JEFFERSON — All four Congressional District 1 candidates in the March 1 Republican Party primary made their acquaintance in Marion County recently, disclosing what makes them the top candidate for the seat, currently held by outgoing Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler).
The candidates, Nathaniel Moran, Joe McDaniel, John Porro and Aditya “AD” Atholi, all made introductions at the meet-and-greet hosted by the Republican Party of Marion County.
“We’ve got some great other fellas that are running for this particular position, seem to be Conservative in their values, but I think we need to send somebody to Washington, D.C., that has been proven and tested, and I have,” said Moran, who is currently county judge for Smith County.
“If you know anything about Smith County politics, you know you can’t get by with being anything other than conservative in that realm,” said Moran, urging constituents to research his vita. “Look me up. I really want you to dig deep in the record, because you’re going to find a proven conservative.”
McDaniel, a Tyler businessman and Baylor University graduate, said he’s not a lawyer or a politician, but a proud East Texan, who is fed up with not being able to trust politicians.
“I’m a lot like each and every one of you in this room,” he told constituents. “I’ve created jobs. I started a business, 1991, out of the back of my car. It has grown into having presence in 13 states. I’m a job creator; I’m a problem solver. I’m an organizational guy. I work with Fortune 100 companies all over the United States.”
“What brought me to this place is I’m tired of the bait and switch,” said McDaniel.
Porro, who resides in Dallas and is director of advanced practice at Parkland Hospital, said he’s vying for the seat because he doesn’t like the direction the country is heading.
“Socialism is on the verge of taking over our country, and it is up to us to make sure that it doesn’t,” said Porro. “Every generation prior to us has managed to make sure that we handed off a free country to the next generation. It is imperative that we do not fail that responsibility; and we’re very close to doing that.”
“We need people who are willing to stand up,” said Porro. “I’m a hard working man, who was brought up as an adoptive child in a Christian, conservative household in New York. I managed to get down here, but I have East Texas values. I just wasn’t born in East Texas.”
Atholi, a 33-year-old native of Center, said he’s running because he has a simple plan of how to “get the country back.”
“What we’re seeing right now is absolutely disgusting,” Atholi said. “The road that these career politicians and the swamp has taken our society down. How can anyone not be absolutely frustrated?
“We all hear the problems. We know that the COVID mask mandates, CRT (Critical Race Theory), open borders, a health care system that does not work for the middle class, public schools that do not work for poor communities, the national debt, a victim mentality, a nation that does not believe in God.”
Atholi said the root cause of all of those issues is the size of the federal government.
“We all know this but what do we do about it? You never hear solutions,” he said. “That’s why I’m running is because I think there’s a specific, concrete and simple way to reduce the size of the federal government and return control back to the state and the counties and families and communities like our country was supposed to be run.”
Sharing more of his bio and platform, Moran, a former Tyler city council member, lawyer and county judge of five-and-a-half years, said he’s been a lifelong grassroots conservative worker. Having served as precinct chair and precinct, state and county delegate, Moran said he knows what it takes to get things accomplished at the grassroots level.
He said he’s glad to have the endorsement of Texas Right to life because pro-life is a position he stands firmly on. Moran also noted his endorsement from District 1 State Sen. Bryan Hughes.
“He’s endorsed me as well, and I know many of you share those same values,” said Moran.
Noting his other principles, Moran said he opposes the cultural Marxism agenda. Securing the borders is also a top priority for him, he said.
“When you can go down Christian, evangelical, conservative issues, you’re not going to find anybody stronger than me, and with a proven record,” said Moran.
Up next was McDaniel. Things heated up a bit as he spoke on his distrust of the government and confronted Moran for reportedly backing up Hughes’ Senate Bill 1, which he said reduces criminal penalties for voter fraud from a second degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor.
“The fact that (Gov. Greg) Abbot’s and Hughes’ SB1 reduced criminal penalties from voter fraud from a second degree felony, down to a Class A misdemeanor…. you should be mad as ‘Hades’ for signing such a bill into law,” McDaniel said as he addressed the crowd.
