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This past weekend California Republicans gathered in Los Angeles for the state convention where Congressman Ron Paul won the straw poll garnering almost 45% of the more than 800 votes cast by convention delegate. The party also hosted its first-ever Latino town hall event.
IIABCal member Mario Guerra, Scanlon, Guerra, Burke Insurance Brokers, Woodland Hills, was there urging party leaders to make economic issues, not illegal immigration, a top issue for the coming elections.
“Fifty-five percent of the state’s small businesses are owned by Latinos,” said Guerra. “The California Republican party should be talking about the party of opportunity, about less government, lower taxes, not how high the fence should be."
Guerra, who currently serves on the city council in Downey, was featured in a story that aired on Monday, on KPCC radio, the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles. (Click here to listen to the story.)
“We have really missed the boat because the party insists on making illegal immigration the number one issue in the state,” said Guerra who stressed that he doesn’t support illegal immigration but favors in-state tuition for everyone.
“My comments were controversial, but well received,” said Guerra who noted that he is the state’s highest-ranking Latino Republican elected official. “Isn’t that sad?” he asked. “There are no Republican Latinos in the legislature at all.”
Guerra, who was elected to the city council of Downey in 2006 and served as Mayor from 2008-2009, was just re-elected last November. His moderate views on immigration grow out his experience as an immigrant. Guerra and his family emigrated from Cuba when he was six on one for the first Freedom Flights in the early 1960s. His father, a physician in Cuba, took a job sweeping floors in a hospital until he could pass U.S. licensing exams.
“Mine was a your typical immigrant story,” said Guerra. He learned to speak English when he started kindergarten. He attended UCLA and began his career in insurance as an underwriting trainee at Great American while he was still in college. In 1985 Guerra decided he wanted to enter the agency business.
“I’ve been involved in IIABCal when it was known as IIABC,” said Guerra, who recalled he was also an associate member when he worked on the company side. He served as chair of the Young Agents Committee and president of IBA San Fernando Valley. He also served as IMPACT chair for the state and meet agents and brokers from all over the country as he represented California at IIABA meetings. Guerra’s agency has been a member of IIABCal since its formation in 1995.
Guerra credits IIABCal for getting him interested in politics.
“Being part of the Young Agents Committee was extremely valuable because I formed so many friendships that are still great relationships today,” said Guerra who fondly recalls traveling to Sacramento for legislative days.
“I always knew it was important to get involved,” said Guerra. A member of the Catholic Clergy, he is one of only 320 deacons ordained by the church, Guerra began his civic career as chaplain to the Downey police department.
With seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, Guerra juggles his two full-time jobs because he loves being in public service and he loves insurance.
“I am so proud to be an insurance broker,” said Guerra. “This industry has given me the opportunity to meet so many people and I am delighted to be able to give back to my community.”