MCALLEN, RGV – Danny Diaz, one of the candidates running for the Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair, said that the dynamic between politiqueras and the party needs to change.

At a press conference on Monday where Diaz officially announced his candidacy, the community organizer said many politiqueras that hold precinct chairs should not, and those that establish themselves through relationships with candidates can possibly end up exploiting them. He also mentioned the lengths some politiqueras will go to fulfill promises of a certain number of votes.

“Too many politiqueras are precinct chairs and should not be precinct chairs. I think the party should fundraise the money it needs to fundraise and perhaps pay people an amount, $10 or $12 an hour, whatever the rate is, to do work for Democratic Party candidates. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with the politiqueras using the party to try to build themselves up with local candidates, to exploit candidates,” Diaz said.

“To block walk you do this, for this rate. It should not be the politiqueras setting the rate. It should be the other way around. That is where we see issues where a politiquera promises a candidate a certain amount of votes and the politiquera will do anything to get those votes, including, sometimes, crossing the line, like we saw in the case in Donna some years back. They will do whatever it takes to get the people to vote. That is when it gets dangerous. I feel much more comfortable in candidates saying, look, I’ll bring you in, I’ll pay you $12 an hour, just go knock in these neighborhoods, whatever votes you bring in, you bring in. When we talk about a specific number of voters, that’s when it gets a little tricky. That is when you play around with political corruption.”

To distance the party from those illegal practices of the past, Diaz says that Democrats should fundraise to be able to pay politiqueras a set rate to work for a campaign. That way, candidates are still able to have representatives outreaching in the community with everything aboveboard.

“Politiqueras, I think, for the most part, a lot of them are great people. I know a lot of them,” said Diaz. “I don’t want to attack politiqueras per se because a lot of them are just trying to provide for their families as well. But, I think there needs to be another way for them … to be involved with the Democratic Party.”

As a former community organizer for La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), the work that politiqueras do is not lost on Diaz. One of his main campaign goals is to increase voter registration and participation. Since 1998, voter turnout in Hidalgo County has failed to surpass the 28 percent mark in years with no presidential election. As the seventh most populated county in the state, Diaz says Hidalgo County residents need to increase the political leverage of South Texas by getting out to vote.

“People are concerned about ‘what are we going to do about Trump?,’ ‘what are we going to do about the state of Texas attacking our communities?’ This is the tool that we need to start using at a much more higher level. This is the only way we are going to win,” said Diaz, holding up a voter registration card.

Another key part of the platform, Diaz said, is workers’ rights. “That will resonate with a lot of people. We are trying to get the blue-collar worker back,” he said.

In addition to increasing voter turnout, Diaz wants to raise the Democratic Party’s presence in the county by forming more party clubs and filling vacant precinct chairs. Diaz says that forming clubs, like a Young Democrats of America chapter at South Texas College, will foster more civic engagement among residents. He also says that of the party’s 256 precinct chairs, only about 90 are currently filled, greatly underrepresenting the party and reducing its potential influence in the county.

“There’s a lot of lack of just being there, of being present in the community,” said Diaz. “I want to be sure that we open the doors to people that want to have leadership positions within the party.”

With his platform laid out, Diaz acknowledged the herculean task before him. Still, he is putting his faith in the people of Hidalgo County to step up and participate in the politic process.

“There’s a lot of work to do, and I want to appeal to the people of Hidalgo County that it’s up to us to make the change that we want to see,” said Diaz. “It’s not up to somebody else in Austin or Washington, D.C. It’s up to us if we want to have our voices heard in our state capital and in our nation’s capital to get things done.”

Voting for the Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair will be in March 5, 2018.