Asking how many of them learned last week that the penalty for voter fraud had dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor, he turned his attention to challenger, Moran.
“That guy, right there, you, advised and helped and told publicly that you helped Bryan Hughes write that bill. Did you not?” he asked Moran.
Moran responded, saying that the claims weren’t true.
“That’s not true. I don’t know where you’re getting that information,” Moran told McDaniel.
Attempting to keep the forum cordial, local party chair Scott Stebbins cautioned McDaniel that his time was up.
McDaniel took heed.
“OK. Now that’s the problem with our country. We can’t trust politicians,” McDaniel said before taking his seat. “And aren’t we glad we had one run for president that wasn’t. Thank you.”
Up next, Porro noted that he’s not beholden to anyone in the county and, thus, will fight for all.
“I will fight for every one of you, for every single one of you, from every single county, whether you’re from Hemphill, Texarkana or Tyler because every single person deserves equal representation,” he said. “Every county does. It’s the right thing to do.”
Porro said he’s also a proven conservative, fiscally, and will operate within the means of the budget he’s given.
“I need to work within my budget because those are taxpayer dollars and they don’t grow on trees,” he said. “And if I don’t use them right, people don’t get taken care of.”
Porro said he’s running for office because he not only loves this country, but because it’s necessary.
“We need to have people who are not smooth talking politicians, but have common sense and the proper values going to Washington,” said Porro. “I’m here to tell you, just like everyone else, we’re conservative, yes. We believe in pro-life. We believe in pro First Amendment, pro Second Amendment. We believe in border control, we believe in pro individual freedoms. That’s your minimum job requirement. What we also need are people who are going to fight, people who are going to look you in your eye and people who are going to be hard workers for you.”
He said hopefully constituents will be able to discern who is going to be the hardest fighter, the most conservative and the person that is going to bring East Texas values to Washington.
“I’m just an average guy. I have a heart for service and I have no one to answer to but God,” said Porro. “And obviously I’m an outsider. I wish I had a Texan accent, but that’s really the only thing that’s different, because I have East Texan values.”
“I have core, Christian conservative values, and I hope you all see my heart,” Porro continued. “Hopefully I’ve earned your vote.”
Aditya “AD” Atholi
The last to speak, Atholi noted he’s a high school valedictorian, Rice University graduate and former employee for Congressman Gohmert’s D.C. office.
“I loved working for him. I loved the staff I was working with. A lot of them are actually helping me now with this campaign, but I absolutely hated the culture in D.C.,” said Atholi. “I ended up moving back home. I kept doing the Marine Corps application, and I ended up rough-necking in the oil field.”
Atholi said he loved working in the oilfield, and worked his way up to being the youngest driller in the region and was in charge of managing and drilling oil and natural gas wells, at the age of 25. When the layoffs came, he joined the Marine Corps, serving as a Marine artillery officer in North Carolina.
As a candidate in the Congressional District 1 race, Atholi said he’s developed a specific, concrete and simple plan to return to local self government and conservative values.
“No one can fix a swamp. Not me. I don’t care how smart you think you are. I don’t care how nice you think you are; you’re not going to fix a swamp. No politician you re-elect can fix a swamp,” he said. “But what we do know for sure is that we can return to a time where we governed ourselves. For hundreds of years we were a country of local self-government, so if we did it before, we can do it again.”
Atholi said his plan has been approved by about 10 East Texas county judges, 10 East Texas county GOP chairs, as well as U.S. Congressmen and multiple U.S. congressional staffers.
“And our campaign promise is ridiculously simple: If a single person can tell us why this is not the best plan you have ever heard to return our country to conservative values, we will stop the campaign and return all unspent donations,” said Atholi.
“So far, no one has been able to,” he said, noting that as of Friday, his campaign had raised $92,000 in donations from “regular people.”
Atholi additionally noted what makes him stand out from his contenders.
“Out of the four candidates, I’m the only oil and gas candidate; I’m the only military candidate; and I’m the only candidate endorsed by the American First PAC,” he said.