EDINBURG, RGV – The incoming chairwoman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party says the party is going to start referring to politiqueras as voter advocates.

A politiquera is an individual who is paid for by an election campaign to knock on doors to issue fliers and encourage people to get out and vote in favor of the candidate.

Norma Ramirez, a businesswoman in the international trade arena, announced the name change in a speech at Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s 2018 county convention. Ramirez said that without politiqueras and consultants the party’s low voter turnout would be even lower.

In her speech, Ramirez said she would be rolling out an “unprecedented” Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign in the coming weeks and months. She said the goal is to increase voter turnout at the November general election by a whopping 35 percent. There were 321,564 registered voters for the November 2014 general election and 83,522 of them voted, for a percentage of 25.97.

“I want to thank our politiqueras and consultants. From now on, we shall refer to them as voter advocates. Without you our current low voter turnout would be even lower. My administration will work with you and other stakeholders to increase the voter turnout by 35 percent,” Ramirez said.

Outgoing Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Ric Godinez acknowledged Ramirez’s voter turnout goal was ambitious but pledged to help.

“I am very excited about helping her in the transition and helping her continue to make this party a success. We will be working together,” Godinez said, introducing Ramirez.

The HDCP county convention was held Saturday at the Memorial Event Center in Edinburg.

Ramirez started her speech by blasting Republicans. She then outlined her vision for the party, calling for unity with those who supported her primary opponent, Danny Diaz.

Here is Ramirez’s speech in full:

“Good morning. Thank you everyone for attending. I want to thank everyone who had the opportunity and worked so hard to put this program together.

“Distinguished delegates, elected officials, candidates, family and friends, welcome to our convention. You are the reason we have a party and I thank you for your time and all that you do for our party.

“I stand here before you with great humility and a deep sense of purpose. I realize that I have been elected at a time when it is so significant in our political life. We have an onslaught by the Republicans led by Donald Trump against everything that we stand for as a community. The Republicans would rather waste money on the Border Wall than repair our crumbling roads and bridges. They would rather regulate who uses what bathroom than fund our public schools and ensure that no child is left behind. They would rather deport innocent children who know no other country than the USA. These are children that we educated and invested in and waste all the talent and education that they have to offer our country. They attack our healthcare, they deprive women of the right to choose what happens to their body. We must stand up for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and against the border wall, for healthcare for all, marriage equality, easier access to voting and funding for our public schools. And we must support our veterans.

“Fellow Democrats, as the saying goes, you are either at the table or on the menu. It is time for real hard work. As we all know, it was a hard-fought primary election, but it is time to unite. We are united by common shared values and it is time to unite and focus on our real enemies, the mean-spirited Republicans who attack our communities. I hereby reach out to Danny Diaz and all of his supporters and call for a united party as we launch an unprecedented effort to increase our voter turnout by 35 percent in November 2018.

“In the next few weeks and months I will announce and put into motion an unprecedented GOTV plan. I welcome all and any ideas that will help us increase our voter turnout by 35 percent. Once again, I want to thank our politiqueras and consultants. From now on, we shall refer to them as voter advocates. Without you our current low voter turnout would be even lower. My administration will work with you and other stakeholders to increase the voter turnout by 35 percent. I encourage all true Democrats to join us as we raise needed funds, establish a decent office and coordinate joint campaigns. I particularly want to call on all elected officials, all Democratic elected officials to help us sustain our Democratic Party. I promise that the party, under my leadership, will be transparent and accountable. Those who support and sustain the party should always have our loyalty. I am looking for donations of money, office space and time. If we are to be successful, I also look forward to consulting with all stakeholders as we continue to build our November campaigns and plans. As a team, we have the vision, we have the plan, we need the human and financial resources. But there is no doubt in my mind that together we are not only stronger, but we can accomplish anything we desire as a community. Thank you, and may God bless the USA.”

At the end of Ramirez’s speech, outgoing party chair Godinez said: “As I say, very ambitious; exciting times and platform.”

Billy Leo Tribute

Party Chair Godinez asked for a moment of silence to pay tribute to “Mr. Democrat” Billy Leo, who passed away a week ago.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with your family,” Godinez told Michael Leo and Lita Leo, Billy’s children. “This party is here to help you in whatever way we can because Billy helped us. He helped a lot of us.”

Michael Leo works in Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia’s executive team. Lita Leo is a candidate for Hidalgo County Treasurer.

Michael Leo spoke at the convention. He called for a large turnout as a way of honoring his father’s legacy. Here are his remarks:

“Thank you on behalf of the family. The outpouring of support that we have received has been tremendous. Whether it has been phone calls, texts, social media messages, social media posts, the visitation at the rosary, at the funeral, at the mass, it was tremendous, and I think this is what has gotten our family through this period.

“We have seen the lives he has touched, whether it be people in office right now, elected officials thanking him for helping put them there, community leaders, people in general, the community in general, and even now, in death, we have seen it in messages from people like Beto O’Rourke and Andrew White. I think that speaks tremendous volumes to why he served. I say thank you to the people in this room, to the party, because the Democratic Party is what inspired him, it gave him the passion to do what he did. Even though he was an elected official, he was a member of the party first. Unfortunately, we do not see that too often. Sometimes, elected officials, when they get into office, it is hard, they have to serve, or maybe their positions don’t allow them to get too involved. But I think we have a responsibility to the party itself. I think he was affectionately and properly known as Mr. Democrat, for that reason.

“Continuing his legacy, it just so happens that my sister, Lita Leo is a candidate, so I think it would be remiss if I did not say something on her behalf. Runoffs, as we all know, are challenging, to get people out, to get the vote out is going to be challenging. We hear about this ‘blue wave,’ and I think Hidalgo County as the seventh most populous county, is going to be a huge part of it. Our challenge has always been to get the people out to vote. So, in honoring my father’s legacy, I think it is incumbent on committee precinct chairs in the party, in May, to come out and get out the vote, to get the people out to vote. We are a much larger voice to the rest of the state when we come out and vote, so we encourage you to come out and vote in May.”

Editor’s Note: Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports provided the audio and photos for this news report.