|McALLEN, August 29 - Any number of political analysts in Austin will tell you that the Hidalgo County legislative delegation had a great session this year.
The session was capped with passage of the Rio Grande Valley’s top agenda item, legislation to create a new UT university for the region and have a four-year medical school rooted in Hidalgo County.
So why is Hidalgo County Democratic Women honoring four of the legislative delegation at a gala tonight and pointedly not honoring the other three? The answer is four of the delegation voted against a high profile bill that could to lead to the closure of a number of women’s health clinics across Texas, some of which provide abortion services, and three voted against.
The four lawmakers being honored as “Legislative Heroes” at Poncho’s Restaurant in north McAllen at 6 this evening are state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and state Reps. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya.
The three members of the Hidalgo County delegation to miss out on a “Legislative Heroes” award are state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and state Reps. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, and Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission.
The Guardian interviewed Hidalgo County Democratic Women President Leslie Gower about the rationale for only honoring some members of the legislative delegation.
“We are honoring Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Representatives Terry Canales, Oscar Longoria and Bobby Guerra because they fought so hard for us in our ‘Stand with Texas Women’ battle. You will recall thousands and thousands of women went to the Capitol during the first special session to fight against the bill that sought to close our clinics and they succeeded with the Wendy Davis filibuster and the People’s filibuster. These four voted against the bill,” Gower said.
Wendy Davis is a Democratic state senator from Fort Worth. Many in the Stand with Texas Women movement hope Davis runs for Governor.
“The House members helped with the delay tactics. They did all they could in order to delay the bill long enough to give Wendy the chance to kill it,” Gower recalled. “The other people (Lucio, Martinez and Muñoz) voted for the bill. We are honoring the four candidates that stood with Texas women and fought hard with us in this battle we had this session.”
The Rio Grande Valley is heavily Catholic and the Diocese of Brownsville came out strongly in favor of anti-abortion legislation. Asked if Hidalgo County Democratic Women was representative of women in Hidalgo County, Gower said: “Seventy percent of all Catholics support birth control. It is a misconception on where the Valley stands on this issue.”
Gower elaborated on her answer. “Choice is part of the Democratic platform. There is so much misunderstanding about choice and abortion. Roe v. Wade only allowed it to happen as an unconditional right for the first 12 weeks. Anything else after that is between you and your doctor. There are a lot of misconceptions that you can do partial births and that you can do it at six months, you can’t. That is not what Roe vs. Wade did. All we are saying is that it is an individual choice between a woman and her family, a woman and her doctor and that is what we were fighting for, to maintain that right. There were many other things in there about access to clinics; they just loaded that bill with everything. Whether you were Pro Life or Pro Choice, people voted against it.”
The entire Valley legislative delegation is Democrat. The delegation probably voted lock step on 80 or 90 percent of the issues. There was only disagreement a few times, such as the abortion legislation. Gower was asked if it was not unbalanced to give “Legislative Heroes” award to some Hidalgo County lawmakers and not others when their votes were much the same on so many issues.
“For Texas women, this vote on women’s health was the biggest thing in our whole history. Women have never been activated like they were on this issue. Every hour another 400 or 500 were arriving at the Capitol to fight the bill. It was spontaneous. It was like an eruption that went on all over the state. So, for women, this was like our Call to Action,” Gower responded.
“It was our Big Ask of our guys. It was our one Big Ask. Four of our guys responded and the other three would not do it for us. For us this was the fundamental issue. It is almost like a threshold to a lot of Democratic women; your position on Choice. Just like gay rights, what used to be perimeter issues, they are now basic human rights. They are basic human freedoms. This is one time that thousands of people woke up and went to Austin. We were up until 4 in the morning, day after day after day doing everything we could.”
Asked whether the Stand with Texas Women group could keep its momentum going into the next election cycle and change the political complexion of Texas, Gower said: “This is why we are honoring these guys and keeping the Stand with Texas Women concept going. We hope Wendy (Davis) files for governor. We are coming into the Year of the Woman. We lost (state Rep.) Veronica (Gonzales) because of redistricting. We only had one woman from the Valley. I hope we come out of this campaign with another woman as a state representative from the Valley. I hope we have a woman governor and in two years I hope we have a woman president. This is part of the activation of women. What we had happen is an amazing awakening. We did not call and ask. Women just flooded Austin out of passion. We said, we, asking this of you. Four of our guys listened and three did not.”