” he said. “I have a vision and can help unite the country.”
Estevez believes Americans must be united to “accomplish great things.”
He will have two opponents in September’s Republican primary when he will face the former New Hampshire House Speaker, Jack Flanagan, and Walter W. Kelly, of Lancaster.
“I’m confident I’ll win,” he said based on his success with Independent voters. But beating Kuster, in the general election, will be difficult, he conceded.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “I am the underdog.” He plans to “just outwork her and talk about issues with candor and truth.”
He anticipates the Hispanic vote may help him, too. Though a small demographic at just 3.3 percent of the state population, Latino numbers are steadily growing, particularly in District 2’s communities like Nashua and Salem.
“Statewide, we don’t figure, but in Salem and Nashua, it’s a growing demographic. In a close election it will be an asset,” he said.
Estevez since 2015 has belonged to the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.
“I already have connections in Congress and across the country,” he said. As a member of Congress, he can attract new business to the Granite State, he said.
New Hampshire and the entire New England region have lacked a voice in Washington since Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died in August 2009.
“It was the end of an era and the end of New Hampshire’s clout in Washington,” he said. “It may not be very smart, being in a Republican primary,” he allowed, mentioning Kennedy’s name, but despite the man’s many flaws, he was a great senator for Massachusetts and for all New England.
Asked what he’d do on his first day in office, Estevez said he’d put forward a jobs bill and a bill to help the veterans.
“On Day 1, I’m going to get to work, meet with staff and start drafting legislation,” he said. “ I wouldn’t need orientation. I already have important contacts.”
Jobs and veterans are his top priorities, but other legislation will follow to end the drug epidemic, support the Constitution and secure the borders – “not just with Mexico,” he added, but all the borders.
“The economy is a mess right now,” he said. Despite reports of recovery, “a lot of people are struggling right now.” Meanwhile, the young are fleeing New Hampshire, due to the lack of opportunity and high cost of living. Estevez wants to end the brain drain by bringing new business to the area.
As for the top of the ticket, Estevez will support Donald Trump.
“I have to respect the will of the people,” he said. “They chose Trump to be the nominee. Is he the perfect candidate? No. He has some issues. But the reality is, if it’s Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, I personally believe Donald Trump is the better of the two.”
Asked if Trump will help or hurt Republicans in the state elections, Estevez replied “I don’t know. That’s what will make this election so exciting. Some are very fearful” about the prospect of Trump in the White House, but “others see Donald Trump as an asset,” he said. “This is the first time in a very long time — maybe in history – that a majority of the American people are voting, not according to party. They’re voting the person and not the party. It might be a good thing.”