MISSION, Texas – Republicans may be outspending Democrats in South Texas this election season but they will not outwork them.
This is the view of Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Richard Gonzales. Speaking at a breakfast event at La Casa Del Taco in Mission on Saturday, Gonzales explained the challenge his party is up against it.
“There’s been over $7 million of dark money poured into South Texas by GOP Super PACs just on the three congressional races alone,” Gonzales told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“And so while the Republicans are trying to buy these seats, and they think that money is going to be the deciding factor, I think that they’ve truly underestimated the power of South Texas Democrats. We’re going to show them what it means to be a South Texas Democrat.”
The three congressional races Gonzales was referring to are Districts 15, 28, and 34. In District 28, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar has been able to remain competitive financially. So has U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez in District 34. However, in District 15, Michelle Vallejo has been heavily outspent.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority Political Action Committee have both pulled TV ads that would have helped Vallejo. In response, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa has set up a fighting fund to help Vallejo.
Interviewed at a Vallejo campaign event in Mcallen, Hinojosa said the actions of the DCCC and the House Majority PAC “has put us in a position with Michelle where her opponent has an unlimited amount of money and we have none.”
Hinojosa warned: “You cannot win a congressional race unless you have the amount of TV that the DCCC can provide in these kinds of elections.” So, in response, Hinojosa said the Texas Democratic Party is bringing its staff down to the Rio Grande Valley to help Vallejo.
“We’re going to move into South Texas, the Texas Democratic Party. We’re going to move to South Texas and start directly working with Michelle and her campaign.”
Asked how many staff members that would be, Hinojosa said: “When it’s all done, it’ll be at least a third of our staff. We will be bringing in six or eight.”
Local Democrats are furious with the actions of the DCCC.
“The DCCC has some gall. They’re sending out emails to the 15th Congressional District asking for money from us after they pulled financial backing from our next Congresswoman, the first Latina congresswoman from the 15th congressional district, Michelle Vallejo,” said Democratic Party activist Luciano “Chano” Garza, III.
“And so I emailed them. I told them, remove me from your list. Not only is Michelle going to win, but she’s going to win big and without your help. How dare you do this to her in the fourth quarter?”
Garza said he understands the DCCC is helping Reps. Cuellar and Gonzalez.
“I told them, you can send $1.4 million to Vicente and $1.5 million to Henry Cuellar. How dare you send Michelle zero. But, we’ve got her back. Gilberto Hinojosa started a $250,000 fund to help her and he emailed all Texas Democrats asking for help.”
Garza said that following Hinojosa’s lead, U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia and Joaquin Castro have also sent emails to their supporters asking for money to help Vallejo’s campaign.
“And Congressman Colin Allred is here today, block-walking with Michelle. We’re not going to give up on Michelle just like the D Triple C. At the end of my reply I told them, you suck.”
The breakfast event in Mission was sponsored by local attorney Eden Ramirez. Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian, Ramirez said Democrats must get used to regular Republican challenges in the Valley.
“I think this is a natural evolution of the Rio Grande Valley growing. The more we grow, the less homogenous we’re going to be in the long term. And so we’re going to see more competitive races, not just at the congressional level, but up and down the ballot, even with the local races for our county positions.”
Ramirez said he was not as worried as some about a lack of financial help from the DCCC.
“It’s not so concerning to me that they’re (DCCC) not putting in money right now, because I think that for a long time, there’s been a disconnect from both parties in the Valley. One can make the argument that one party has taken us for granted, and we can make the argument that the other one never paid attention to us.”
What is important, Ramirez said, is the response from local Democrats to the DCCC decision. He said he has detected energy and enthusiasm.
“What I do think is incredible from what’s happened (with the DCCC) is the energy it has created on the ground with locals who are having to realize that we can’t take things for granted. What’s happening is good in the sense that I believe in competition and the exchange of ideas for our country and for our local area,” Ramirez said.
“But I also believe in the personal responsibility of our community leaders and our community activists; that we can’t take things for granted and wait for someone to come save us. It really has to start here and we have to have the conversation here.”
Asked if he was confident of a Vallejo victory, Ramirez pointed to the 538 politics website which had, in a poll of all polls, Vallejo up by four points, 52-48.
“I don’t think that any Republican candidate has anything locked down here. I think we have an uphill fight. But I also think we have good candidates. We have smart candidates. We have hardworking candidates. And like I tell people, the story of the Valley is one where we may not be the richest but no one’s going to outwork us. I think at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much money Republicans dump here, as long as we outwork them.”
Hidalgo County District Attorney candidate Terry Palacios was at the breakfast event. He said Democratic Party activists must mount a grassroots campaign to help Vallejo.
“What we need to do is hit our grassroots. We have a lot more Democrats down here. We’ve just got to get them out and vote. The good thing is we have a lot of local elections. A lot of those local elections bring out a lot of voters and a lot of those voters are going to be Democratic voters,” Palacios said.
“We’ve been raised for decades being Democrats and we developed this area by being Democrats and we cannot lose that based on some false misrepresentation from the Republican Party and their allies, putting all this money into the races. We have just got to stay strong and bring out the vote.”
Palacios said because Republican candidates can hide behind the “dark money” that pays for an onslaught of attack ads they do not feel the need to debate Democrats on the issues that really matter to voters.
“They are they’re not saying anything about their qualifications. They’re not saying they are even Republicans most of the time. It is all negative, negative, negative, negative. And most of these ads are half truths or outright lies. For example, saying Michelle Vallejo supports defunding police. That is not true. Or she is for taking away everybody’s weapon. That is not true. But that’s the way they’re playing this.”
In his interview with the Guardian, Gonzales, the chairman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, said that while the Republicans have a huge advantage in access to “dark” money in the CD 15 race, they cannot match the many decades of work Democrats have done for the Valley.
“We’ve had an infrastructure that’s been in place for a very, very long time. And I think now that people are waking up and seeing that we’re in some danger here, it’s actually lit a fire under them and unified the party and everybody’s feeling excited. And I really think that we’re going to shock some people in the next couple of days,” Gonzales said.
“You’re getting (GOP) dark money coming from states like Alabama, Georgia, outside interests, people who have no idea what it’s like to live in South Texas, who do not represent any of our values, any of our beliefs. And so, in order for us to maintain who we are, our political identity, it is of the utmost importance that the Democrats get out and vote and vote in high numbers. And I think Beto is going to help carry a lot of that vote as well.”
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