MCALLEN, RGV – Texas Governor Greg Abbott met with supporters at Lone Star Bar B-Q on Saturday morning in McAllen, while several groups were protesting his visit over Senate Bill 4.
After announcing his re-election campaign the day before in San Antonio, the Abbott campaign held a “Super-Saturday” block walk. Volunteers were expected to knock on over 10,00 doors across Texas, while the Governor made his first campaign stop in McAllen.
La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) along with several other organizations in the Valley united outside of the restaurant to protest the controversial SB 4, which takes effect September 1.
Gov. Abbott signed SB 4 in May, a bill that would require local law enforcement to comply with federal immigration authorities and allow police to ask for the immigration status of those they detain. The bill would also impose civil penalties on local officials, a Class A misdemeanor, if they do not cooperate with federal immigration law.
Daniel Diaz, a community organizer for LUPE and a counselor at La Joya ISD, said he was protesting Gov. Abbott over SB 4 and how it personally affects him as a counselor to undocumented students.
“I’m protesting him [Gov. Abbott] because as a counselor, I work with a lot of students that are undocumented and they’ve been asking me a lot of questions on SB 4 because they realize that university police have to, SB 4 it also requires university police to follow that law,” Diaz said.
“Right, so they feel concerned about that. So as a counselor dealing with those questions, you know sometimes you don’t know how to answer that and it really comes down to this hateful political rhetoric that we’re hearing from the Governor and that’s why I’m really concerned with what he’s doing. Instead of focusing on education reform and the economy, he’s focusing on these hot button issues that just divide people. So I’m here to let him know we should be focusing on other issues.”
The Democratic Chair for Precinct 34, Amanda Salas, was one of the organizers of the protest and said she was not only protesting SB 4, but also other controversial legislation like the Texas “bathroom bill” and others.
On SB 4, Salas said the bill would give law enforcement legal backing to discriminate against minorities, which she finds offensive.
“The fact that it gives an individual human who may come from any walk of life, whether its extremely conservative and racist or whether its not, it gives that specific individual law enforcement officer the right to judge somebody simply based on what they see and that for me is a very big problem,” Salas said. “Here in Texas we come from all different walks of life and it’s not my place or anybody else’s place to judge somebody especially on their citizenship. For me I find that extremely offensive.
“I’m a tax paying voter, I have been since I turned 18, active in my community, knowing there’s an individual law enforcement agent that can come and ask me about my citizenship and be backed by the law, it’s personally attacking, that’s personally offensive for me. But I also know that it affects all different minorities, it doesn’t necessarily just affect Hispanics. There’s minorities all over the state that are going to be affected by this bill and its just not right to allow a specific individual to have a broad way of discrimination and have the legal system back you up.”
Groups protesting his visit included La Unión del Pueblo Entero, South Texas for Reproductive Justice, League of United Latin American Citizens, People for Peace & Justice, Stonewall Democrats, and UTRGV student club Progressive Democrats, according to Salas.
Governor Abbott and his staff did not take questions from the media at Lone Star Bar B-Q event. The Texas State Militia and McAllen Police Department we’re outside of the restaurant observing the protest. Some protestors and members of the Texas State Militia were seen speaking casually, along with staff members from Gov. Abbott’s campaign.
Salas said she believes the organization of the protest and the turnout is a sign of a growing resistance in the Valley.
“There’s a large resistance growing in the Valley,” Salas said. “Every week we notice more and more people coming, and more and more organizations joining into the cause. It was starting out as something small and then we got the La Joya teachers union on board and once that happened it just snowballed. We had one teacher’s union, then we had three by the end of the day, and then another organization just saw that and decided to sign on. So it happened really fast. It happened really fast.”
Although Abbott did not take questions from reporters at the Lone Star Bar B-Q, he did make his pitch for re-election the day before in San Antonio. Here are some of his comments:
“Four years ago, today, I promised you a Texas that would create jobs and promote that kind of opportunity. I promised to cut taxes, to improve education, to build more roads, to take action to secure our border. And with your help, we delivered on those promises. And I also promised that my wife would be the first Hispanic First Lady in the history of Texas.
