MCALLEN, RGV – Richard Cortez says that if he is elected Hidalgo county judge he will take a very active role on the new county courthouse issue and work to ensure it is built on time and on budget.

The former McAllen mayor completed all the necessary paperwork to run in the Hidalgo County Democratic Party primary on Saturday, the first day of filing. Immediately afterwards he gave an interview to the Rio Grande Guardian.

On the subject of a new county courthouse, Cortez said:

“There is no question the courthouse is outdated and we need more space. I do not want to second guess Judge Ramon Garcia and the Commissioner’s Court as to what they have done and are doing. I had to build an international bridge. I had to build a convention center. I had to build a library. So, it is my turn to ensure that construction is built on time and on budget. I plan to take a very active role in that process.”

Cortez’s position on a new county courthouse contrasts sharply with one of his likely opponents in the primary. Former Hidalgo County Judge Eloy Pulido says he wants to look at the issue again.

Cortez will hold his campaign kickoff event on Tuesday evening. Asked what other key issues he will be running on, Cortez gave a long list, including new revenue streams, infrastructure, drainage, transportation, the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine and the 2020 U.S. Census.

“The county is going to continue to grow at a very rapid pace. That will put a burden on the budget. You cannot solve budgetary problems by simply cutting expenses. You have to grow revenues. I want to make sure the county has a strategy to grow revenues,” Cortez said.

“There will be a demand for more revenues, a demand for more infrastructure, a demand for more mobility, a demand for more personnel. A big issue for me as county judge is going to be the Census. It is very important that we count. One of the ways we can improve our flow of funding for infrastructure is to consolidate the three MPOs.”

MPO stands for Metropolitan Planning Organization. There are currently three in the Rio Grande Valley – Hidalgo County, Harlingen-San Benito, and Brownsville. Most elected officials in Hidalgo County want to see the three merged. The Texas Department of Transportation has said the Valley would get more funding for transportation if the three MPOs merged.

In his interview, Cortez also spoke about UTRGV and the Raymondville Drain.

“One of the things I think would be a great creator of jobs would be to fully fund the medical school. My son in law is a physician and a product of the medical school in San Antonio. Everything I see around there is just tremendous,” Cortez said.

“Obviously, we are in an area that is in danger of a hurricane. We are a delta and drainage is very, very important. We do not want to go through what Houston is going through. So, I think the Raymondville Drain is a very important project we need to finish.”

Cortez, a certified public accountant, a former chairman of the Border Trade Alliance, and current McAllen city commissioner, said a candidate should run for public office in order to give back to the community. He said that is why he is running for county judge. He said he has the leadership skills to ensure Hidalgo County prosperous during a time of rapid growth.

“I started my professional career a long time ago. I had the pleasure of serving many entrepreneurs and many industries. I lost my wife, as you know, so now I have a choice to go to an empty house or a meeting. I choose to go to a meeting and try to give some of my skills and talent to a community that has been very good to me.”

There was a story in a local newspaper recently that said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia is thinking of changing his mind about retiring. A reason for doing this, according to some, is that an internal poll has been conducted which shows Pulido beating Cortez 2-1. Cortez discounted this.

“I spoke to the County Judge before I announced that I was interested in the job. I have tremendous respect for him. I said, County Judge, what are your plans. He said his plans were not to run. He said, I want to support Ambrosio. I said, that is a good choice,” Cortez said, referring to Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez.

“I said if Ambrosio does not run and you are not running, I would consider myself to be a candidate if those two things did happen. Well, we know what happened. Ambrosio said no, so I jumped in and he (Garcia) pledged his support to me. He has not told me anything other than that so I have to assume that that is his position to date.”

As for a supposed internal poll tracking support for Cortez and Pulido, Cortez said: “It is interesting someone would choose to do that. I have a lot of support on east and west. My wife’s family is from Edinburg. When someone says I am lacking for support, I think that is a subjective belief as opposed to an objective evaluation.”

Cortez added:

“Obviously, I am not a novice to politics. I have had some pretty competitive races that I have had to win. In fact, I beat a 20-year icon mayor in Othal Brand. I beat Ric Godinez, who is the chairman of the Democratic Party. I beat Debbie Crane, who is the sister of a federal judge and wife of a regent on the UT System. Those are not easy opponents.

“I happen to have a lot of friends and family throughout the Valley. I have had visits to most of the communities throughout the Valley, here in Hidalgo County and I am very happy with the response I have been getting. No one is going to out-work me. I am going to go to my friends and supporters and get the necessary financing to get the proper campaign to reach out to everybody. It is going to be difficult in the short amount of time we have in this campaign to see everybody. But my goal is to meet everyone and to find out what their needs are because public service is about servicing the needs of the community.

“In order to do that you have to find out what their needs are. And the needs vary from community to community. What La Joya needs may be totally different to what Edcouch needs. That is one of the exciting things I am looking forward to. I am used to multi-tasking, I am used to serving people, I am used to solving problems. A lot of what a county judge does is provide leadership. Sometimes, the best answers and solutions will not come from me. It will come from somebody else but my job is to find a solution somewhere, wherever it is.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Richard Cortez filing his paperwork to run for Hidalgo County Judge.