MCALLEN, Texas – Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz says the reason she will not debate Democrat Michelle Vallejo is because she has already “shared a stage” with her earlier in the campaign.

However, the stage they shared was not a forum for the two candidates for Congressional District 15. It was a plush dinner event that featured more than a dozen candidates. And, it was not held during the current general election season. It was held back in January, just as the primary season was getting underway.

The Rio Grande Guardian sent a text to De La Cruz asking why she will not participate in candidate forums being organized by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the Pharr Chamber of Commerce, and community group Futuro RGV.

Via a campaign advisor De La Cruz responded: “My opponent and I already shared a stage earlier this year where she laid out her radical agenda and I explained that my vision for our country is rooted in the values of South Texas.”

The event De La Cruz is talking about was a dinner put on by the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas (HWNT). A photo from the event is featured above. The event was titled “Women in Politics Dinner Forum” and held Jan. 18 at the Double Tree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen. 

“It was not a candidate form. We called it a dinner forum,” explained Della Fay Perez, one of the organizers of the event. “I want to say we had, gosh, around 20 candidates, 20 ladies on the stage. It was a big number.”

Perez said the questions were posed by Cynthia Sakulenzki, CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “From memory, each candidate got about three or four questions. It was not a whole lot,” Perez recalled. 

Vallejo has said “yes” to all three CD 15 candidate forums. De La Cruz has not said why she will not participate. When asked she pivots to an attack on her opponent.

“I understand why she (Vallejo) wants to redefine herself, but my beliefs have not changed. There will be plenty of opportunities for the voters to hear about our very different ideas for the country. I look forward to continuing to share my plans for lowering food prices, strengthening our economy, and securing the border over the coming weeks,” De La Cruz said.

Chambers still reaching out

The date set by the McAllen Chamber for its CD 15 forum has been and gone. It was slated for Oct. 6 at the Radisson McAllen Airport Hotel. The chamber had to cancel its reservation when it did not hear back from De La Cruz. 

“The Chamber has not given up hope to have this forum.  As soon as I can schedule both candidates to attend, our hope is to have this forum before November 8, Election Day,” said Gerry Garcia, director of public policy and governmental affairs for the McAllen Chamber.

The Pharr Chamber of Commerce forum is slated to take place Oct. 27 at the Pepe Salinas Memorial Civic Center. However, Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez acknowledged the forum is in doubt.

“We have no news. We did reach out at the onset to the candidates. We’ve not been able to finalize the date, and we’re more than happy to put it on. We actually have been excited about it. But obviously it’s not our race and it’s obviously not our within our parameters to make them show up or participate,” Hernandez said.

The CD 15 candidate forum planned by Futuro RGV was due to be held Sept. 17 at the McAllen Convention Center. “We had to cancel. We could not reach Monica,” said Nedra Kinerk, president of Futuro RGV.

The Futuro forum was due to be staged in partnership with the League of Women Voters and the McAllen Citizens League. Elva Cerda, secretary and 1st vice president of the McAllen Citizens League, said her group is disappointed the CD 15 forum did not take place.

“The Citizens League has been putting on candidate forums for a very long time, ever since that the organization started in 1959,” Cerda said. “We normally pick the most critical races to cover. Certainly we were disappointed the forum for District 15 did not take place.”

Cerda said De La Cruz and Vallejo would have been treated in a respectful manner, had the forum taken place.

“Everything is done in a very objective manner. A manner in which our members can gain information on the candidates, on their issues, and then through a Q&A,” Cerda said.

“I wouldn’t say what we do is intimate but I think it’s a comfortable venue offering. Again, because of the longevity of the McAllen Citizens League, we have a very good reputation.”

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