Xavier Salinas
Xavier Salinas

EDINBURG, RGV – Sonny Palacios, a Democrat running for Congressional District 15, gave campaign contributions to two of his Republican opponents in the race.

Palacios, an attorney from Edinburg, gave the Citizens for Xavier Salinas campaign a check for $500 on August, 31, 2015. He gave the Ruben O. Villarreal for U.S. Congress campaign a check for $250 on October 13, 2015.

Palacios’ opponent in the CD 15 primary runoff, McAllen attorney Vicente Gonzalez, has also given campaign contributions to Republicans, but not those in a race he is running in.

Palacios pointed out that the donations he gave to Republicans were made before he officially entered the race. He said voters should not construe the donations as proof that he is a closet Republican or that he did not support Democratic Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, who was the sitting member for CD 15 at the time the donations were made.

“Do people give donations to their friends? Of course. Do they reach across the aisle, here, locally, and in Washington? Of course they do. Does that mean I am a closet Republican? No,” Palacios told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Palacios, who, like Salinas, is an Edinburg ISD board trustee, explained why he cut the checks.

Rubén Villarreal
Rubén Villarreal

With regard to the donation to Salinas’ congressional campaign, Palacios said: “Xavier sits two seats away from me on the Edinburg school board. I have known him for the best part of my life. He told me in the Spring he was going to run for Congress,” Palacios said.

Asked if he had thought about running for Congress last August, when he made the donation to Salinas, Palacios said: “I had thoughts of running, but not against Congressman Hinojosa. Out of respect for Congressman Hinojosa, I would never run against him.”

With regard to the donation to Villarreal, Palacios said: “Rubén’s wife and my ex-wife are best friends. He was selling some tickets for an I-Watch, if I am not mistaken. I bought tickets for an I-Watch.” Palacios said the amount given to Villarreal was later reduced, with the former Rio Grande City mayor returning some of it.

“In no way should anyone infer that I was against Congressman Hinojosa. I have deep respect for Congressman Hinojosa. There was some talk that he was not going to run. They were pointing in that direction,” Palacios said.

“The donations did not stop me running against Xavier and Ruben Villarreal. That was not going to stop me doing what I know to do, fight the good fight.”

Palacios said Gonzalez, his Democratic Party primary runoff opponent, brought up the Salinas and Villarreal donations at a candidate forum held by the Hidalgo County Young Democrats at Cine El Rey theater in McAllen on Monday.

“He brought this up after a very poor performance on his part. An extremely poor performance. The debate exposed his lack of experience. The debate was a clear confirmation that this race is about experience versus inexperience. He had to do something,” Palacios said.

Palacios urged voters not to be distracted by “red herrings.” He said: “Gonzalez himself has donated to Republicans and Republican judges.”

The Republican candidates Palacios was referring to are state Rep. Todd A. Hunter of Corpus Christi and former state District Judge Jaime Tijerina of McAllen. Gonzalez gave Hunter, a former Democrat, $2,500 in December, 2015, and another $2,500 in September, 2013, campaign finance reports show. Gonzales gave $1,000 to Tijerina’s campaign in September, 2014. Then-Gov. Rick Perry appointed Tijerina to the 92nd state District Court in October, 2013, but he lost his seat at the next general election.

Palacios added: “I really do not want to go negative on him, although there is a lot I could say. There is a lot of things we do know.”

Salinas did not make the Republican Party primary runoff. In a three-way race he came third. The runoff will be between Villarreal and Tim Westley. Asked if Salinas has now endorsed him, Palacios said: “He calls me every day and wishes me the best. But, he tells me he plans to be a delegate at the Republican Convention and for that reason he cannot endorse.”

Vicente Gonzalez
Vicente Gonzalez

Gonzalez, an attorney from McAllen, issued this statement on Palacios’ decision to give a donation to the Salinas and Villarreal campaigns:

“Why Sonny Palacios, a so called Democrat, would fund not one but two Republican candidates who were challenging Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, an incumbent Democratic Congressional candidate, is beyond me. Congressman Hinojosa worked tirelessly to improve education is South Texas. Hinojosa stood next to President Obama as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act was signed into law in 2010. A law that has made college education more accessible and affordable for most who could never afford to attend college.

“By contrast, those candidates who Palacios financed against Congressman Hinojosa stand with the Republican party whose members worked very hard to prevent funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions across America. Palacios funded candidates who stand with the Republican Party that is still fighting against affordable healthcare for all. This is the same party which has Donald Trump as their front runner for their Presidential nominee. A man who is clearly out of touch with working families and the Hispanic community. This works against everything the Democratic party and Congressman Hinojosa have worked so hard to accomplish.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Sonny Palacios, a Democratic Party candidate for Congressional District 15.