MISSION, RGV – Emily’s List, the political action committee that aims to get more pro-choice Democratic women elected to office, says it is paying close attention to the open 15th Congressional District in Texas.

Rachel Thomas, press secretary for Emily’s List, made the group’s position clear on the same day that former Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Dolly Elizondo announced she is running for CD 15. Elizondo is on the board of Annie’s List, which does similar work to Emily’s List but on a statewide level.

“Electing women in seats like the 15th Congressional District in Texas is a central part of Emily’s List mission to get more Democratic women’s voices in Congress and make the face of our government more reflective of the people they serve,” Thomas said. “We are looking at this seat closely and are excited about the opportunity to put it in the hands of a Democratic woman who will fight for women and families in the 15th District and across the country.”

Dolly Elizondo
Dolly Elizondo

Emily’s List has more than three million members and has had over 800 election victories. According to its Website, the political action committee’s vision is to be a driving force of change in America. “By electing more pro-choice Democratic women to national, state and local office, Emily’s List will consistently infuse our government with leaders who will drive change. Change that truly matters today, tomorrow and forever,” the Website states.

“Emily’s List isn’t just about funding elections to get women elected. Our focus is on putting the right pro-choice Democratic women into office who will balance the face of the government, and make decisions that really improve societies across the country,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List.

The 15th Congressional District of Texas has opened up because veteran Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mission, has announced he will not seek re-election at the next election. It is considered a safe Democratic seat in a presidential election year, when more Democrats turn out, but less so in an off-year, which, traditionally, sees more Democrats sit out.

Elizondo, a former teacher and a successful small business owner from Mission, announced she is running in a news release issued on Thursday. She said she has worked to expand opportunity for families in the Rio Grande Valley for her entire career. If elected, Elizondo would become the first Texas Latina to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I understand the challenges women, men, and families in the 15th District face day in and day out because I’ve lived them myself,” Elizondo said. “I know what it’s like to have to pay your way through college, to not have health insurance, or to face the burden of student loan debt. I also understand the challenges of starting and growing a successful small business while raising a family as a single parent.”

Elizondo added: “I am a firm believer that ordinary people such as myself need to participate in government. While we have struggled, have had to work hard and fight for resources, we’ve been able to overcome those obstacles and succeed. Now it is our responsibility to get involved and advocate for others.”

Elizondo’s news release provided these biographical details: “Elizondo is a native of Mission, Texas, where she has raised her two daughters and has run a successful small real estate brokerage and development business for 17 years. More than ten years after graduating from high school, Elizondo paid her way through school at the local university to become a teacher. After numerous years of teaching and holding a part-time real estate job, Dolly created her own real estate company in 1997. In 2003 she became the first woman south of San Antonio to become a real estate Certified Commercial Investment Member  and later was appointed by the prestigious CCIM Institute to serve on their Legislative Affairs Subcommittee.”

The news release went on to say: “Elizondo has also been a committed public servant throughout the Rio Grande Valley. She was one of the original founders and the first president of the Hidalgo County Democratic Women organization and was the first woman ever to be elected Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair. Elizondo is certainly a woman with many ‘firsts’ under her belt. If elected, she will make history and become the first Texas Latina to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

While Elizondo was saying “yes” to running for CD 15, longtime Hidalgo County Treasurer Norma Garcia was saying “no.” On Facebook, Garcia said:

“I received a phone call on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, asking me if I’d consider running for Congress. Leslie Gower told me that Emily’s List out of Washington D.C. was looking for a female candidate. Since Congressman Rubén Hinojosa announced that he will not seek another term, an avalanche of names started popping up…both male and female. I, of course, said no. As I continued to hear her (Gower) out, I was convinced to at least explore the idea. I also spoke to the people from Emily’s List and they were ready to help me if I committed to run. Then I saw a Draft Norma for Congress page on FB (Facebook) and the more I talked about it, the more I liked the idea. The old me, or should I say, the younger me, would’ve jumped at the opportunity. It all sounded so good! But after some deep soul searching and much discussion with people that I consider close, I decided against it. My daughter Martha Garcia-Caceres was somewhat disappointed as she has always been in my corner every time I’ve run…from Mayor (three terms) to County Treasurer (now in my sixth term). I hated to disappoint her, but the “timing” just wasn’t right for me. She understood once I explained. Because like I’ve always said, in politics, timing is everything! Both the personal and political timing have to be in sync for things to work out. I was honored and flattered that people thought enough of me to encourage me to run. I wish the candidates that are out there pounding the political pavement the very best. And it would be awesome if we could elect the first Latina women from Texas to Congress. Good luck to all.”

Elizondo is expected to be up against four or five opponents in the Democratic Party primary on March 1, 2016. These might include McAllen attorney Vicente Gonzalez, former Hidalgo County Commissioner and Mercedes Mayor Joel Quintanilla, and Edinburg attorney and Edinburg CISD Board Trustee Juan ‘Sonny’ Palacios, Jr. State Reps. Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez, D-Weslaco, and Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya, have also been encouraged to run for CD 15 by supporters. The deadline to file as a candidate is December 14.

Election analysts believe about 75 percent of the Democratic vote in CD 15 will come out of Hidalgo County. Of this 75 percent, two-thirds of the vote is in Precinct 1, which includes Alamo, Donna, Weslaco, Mercedes and most of the Delta area. The other one third of the vote in Hidalgo County will come out of the bigger cities, McAllen, Edinburg and Pharr. The Democratic vote in the CD 15 primary could range from 32,000 to 40,000, analysts believe, with an additional 10,000 votes coming out of the northern counties. Counties like Jim Hogg and Duval have contested local races, which should boost turnout in CD 15. A strong “ground game” or major grassroots effort is expected be needed in the northern counties, as well as in the Precinct 1 part of Hidalgo County.

Among the Republican candidates for CD 15 are Edinburg CISD Board Trustee Xavier Salinas and former Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal. More GOP candidates are expected out of Seguin, in the northern part of the district.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Congressional District 15 candidate Dolly Elizondo flanked by her daughters, Cristina and Carianna.