PHARR, RGV – McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party President Jim Barnes will meet with state Rep. Jason Villalba after all.

Initially, Barnes said he would not visit with the Dallas Republican because of his positions on immigration reform, Obamacare and his support for Speaker Joe Straus. Villalba will give a speech at Rudy’s BBQ in Pharr this evening about the importance of the GOP reaching out to Hispanics.

Barnes told the Guardian on Tuesday evening that he will now meet Villalba, although he will not be able to attend the Rudy’s event. “I will meet with Representative Villalba privately. I am interested to hear what he has to say. I will then report back to our Tea Party members.”

Brittany Eck, a spokeswoman for Villalba, encouraged Rio Grande Valley residents to attend the event at Rudy’s so that they can learn more about the state representative.

“First, the Representative is not for amnesty – never has been, never will be. Second, he opposes Obamacare and once, before being sworn into office, at a forum he expressed his dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn Obamacare and he stated that during the 83rd Session the Texas Legislature would need to consider its options now that the law would be in effect,” Eck told the Guardian.

“Finally, he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, a lifetime member of the NRA, a co-author of HB 927 (campus carry) from last session, and author of HB 1009, the School Marshal bill, which similar to Superintendent Thweatt’s Guardian Plan, enables school districts to select an employee to carry a firearm and serve as the first law enforcement protection against an active shooter on campus.”

State Reps. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya, and Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, are pictured on the floor of the Texas House during the last regular session.
State Reps. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya, and Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, are pictured on the floor of the Texas House during the last regular session.

Eck said Barnes and Villalba are meeting to discuss such issues and that Villalba is looking forward to the opportunity to clarify any misperceptions about his issue positions.

“Representative Villalba has been very active in Tea Party politics in the North Texas area and has recently spoken to several groups including the North Texas Tea Party, Lake Highlands Tea Party, Dallas County Tea Party, and the Preston Hollow Tea Party. His message is about inclusiveness, bringing together those with conservative values and to attract new voters so that the conservative message spreads and we can maintain our majority in Texas and beyond.”

<I>Original story:</I>

<B>McAllen Tea Party lukewarm on visit by leading Hispanic Republican</B>

PHARR, April 8 – The McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party has declined an opportunity to co-sponsor a speech in Pharr by a leading Hispanic Republican in Texas.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is slated to speak about the Republican Party’s inclusiveness of Hispanics or lack thereof at Rudy’s BBQ in Pharr on Wednesday evening. It is part of a statewide tour by Villalba that has focused on urging GOP candidates to tone down any anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“We were asked to co-sponsor the visit of Representative Villalba and I declined,” said Jim Barnes, president of the McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party Association. “I have not had a chance to poll our members as to whether we should sponsor the event but if I had I am not sure I would have gotten a good response from them because I would have had to tell them Rep. Villalba is anti-Tea Party.”

Barnes said he was asked if the McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party would sponsor Villalba’s event at Rudy’s by Republican political consultant Aaron Peña, III.

Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Texas House. The others are J.M. Lozano of Kingsville and Larry Gonzales of Round Rock. Barnes said he does not see much for the Tea Party to get excited about in Villalba’s message.

“We understand Representative Villalba is pushing for amnesty for illegals. Tea Party members do not agree with that. I have also been told that he wants to spend $100 million of taxpayers’ money to set up an exchange for Obamacare. That goes against what most Texans feel about Obamacare. Also, I understand Representative Villalba is a big supporter of Speaker Joe Straus. Joe Straus has stood in the way of several bills that Tea Party members support, including several bills on open carry,” Barnes said.

“I believe Representative Villalba is simply not in agreement with the Tea Party values of small government and adherence to the Constitution, particularly the Second Amendment. So, I am not sure he is someone the Tea Party wants to have any business with. How can we involve ourselves with someone who says the Tea Party should not be part of the equation? I’m sorry, the Tea Party is part of the equation and we are not leaving.”

Asked if Villalba’s visit to the Rio Grande Valley highlights the split that national commentators are saying exists in the Republican Party, Barnes said: “To a certain extent, yes, but I do not think it is as bad in the Valley. There are some Republicans that do not particularly like the Tea Party but we are reaching out to them to reach common ground. The Republican Party is not going to do well down here as long as we have that schism.”

Barnes said he personally will not be able to be at the Villalba event because he has a prior engagement. However, he said he is pleased that Sergio Sanchez, the incoming chair of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, will have Villalba on KURV Radio’s Morning News show later this week.

“Sergio knows my concerns about the guy. The Representative’s visit is probably going to get in the way of any agreement between conservatives and Republicans here in the Valley. I agree with Sergio that we need to air these things out in the public,” Barnes added.

Pharr City Commissioner Jimmy Garza said Villalba called him last Friday to ask if he could the word out to conservative groups about his visit to the Valley. Garza said he was pleased to do so.

“I agree strongly with Representative Villalba on this issue of Hispanic outreach,” Garza told the Guardian. “We need to raise awareness in the Republican Party that the Party needs to be sensitive to Hispanic issues and be inclusive of Hispanics because, at the end of the day, we have a lot of the same conservative principles. Yet, it seems like some of the rhetoric we hear is sometimes geared to not being inclusive of Hispanics.”

Garza said he also wishes Barnes and McAllen/Hidalgo County Tea Party members would come and listen to what Villalba has to say.

“I would like both of them (Barnes and Villalba) to sit and the table and discuss their views. My whole approach to things is that if you are going to sit here and not let the Rep know your views how are you ever going to give him the input on what the Tea Party stands for? My goal is just to get them together and have them talk about what issues they do have in common rather than nitpicking one or two views they don’t have in common. That is how I feel about it,” Garza said.

Villalba’s office issued an advisory about the planned speech at Rudy’s BBQ. The advisory said Villalba is going to speak about the “evolution of the Texas electorate and the future of the GOP in Texas.” The advisory said the event is being hosted by the Hidalgo County Republican Women and the University of Texas-Pan American College Republicans.

The advisory also included excerpts from the speech Villalba has prepared. It reads:

“The philosophical predispositions of Hispanics are in natural alignment with conservative Republicans. If we engage, if we are authentic, if we are genuine, we will be successful. But, this will not come easy.

“If we can win the hearts and minds of Hispanics, Texas will remain deeply red for generations to come. But if we fail, not only will Texas fall to the Democrats, but we will never see a Republican president in the White House for the rest of our lives. This battle is that important. Join me in this fight. <I>Yo soy contigo – cuerpo y alma</I> (I am with you – body and soul).”

The advisory says Villalba has “already made waves with his statewide speaking tour, cautioning conservatives about the ramifications of harmful rhetoric and encouraging Republicans to keep the long-term goals of the party in focus.” It says statewide candidates are looking to Villalba for advice and counsel on this issue as well. It also quotes the Fort Worth Star Telegram as saying that Villalba is helping Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Dan Patrick “calm his hardline message” before his April 15 Univisión debate with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a Democrat

<I>Click <a href=”″>here</a> to watch Rep. Villalba discuss his initiative and his statewide tour on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics.</I>