SAN JUAN, RGV – Community groups that work in the colonias of Hidalgo County believe their members and supporters can influence the outcomes of two local and one state House race on Election Day.

After going to door-to-door encouraging people to exercise their civic duty, La Unión del Pueblo Entero has received commitments to vote from 848 residents. ARISE has received 473 “compromisos,” while the Texas Organizing Project has garnered 162.

The groups believe that between them they can affect the results of the race for Hidalgo County District Attorney, the race for Hidalgo County Commissioner, Precinct 2, and the race for Texas House District 36.

“We are campaigning for important issues such as street lights, drainage, driver’s licenses for all, equal investment in neighborhood infrastructure, and prosecutions for wage theft,” said Daniel Diaz, a community organizer with La Unión del Pueblo. “Whoever wins, we want to be able to sit down with the victors afterwards and say we were the margin of your victory. We can then say this is what we need.”

Daniel Diaz, a community organizer with La Unión del Pueblo Entero, speaks at a news conference outside San Juan Post Office last Thursday.
Daniel Diaz, a community organizer with La Unión del Pueblo Entero, speaks at a news conference outside San Juan Post Office last Thursday.

Diaz said it is an “outrage” that 947 colonias in Hidalgo County still do not have street lights. “This is a big issue. It is completely relevant to the race for County Commissioner, Precinct 2. We want to be able to say, we made the difference in your race, you need to invest in the colonias.”

Diaz added that is a misconception to think that all colonia residents are undocumented. He said a sizable number of the 300,000 in Hidalgo County are citizens that are registered to vote.

LUPE, ARISE and TOP held a news conference at San Juan Post Office on Thursday where TV camera crews and photographers could take shots of over a thousand “compromiso” cards being mailed. The cards had the names and addresses of colonia residents who have promised to vote in Tuesday’s primary election based upon the issues important to the community groups. The cards were being sent back to the voters as a reminder to exercise their civic duty.

“The issue of prosecuting employers for wage theft is an issue that the District Attorney can handle. The issues of drainage and street lights are issues for the County Commissioner for Precinct 2 can handle. The issue of colonia infrastructure and driver’s licenses for all are issues for the State Representative for House District 36,” Diaz said.

The DA’s race is the highest profile election in Hidalgo County this election season. It is being fought between incumbent Rene Guerra and challenger Ricardo Rodriguez. The race for Hidalgo County Commissioner, Precinct 2, is between incumbent Tito Palacios, former Pharr Mayor Ricardo Medina, and former Pharr City Commissioner Eddie Cantu. The race for Texas House District 36 is between incumbent Sergio Muñoz, an attorney from Mission, and Mari Regalado, a businesswoman from Pharr.

Ramona Casas, a community organizer with ARISE, said there was particular interest among her group’s members for an informative candidate’s forum at ARISE’s community center in Las Milpas. She said state Rep. Muñoz could not attend due to a family bereavement and this allowed his challenger, Regalado, to steal the show.

“We feel we can make the difference in the Texas House District 36 race. We have held house meetings to find out what issues are important for our members and, as far as they affect the state House race, they are concerned about cuts in funding for women’s clinics and public education, DPS checkpoints, and driver’s licenses, which many in our community can no longer get,” Casas said.

Casas said ARISE members will conduct a Caminata a las Urnas (Walk to the Polls) in Las Milpas from 1 to 2 p.m. on Election Day.

LUPE, ARISE and TOP are all members of the RGV Equal Voice Network. They do not endorse candidates.