|McALLEN, December 10 - Two big names entered the race for chair of Hidalgo County Democratic Party on the last day for filing for office, Juan Maldonado and Ric Godinez.
The seat is open because current party chair, Kelly Rivera Salazar is not seeking re-election.
Maldonado, a business owner from San Juan, is currently vice chair of the State Tejano Democrats caucus. He is a former Texas Democratic Party vice chair and has held the position of Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair before, from 2004 to 2008.
Godinez, an attorney from McAllen, is a former McAllen City Commissioner and McAllen mayoral candidate. There are three other candidates in the race: Hidalgo County Democratic Party Treasurer Kenna Giffin of McAllen, Edinburg CISD Board Member and former Texas House District 40 candidate Robert Peña, and Donna ISD Board Member Angel Magallanes.
“We are going to give it another run. Enough people called me to convince me I ought to run,” Maldonado told the Guardian. He gave his interview at Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s “Ballot Bash” event, which was held at the McAllen Convention Center on Monday evening.
“I realized the field is not that experienced and not that strong so I thought I would come in and help out a little bit. I have been a precinct chair and I have been helping with fundraisers and events. So, I have still been active,” Maldonado said. Asked what he would bring to the table, Maldonado said: “Experience, respect and transparency. I want to work with all the groups that make up the Democratic Party in Hidalgo County.”
Campaign strategist Selina Medrano said she is going to help Maldonado with his campaign. She said Maldonado has learned from his party chair election defeat to real estate developer Dolly Elizondo in 2008 that he has to work with Hidalgo County Democratic Women and other groups affiliated to the party. “I think you will see a different Juan this time. He knows he needs to reach out to others. We definitely need his experience at the state convention,” Medrano said. She predicted that Maldonado would mentor younger party activists who want to take leadership roles. “At some point we are going to have to pass the torch. We need to do this for the future. Juan is also going to get the grassroots going. He knows how to motivate,” Medrano said.
Godinez said he wants to make the Hidalgo County Democratic Party a “bigger tent” by reaching out to new members. He said he is probably different to other candidates in that he welcomes a strong two-party system in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I have always been involved in my community. It was time to serve again,” Godinez said, in an interview at the “Ballot Bash” event. “I would like to see our party come together like it has in the past. I believe in a two-party system. I do not have any problems with the Republican Party operating here because I want people to see their values against our values. They are going to choose our values every time.”
Godinez said his plan is to “expand on what others have done before and make it a bigger tent party for others to come in and to unify it. We have to do our bit to turn Texas ‘Blue’.”
Godinez was first elected to McAllen City Commission in 2001. He won re-election in 2003 but was narrowly unsuccessful when running for the open mayoral position in 2005. Since then, he said, he has been concentrating on family and business.
Asked if he is concerned that the Hidalgo County Democratic Party does not have a good track record of hosting town hall meetings or house meetings where members can help shape local party policy, Godinez said:
“That is a very candid way to look at it and it is right. For the longest time we had a strong party and we still do. But there is a certain amount of complacency that comes with that, particularly when you are not challenged. I do not believe we should have one party. I think we should have two parties. I encourage a strong Republican Party because I know that when we put our values up against theirs, we come out for the working people.
“We need to make sure we have the type of leadership that can explain what those values are. A lot of times, that gets drowned out. We need to be a big tent party that brings in all the factions. We need the best candidates running on the best issues, for our families, for the Valley and for Texas. I think I am the right person to that.”