HARLINGEN, Texas – A candidate for state Senate District 27 has told Rio Grande Valley healthcare professionals and executives where she stands on key issues in the race.

Attorney Morgan LaMantia spoke at a campaign fundraiser hosted by Dr. Victor Gonzalez, MD, the incoming president of the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society. The event attracted doctors, nurses and healthcare administrators from the across the Valley.

“I am running because it is time for the next generation of leadership to pick up the torch. I am running because there is so much to love about this community. But it has some challenges, like education, economic development, higher paying jobs and healthcare,” LaMantia said.

LaMantia paid tribute to the Valley’s healthcare industry.

“You know, we got hit with the pandemic just like everyone else but you saw how the healthcare community here pulled together and pooled all their resources to try to keep us all safe and healthy and get us better when we did get sick,” LaMantia said.

“And what we need to do is make sure they have the support and make sure everyone here gets the healthcare they need and that we fix those nursing shortages and staffing shortages that you all have.”

LaMantia said: “Just seeing what the community was able to do, the doctors and the nurses that are here. They pulled together to show how this community is. And with just little bit of support we have the highest potential.”

This is the first time LaMantia has sought elected office. She is running in the Democratic Party primary and has three opponents in the race. SD 27 is open because the longterm incumbent, state Sen. Eddie Luico, Jr., is retiring at the next election.

“I come from a strong South Texas family and they taught me the importance of hard work, education and community service. My grandfather started the STARS Scholarship Fund 20 years ago to make sure kids in this community had the opportunity to go and get a higher education if they wanted one,” LaMantia said.

“We need to continue that but I also make sure we take care of K thru 12 and make sure we have the jobs skills training. And make sure we have more doctors and nurses that are coming from this community and staying here and helping our neighbors and our families.”

LaMantia added: “And so, with your support, and your vote, hopefully I can get elected state senator and help this community grow and reach its potential.”

Her remarks drew applause from the audience.

Gonzalez endorses LaMantia

Dr. Victor Gonzalez is the owner of Gulf Coast Eye Institute, which has offices in McAllen and Harlingen. The fundraiser was held on his Harlingen premises.

“We want to thank you for being here tonight and helping us support Morgan for her candidacy to the state Senate,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez pointed out he is not originally from the Valley. He said he got to the region in 1994. Since then, he said, he has seen a lot of changes in the Valley. He said it is crucial the Valley has great representation at the state Capitol in Austin.

“I have seen a lot of changes that have occurred and the importance of making sure that we have the leadership and representation up in Austin. I can tell you, without that, the changes that you have seen occur in the Valley and the changes that are needed to continue to move the Valley forward would not have happened,” Gonzalez said.

“And, as we have an opportunity now to have new blood up in Austin, I had an opportunity to look at the different candidates. I think Morgan really does fill the needs. The experience she has got is going to be what we need to give us that representation.”

Gonzalez said healthcare is very challenging. Without mentioning it by name, he made the case for Medicaid expansion.

“We have a challenge throughout the state but you know, as I tell my colleagues up in Austin, you have Texas health, and then you have Texas health along the border. And there is a big difference. And a lot of challenges,” he said.

“You know, we have a large group of patients who are not covered or insured. And a lot of decisions that have been made up in Austin have impacted that. A lot of those individuals could have had some coverage but for reasons we won’t get into it hasn’t happened and that has been a challenge.”

Gonzalez said a lack of healthcare insurance was really highlighted with Covid-19.

“At one point in time, even though we had the same infection rates as the rest of the state, the mortality rate was extremely high here. I think that just sheds light on the fact that not having that insurance coverage for that 40 percent of the population really does have an impact when a challenging condition happens. It is unfortunate. But, we need to continue to do what we can to improve that.”

Gonzalez said refugees coming from across the border are also a challenge to the border region’s healthcare system.

“From here to El Paso, the Border Health Caucus has come together and organized physicians to try to help us keep treating these individuals, initially as volunteers but as the numbers get overwhelming we need help from the state and the federal government. Because it is impossible for us to continue to be able to provide the care that we need to, to the number of people that we need to, without some type of support.

Gonzalez added: “I would like to thank Morgan for volunteering to do this. I can assure you (LaMantia) we have a commitment towards you that we will do everything we can to not only help you get elected but once you are there make sure you have the support you need to be able to move your policies forward. So thank you for being here.”

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