|McALLEN, May 25 - If elected governor of Texas, state Senator Wendy Davis will work tirelessly to improve trading relations with Mexico, including investing in infrastructure at border ports of entry.
The Fort Worth Democrat outlined some of her top priorities in a wide ranging interview with the Guardian and Fox 2 KFXV following a pachanga at Archer Park in McAllen on Saturday. Davis said too many Republicans talk only about border security and not enough about border trade.
“It seems like many of the folks that are on the Republican ticket right now, when they talk about our border communities, they only talk about security and of course he rolled out a border security plan while he was in Dallas,” Davis said, referring to Greg Abbott, her Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race.
“Mr. Abbott did not even have the respect of being in the community while he talked about it. He referred to this area as Third World. The people I have met with and talked to, in the security world, the sheriffs, law enforcement officers, they know best what they need in their communities and I trust them to create a plan that serves.
“But, more importantly, I understand the symbiotic relationship between Mexico and our state and the importance of that relationship to our communities. We need to give more support to keep our ports of entry open and goods transferring back and forth more easily so we can continue that strong economic partnership that we have with Mexico and this is something I hope to achieve.”
According to reports, Texas-Mexico trade was worth $195 billion in 2012, approximately 39.4 percent of total U.S.-Mexico trade. Mexico is Texas' top trading partner. Davis serves on the Senate Economic Development Committee. When serving on Fort Worth City Council one of her top issues was economic development.
Asked what the other key issues are, Davis mentioned the Dream Act. “We have to fight to make sure we hold on to that. Of course, my opponent, Greg Abbott has called the Dream Act flawed.” Davis said the voters of the Valley want the same things as communities around Texas.
“They want a good education for their children, something I have been fighting for as a senator for a long time. Greg Abbott is in court against school districts like McAllen, trying to keep them from getting the funding they need. People also want to make sure they have access to college, sometimes for their children, sometimes for themselves. They are looking for better paying jobs and more opportunities,” Davis said.
“These are experiences I relate to very deeply and very personally because my life’s journey is very similar, coming from a place of true struggle and as a young single mom to one where I was able to make my dreams come true through education. I am committed to making that possible for every person in this state.”
The pachanga, which was co-hosted by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrats’ candidate for lieutenant governor, was designed to honor Rio Grande Valley veterans, given that this is Memorial Day Weekend.
Asked how she is being received by veterans across Texas, Davis said: “Veterans have been so wonderful of me and Senator Van de Putte. She and I have both worked for many years on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, making sure the veterans receive the respect, the care; the jobs they deserve when return from serving us.” Davis said one of the “unique” issues in the Valley is a lack of medical facilities for Valley veterans. She said that if elected governor that would change. “Our veterans have to go as far as San Antonio to receive the medic al attention they deserve. That is unfair. I want to work with this community to deliver medical services directly to the veterans who have done so much for us,” Davis said.
Placido Salazar, a leader with the American GI Forum in Texas, said if state leaders want to help Valley veterans they can instruct the new UT-Rio Grande Valley to reserve a wing in its new medical school for veterans.
“What better way to help the Valley economy that to designate a wing at the new school of medicine in Edinburg with an Emergency Room, 24/7, care for our veterans in the Valley? They could be seen by interns under the watchful eye of the VA and UTRGV doctors,” Salazar said.
However, a dedicated wing at the UTRGV Medical School should only be viewed as interim step, Salazar said. “We must continue to fight for a full-service, stand-alone VA hospital. Everybody keeps promising that, including Barack Obama. It is time to put up or shut up on this issue,” Salazar said.
Asked why Valley veterans cannot achieve their long-cherished goal of a veterans’ hospital, Salazar said the Valley’s voters are too apathetic. “I was told by a high ranking official; you know why the VA does not pay attention to your side of the tracks? Because you do not vote.” Our troops gave their lives and limbs to help give Iraq the chance to vote and their turnout is 70 percent. In the Valley we can only muster ten to 15 percent. It is not good enough,” Salazar said.
State Senator Eddie Lucio spoke at the pachanga. He told the Guardian that the Valley must turn out in much bigger numbers at the November general election if Davis and Van de Putte are to win office. The Valley is heavily Democrat.
“I have to be truthful. These elections are long shots for the Democrats. The only way the Democrats can win statewide is if we pick up 1.2 million Democratic votes in November. The primary figures say it all. We have 600,000 voters, the Republicans have 1.5 million. This is a ‘Red’ state. For us to turn it a little bit ‘Blue,’ it is going to take a massive effort. I will work with whoever gets elected. I just want whoever is elected to be a little bit more considerate, a little bit more inclusive than what we have in Austin right now” said Lucio.
Lucio emphasized his strong support for Davis and Van de Putte.
“I have known Senator Van de Putte for 23 years. She has supported everything we have ever needed here in the Valley. I have known Senator Davis for a little less time but I endorse her wholeheartedly. There may be one or two issues we disagree on but there are 99 others we agree on. This is not about party for me. I have proven that. I supported Ms. Strayhorn. I supported George W. Bush because Ann was always endorsing my opponents. She left me no choice. For me, it is about getting people in office that are inclusive. I know that will happen with my Democratic colleagues,” Lucio said.
Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia also attended the pachanga. Garcia was more upbeat about the Democrats’ chances than Sen. Lucio.
“The strategy as I understand it is to increase the turnout in the Valley. Hidalgo County is important because we have over 300,000 people registered to vote. We need to work on turnout. We say that every election but it is more important than ever because this time it is a very doable one. It is May and look at the turnout here. Just imagine what it will be like in October. We are going to get there,” said Garcia, a lifelong Democrat.
Like Davis and Van de Putte, 13th Court of Appeal Justice Gina Benavides is also on the Democrats’ statewide ballot in November. She is running for the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court.
“This is not a Red State this is a Non-Voting State. Texas ranks 46th to 48th in the nation in voter turnout. If you are able to get the people to come out and vote in November, we (Democrats) will have a chance. We have the potential to make this a ‘Blue’ state,” Benavides said.
Asked if having Davis and Van de Putte at the top ticket will help, Benavides said: “Of course, absolutely. They are proven candidates. They both have the qualifications, the talent; the credibility. They have a record they can stand on to show they can fight for the issues that are important to the people of the state of Texas.”
In her interview with the Guardian and Fox 2 News, Davis added: “The response I have been getting around the state has been tremendous. I have been greeted by cheers and hugs and joy. It means so much to me.”