McALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley will never get the state and federal funding it deserves until it votes in as high a percentage as other parts of Texas, says a border congressman.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat from Mercedes, pointed to the numbers in his own congressional district to make his case. In the most northerly county in District 15, Guadalupe, the turnout for this year’s general election was 36.25 percent. In contrast, the turnout in the most southerly county in CD 15, Hidalgo, was 25.15 percent.
“We have the registered voters in Hidalgo County. We have over 300,000 voters registered. But, too many of them do not vote. Imagine if 200,000 came out to vote, we would change the state from Red to Blue,” Hinojosa said.
Asked why people in Hidalgo County are more likely to stay at home on Election Day, Hinojosa said: “In my opinion they are not informed properly. They are not given all the facts and the truth. Coming out to vote is what Austin, the state legislature, pays attention to. Voting in big numbers is what Washington, our nation’s capital, pays attention to. When we do not vote in high numbers we are not paid attention to.”
One of the non-profit groups that is trying to increase voter turnout in the Valley is AACT Now. The group wants to see the Valley turnout at the same percentage level as the state average. In a presidential year that is 60 percent. In the Valley, in a presidential year, the percentage is about 40 percent.
In what was a bad day for Democrats across the nation and the state, Hinojosa comfortably beat his Republican opponent, Eddie Zamora. Hinojosa picked up roughly 54 percent of the vote while Zamora picked up roughly 44 percent. The Libertarian candidate, Johnny Partain picked up the remaining percentage.
Congressional District 15 comprises part of Hidalgo County and all of Brooks, Duval, Guadalupe, Jim Hogg, Karnes, Live Oak and Wilson counties.
Hinojosa owes his victory to the early vote, primarily coming out of Hidalgo County. On Election Day, Zamora narrowly beat Hinojosa in the counties where voting totals have been announced. The totals for Brooks County had not been posted on the Secretary of State’s website at press time.
Asked what the top issues had been in his campaign, Hinojosa said: “The biggest concern has been jobs, the creation of good paying jobs in our country.” Hinojosa said good jobs are created by investing in education because the better trained a workforce is, the more likely companies with high paying jobs will move to a region.
“In the Valley we have invested in education, from early start for three and four year olds, all the way through graduation of high school and on to community colleges and then to the university.” He said the results have been extraordinary.
“The Rio Grande Valley has grown from about 600,000 people 20 years ago to what is now 1.5 million. Why, because we are investing in the education. We are raising the level of education attainment and consequently employers are coming to this area, which has an average age of 26 as compared to the national average of 36 years of age,” Hinojosa said.
“It is a young population, many are computer literate, many are very, very, smart and are being trained in vocational technical training so they can get jobs in the areas of allied health and energy, in the areas of manufacturing and information technology. This is an area that is the fourth fastest growing in the whole country. And so, as a member of Congress on the educational committee, as senior as I am, it is my opinion that we must continue that kind of investment by the federal, state and local taxpayers. Those are the things I hear at our town hall meetings and what I hear when I speak to people coming out of the polls.”
Hinojosa added: “We need to send a clear message to Austin and to Washington that the Rio Grande Valley must be listened to and that they must continue to invest in the areas that are so important, such as a trained workforce, through the Department of Labor, through the Department of Education.”