|PHARR, September 11 - Asked why she is running for Texas House District 36, Maria Regalado’s answer is simple: “Because I am a woman.”
Regalado is vice chair of Hidalgo County Democratic Women. She lives in Pharr and is co-owner of Four Aces Bail Bonds in Edinburg with her husband Fred. They have three children, Jessica, Rosa Alicia, and Alfredo, otherwise known as Freddie III.
“I am running for state representative because I am a woman,” Regalado told the Guardian. “Generally speaking, women have a lot of compassion. I am not saying men do not have compassion but as women, we are multi-taskers. We love men. My father was a man, my husband is a man and I love him because he gave me three children. My son, I love him to no end. I do not want to speak ill about any man but it is time for us women.”
Regalado says the ideal would be for the Texas House of Representatives to be comprised of 50 percent men and 50 percent women. The same for Congress. “If we join together, we can be the greatest nation. We can be the greatest county in the state of Texas.”
The primary election is next March. Asked what her issues will be in the campaign, Regalado put education and healthcare at the top of the list. She also said more needs to be done in the hundreds of Rio Grande Valley colonias. She said many have no street lights and poor drainage.
“This election is not about me, it is about the people of District 36. The Legislature cut education by over $5 billion and only restored $3.2 billion. But, we have had an increase of two percent of children. Our pre-kinder education has been left unfunded. Pre-kinder is so important. It sets children up for elementary and middle and high school and then university,” Regalado said.
With regard to healthcare, Regalado said District 36 and the entire Valley is in desperate need of Medicaid Expansion.
“There is an unprecedented opportunity right now to bring access to healthcare to everybody in this community. Medicaid Expansion was denied us by Rick Perry and the Republican-controlled Legislature. I know the Republicans are in charge but you do not deserve to be called a Democrat when you stand there with Rick Perry. You just do not just stand there and do nothing. We need someone who is going to fight Rick Perry, to stand for the issues we believe in. People who know me know I am a fighter. I do not take no for an answer or that it can’t be done. I listen and then I take action to help our people.”
Regalado was born in Linares, Nuevo León, Mexico. She moved to the Valley with her U.S- citizen mother, Juanita Sauceda, when she was 11 months old. Her parents were migrant farmworkers and they picked grapes with Cesar Chavez in California. “We picked everything, tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, but grapes were the biggest thing. Every December my Dad would take us to Mexico to visit his Mom and then we would take off for California in January to work,” Regalado recalled.
Regalado went to school mostly in California but graduated from McAllen High School. She got her Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from what was then Pan American University and her Master’s in public administration from UT-Pan American. She and her husband started Four Aces Bail Bonds 27 years ago.
District 36 is currently represented by state Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. The district comprises all of Granjeno, Hidalgo, and Palmview, 25 percent of McAllen, 76 percent of Pharr, and 70 percent of Mission. Its voting age population is 90.8 percent Hispanic. According to the American Community Survey, in 2011 the per capita income in District 36 was $13,080. The same survey found that 57,829 people in the district lived in poverty and 38,901 did not speak English well or at all.
Regalado said she did not want to speak negatively of Rep. Muñoz. She said she just feels she can do a better job representing the district. “Sergio is a good attorney. He is very handsome. He is a good, young man. I just feel I can do a better job for the district and the Rio Grande Valley. I can represent all the people of the district,” she said.
Muñoz, an attorney, has held office for two terms. When he won an open seat in 2010, Muñoz defeated educator Sandra Rodriguez, securing 58.12 percent of the vote to Rodriguez’s 41.87 percent. Only 12,165 people voted. Regalado feels this low voter turnout gives her an opportunity for victory. “I think I can get more people voting. There are a lot of registered voters in District 36 that do not vote. I will appeal for their votes,” she said.
The 2010 race saw Muñoz spend around $600,000 and Rodriguez spend around $400,000. It was a bruising race, with a lot of negative TV ads. Regalado said she is hopeful this year’s race is not as bitter or expensive. “I am not going to spend that sort of money. Mine is a grassroots campaign. I am going to go block-walking, asking for the support of the voters. People know I have been there for the families of this district and that I have helped with their problems. They know I can do even greater good for all the families if I elected to Austin,” she said.
Regalado is hopeful that a lifetime of giving back to the community will be remembered come election time. With their work in the bail bonds industry, the Regalados are often asked to help families in need. Politiqueras often ask Maria Regalado if she can help a family that has fallen on hard times.
“At Christmas, we never get any gifts at the house. Fred is always saying let’s give them to the families in need. We are always wrapping gifts for other people. I am proud of my son, in that regard. He started at five or six years old, at Our Lady of Sorrows. They taught him how to be a good citizen, to be a good provider to the community. They taught him very well. I am very grateful. It is important they learn about God and that our children give back to the community. They have been taught to be great citizens,” Regalado said.
Regalado recounted a recent example of giving in Las Milpas. “Sometimes it will be big packs of barbacoa. This is expensive for many families. It costs $9 a pound. I gave this to some of the families in Las Milpas, and the families had a good meal. Someone brings cilantro, someone brings onions and you have tacos for breakfast. It unites the families,” Regalado said.
“People think of me as a friend, not a politician. I just think I am a normal human being. I go to the colonias in my tennies, I work with the people. I take sweetbread, cokes, water. I just help. It keeps me humble.”
Regalado said people across Hidalgo County know she will help. “I have guided many families. Sometimes the family is mad because the police have arrested their child. I tell them no, don’t be mad, it is good that he got arrested because how about, a block down, he was going to lose his life, crash with a DWI and die? It is a million times better to go to jail. Why, because he was breaking the law. We have to abide by our laws. That is what makes this country great,” she said.
Fred Regalado suffered a brain tumor 15 years ago. He gave power of attorney to his wife so that she can run their bail bonds company. Maria Regalado said her husband has given his blessing to her campaign and that her son Jesse and daughter Alicia will help run the family business when she is doing legislative work. The Legislature meets for five months in Austin every two years.
“My husband’s illness has taken a toll of us as a family emotionally, financially. Many families are going through the same thing we went through. You work so hard for certain assets, for your children’s college fund and all of a sudden you wake up one day and there is no more college fund, there are no more assets for your retirement,” Regalado said.
“I love my husband, he is the provider. I will never stop loving him. But there are people in our community in a worse position that us. They go without healthcare. This is the most important thing. This is why Medicaid Expansion is so important. My husband said we come into this world to make a difference. He told me, if this is the difference for you, to run for the statehouse and help the whole community, then you do it, you have my blessing.”