McALLEN, RGV – Two Republican women from Hidalgo County have announced they are running against sitting Democratic Texas House members.

Former educator and McAllen school board member Hilda Garza DeShazo is running for Texas House District 41, which is currently held by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra, D-McAllen. The boundary lines for the McAllen-anchored district were drawn by Republican map drawers to give the GOP its best chance of winning a Texas House seat in the Rio Grande Valley. Currently, all eight House seats are held by Democrats.

District 40, anchored in Edinburg, is a more reliably Democratic district. However, that has not deterred Republican Maricela De León, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to state Rep. Aaron Peña, from running. In the general election De León will face incumbent state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

Maricela De León

De León, who was born in San Carlos, a small community just east of Edinburg, said education and taking care of veterans will be key themes in her race.

“It’s our responsibility to take care of each other in our community, and that means supporting our past and our present. That’s why this campaign will be about two major issues. I first want to focus on closing some of the education gaps we see in the Valley compared to other parts of the state. Secondly, I want to work closely with the federal government to bring a Veteran’s hospital to our area,” De León said.

“Having graduated with two degrees, I know the value of an education, how it shapes people’s minds, and how it changes how we interact with each other. But children of all ages are suffering due to outdated models of teaching implemented by the state. Children in the Valley deserve better, and I will use my education and that of countless other advisors I’ve met along the way to help bring our education system into the 21st century.”

On veteran’s issues, De León expressed her strong support for establishing a VA Hospital in the Valley, pointing out that her father is a veteran.

“Many of my friends are veterans, and when I hear their stories of having to drive 250 miles to San Antonio for treatment, it makes me wonder why, with all the veterans we have in the Valley, nothing’s been done to help them,” De León said. “If elected, I pledge to work local veterans’ groups to help identify land and to secure funding for a hospital. If our country has the money to send aid to other countries, we have more than enough to support our veterans at home.”

De León served as chief of staff for Rep. Peña until his departure from the Legislature in 2012. Peña represented the district De León is running for as a Democrat for five terms but switched to the GOP just before his retirement.

De León said that in the role of chief of staff she was influential in initiating the groundwork that led to local Valley resident Pedro Cano being posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor—the highest honor in the U.S. military — at a White House ceremony in 2014. “I was extremely proud to stand with the President as a part of Pedro Cano’s ceremony, and I’m confident that I’ll stand with him again in the future when the new Veteran’s Hospital in the Rio Grande Valley is opened,” she said.

Hilda Garza DeShazo

Garza DeShazo is a lifelong resident of the Rio Grande Valley with a history in education and civic leadership. She said she wanted to give the voters of House District 41 a meaningful choice at the ballot box.

“I’m interested in providing the people of my community a meaningful choice. I’m optimistic about our future here in South Texas and want to see that our families and communities share every opportunity for success,” she said.

“I was born, raised, educated and employed here in the Valley. I love this region and want to see it continue moving forward in a positive direction.”

By positive direction DeShazo said she means “confronting the difficult issues” facing the community. She highlighted three of her top issues.

“Education must remain a top priority at our state Capitol in educating our children, supporting our hard working teachers and our teacher retirees. Support for our veterans is a must. We must continue to support those who fought and continue to fight for our freedoms. And, economic growth is an absolute pillar of success that must be nurtured and encouraged. We need a representative in Austin who will work to see that happen in Texas and our beloved Rio Grande Valley,” DeShazo said.

Garza DeShazo, who lives in McAllen, said her story is similar to that of many in the Valley.

“My beginnings were very humble. I was raised by a single mother when single parenting was not the norm. We lived at the Labor Camp and my mother worked two jobs a day to provide for four children. I understand what it’s like to not have the money for what you need, but I also understand how through education and hard work anyone can achieve a better life and it is my goal to give back to the community that gave me that same opportunity,” Garza DeShazo added.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Maricela De León (left) and Hilda Garza De Shazo.