EDINBURG, Texas – Gov. George Abbott has endorsed challenger Esmeralda Flores over incumbent Richard Cortez for Hidalgo County Judge. 

The move may surprise some given Cortez’s long history of public service, his fiscally conservative stewardship of the county and his award-winning leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to serving as county judge, Cortez has served as a mayor of McAllen and as a commissioner for the same city. The certified public accountant is also a former president of the Border Trade Alliance. 

Flores is a small business owner and former educator.

Cortez is a Democrat and Flores a Republican.

“Dr. Esmeralda Flores has dedicated her life to public service. As Hidalgo County Judge, she’ll secure our border and keep violent criminals off our streets,” Abbott wrote, in a tweet supporting Flores.

Abbott’s message may also come as a surprise because a county judge cannot secure an international border. That is the responsibility of the federal government. 

It appears Abbott is making his general election endorsements in South Texas strictly along party lines because he has also endorsed Carlos Cascos, a Republican running for Cameron County Judge, Maria Yvette Hernandez, a Republican running for Starr County Judge, and Minerva Diaz, a Republican running for Hidalgo County Clerk.

“Carlos has consistently fought for the values that make Texas the best place to live, work, and raise a family. He’ll continue to fight for those values as the next Cameron County Judge,” Abbott wrote, in a tweet supporting Cascos.

Cascos is running against incumbent and Democrat Eddie Treviño, Jr. 

“Starr County needs leadership, integrity and courage. Maria Yvette Hernandez has the dedication to make the county a better place for all, Abbott wrote, in a tweet supporting Hernandez.

Hernandez is running against incumbent and Democrats Eloy Vera.

“As a former United States Air Force veteran, I’m confident Dr. Minerva will lead the Hidalgo County Clerk’s office with dedication and commitment,” Abbott wrote, in a tweet supporting Diaz.

Diaz is running against incumbent and Democrat Arturo Guajardo, Jr. 

Danny Diaz, political director of LUPE Votes, said Abbott’s endorsement of Republican challengers over Democratic incumbents in the Valley should not come as a surprise. He said it is part of an initiative to turn the region “Red.” He said that initiative includes flooding the airwaves with negative ads against Democrats, with millions of dollars of funding coming from GOP supporting Super PACs.

“The Republicans feel like they’re gonna invest here for the longer term, not just this election cycle,” Diaz said. “Right now the congressional candidates are being targeted but if just one Republican wins this election cycle I think all the state representative seats are going to be challenged next time. Sergio Muñoz will be targeted. Oscar Longoria and Bobby Guerra have already got challengers. I think just one victory is going to open the floodgates for Republicans.”

For the benefit of Rio Grande Guardian readers, here is Judge Cortez’s official biography:

For the Judge Richard F. Cortez took office as Hidalgo County Judge on January 2, 2019. He is a retired Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Valuation Analyst (CPA/CVA).

After receiving his CPA license in 1973, Judge Cortez became a partner with accounting colleagues and continued practicing public accounting. In 1984, he began providing consulting services by assisting parties in litigation and determining economic damages. He was involved in hundreds of cases in federal, state and bankruptcy courts. Judge Cortez has been appointed receiver, special auditor, accountant, and business valuator by various state district courts.

Judge Cortez devoted considerable time for the advancement of the accounting profession. He presided as president of the Local Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs and performed business valuations for numerous industries and companies of all sizes. Additionally, Judge Cortez taught a graduate-level course in Forensic Accounting at the University of Texas-Pam American.

Elected the eighteenth Mayor of the City of McAllen, Judge Cortez began his revitalization of the progressive city. With success, he was re-elected for a second four- year term in May of 2009. Since he became Mayor, the City continued to create significant assets and accumulated substantial economic reserves. A $53 million dollar convention center was constructed with no external financing. A new international bridge was constructed and the McAllen Miller International Airport was expanded. An Arts District and an Entertainment District were created and a Historic Preservation Ordinance was enacted. The city undertook the environment-friendly technology of “Going Green” and many city parks were constructed or improved. A Youth Advisory Council was formed and a variety of programs to benefit youth and senior citizens were established. The city’s fund balance exceeded $225 million and the tax rate did not increase during his terms as mayor.

Judge Cortez chose not to run for re-election at the end of his second four-year term, yet returned to the political arena in 2015 as McAllen City Commissioner District 1. He continued to serve in that position until he withdrew his seat to run for Hidalgo County Judge.

In 2022, Cortez has won the Tejano Pillar Award from the Hidalgo County Tejano Democrats, and the Angel of Hope Award from the Hope Family Health Center.

The Rio Grande Guardian will bring Dr. Flores’ official biography as soon as it arrives. 

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