“Since you elected me governor, Texas continues to chart a path of prosperity. That path includes more kids getting a better education than ever before. Since I took office, more Texas students are graduating from high school and more are graduating from college. We now have the third highest high school graduation rate in America.
“Of the top 100 public high schools in America, more are located in Texas than any other state and we’ve doubled the number of tier one universities. And we’re just getting started. The minds that will power America’s future are being educated in Texas today.
“Some lawmakers want to raise your taxes. I’m running for governor to make sure that never happens. Many of you are being crushed by skyrocketing property taxes. Some seniors say they are being taxed out of their homes. I’m running for governor to cut your property taxes and to prevent government from raising them without your approval.
“We know that one way to reform property taxes is to overhaul our school finance system. And we need to end the Robin Hood program that is failing Texas schools.”
Abbott aims to win Valley
On his visit to McAllen, some media outlets reported Abbott hopes to win the Rio Grande Valley. He had a similar goal in 2014 but came up short. Here is the Rio Grande Guardian story, written by reporter Steve Taylor, from Nov. 5, 2014
Abbott fails to make gains he hoped for in heavily Hispanic RGV
November 5, 2014
McALLEN, RGV – Greg Abbott fell a long way short of his stated goal of winning majority support in the Rio Grande Valley.
Abbott was hoping to win Cameron County and come close to winning Hidalgo County. He did not come close.
In Cameron County, Abbott secured 42.02 percent support, compared to Wendy Davis’ 55.46 percent. In Hidalgo County, Abbott won 34.79 percent of the vote, while Davis picked up 62.7 percent.
Abbott made the Valley a top priority in his gubernatorial campaign. He announced he was running for governor in McAllen and made close to 20 visits to the Valley. He said many times that he wanted to make a serious dent in the Hispanic vote, which traditionally goes to Democratic candidates.
The day after participating in the first gubernatorial debate in the Valley, Abbott spoke to supporters in McAllen. He said he was “blazing a trail” for the Hispanic vote. He said if GOP supporters worked hard and got voters to the polls they would be making history. “They will be writing about this for years to come, the election when a Republican won the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott said.
After his remarks, Peggy Fikac, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle, asked Abbott if he was seriously suggesting he could win the heavily Democratic Valley.
“You have talked about wanting to get a bigger percentage of the Hispanic vote than George W. Bush did. This is the first time I have actually heard you say you thought you could win the Valley. Do you really believe that is realistic? How could you do that? That has never happened,” Fikac said.
Abbott responded with these comments: “It is unprecedented and here’s the strategy. When I was on the ballot last time, in 2010, I got 48 percent of the vote in Cameron County, which is one of the Valley counties. We are pushing for more than 50 percent of the vote in Cameron County. The organization and the support we have in Hidalgo County is also very, very, high. I think we have a legitimate shot at either winning the Rio Grande Valley in toto or coming very, very, close to do doing it.”
In his 2010 race for attorney general, Abbott secured 48.21 percent of the vote in Cameron County. Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky edged him with 48.78 percent. So, Abbott did better in Cameron County in 2010 than he did in this year’s general election.
Abbott did do better in the Valley than Rick Perry did running for governor in 2010. Perry picked up 40.82 percent in Cameron County that year while Democratic challenger Bill White won 57.3 percent of the vote. In Hidalgo County in 2010, Perry secured 31.75 percent of the vote to White’s 66.82 percent.
The best Republican effort in the Valley in modern times was in 1998. In Cameron County that year Gov. George W. Bush won 59.29 percent of the vote. Democrat Garry Mauro secured 40.10 percent. In Hidalgo County that year, Bush picked up 52.94 percent of the vote to Mauro’s 46.63 percent.