McALLEN, RGV – State Sen. Eddie Lucio says that with redistricting coming up in 2021, this is not the year to be electing freshmen to the Texas Legislature.
Lucio, a Democrat from Brownsville, spoke at a McAllen Chamber of Commerce governmental affairs committee meeting on Thursday. The other invited guest, state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra, D-McAllen, agreed with Lucio that seniority is important.
Both Lucio and Guerra have opponents in the Democratic Party primary in March and will face a Republican challenger in the general election in November.
“We cannot risk the future of growth of our region to freshman who do not carry the political clout our region currently has,” Lucio said, when talking about redistricting.
“Our region’s future and our growth are way too important to take on a political gamble with people who lack the relationship, who lack the leadership, who lack a proven legislative track record. The future of our region deserves more than on the job training.”
Lucio said the opponents of incumbents have “all the rights in the world” to run for any elective office, if they have the qualifications.
“I am not dismissing that. They have the right. Anyone in this room has the right to stand up and run for whatever public office that is available. It is just not the time for change at this time. I say that in the most humble way that I can.”
Lucio pointed out that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed him to the Senate Committee on Redistricting. “I do not want our region to fail. I will fight to protect the Valley’s vested interest and ensure that the strides we have gained, including a new congressional seat we added in 2010, are not lost to inexperience and lack of goodwill.”
In his remarks, Guerra said freshmen legislators are not very effective.
“One of the things that Senator Lucio made very clear is redistricting is coming up. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of that. The Valley delegation works very, very well together. We are all now senior members. I am going on for my fifth legislative session,” Guerra said.
“Why is that important? One of the unwritten rules in the House of Representatives is this: freshmen are to be seen, not heard. I promise you, those that try to break that tradition are shut down very, very, quickly. I have seen it first hand. My first session, that was made very clear to me so I was somewhat demur. My first session, I listened a lot and I learned a lot. But, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of the seniority of the Valley delegation, for the most part. I wanted to echo how important that is.”
Guerra, who has an opponent in the Democratic primary, added: “If a freshman were to come in, whatever district they come into, that district will not look the same. They will not have much of a voice in the legislature.”
In his remarks, Lucio said it is easy for a candidate without a track record to make promises to the electorate. He said voters would be wise to go with a candidate who they know can deliver.
“We know that honesty, integrity and being realistic are essential. Unfortunately, it is easy, very easy, for someone to make promises. However, it is very difficult to deliver on those claims,” he said. “For me it all boils down to a proven track record and ability to build relationships with those in power.”
Lucio said he has a track record of working with colleagues on both sides of the political aisle. He said he would not have passed important legislation if he had not been able to, citing bills to pump $250 million into the Economically Distressed Areas Program in 2007 and $200 million for EDAP in 2019.
“You need a proven record of accomplishments and the ability to work with those in leadership positions at the state capitol to make your priorities a reality. The reality of the Texas legislature is that you need to work with both sides of the political spectrum. I cannot pass a single bill with only 12 Democrats in the Senate. It is totally impossible.”
Lucio gave another example: the $175 million Colonia Road Access program that was passed in 2001 to pave roads in border colonias. “It took me having the ability to work with Republican statewide leaders like then-Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and then Gov.-Rick Perry, along with a Republican-controlled Senate. In fact, Gov. Perry and I campaigned on that issue statewide together. That is how we got it done.”
Lucio also touched on the importance of passing tort reform. “I have lived through the times, I need to repeat that. I have lived through the times when lawsuits were driving businesses away from our region. That is why I have over the years, authored, spearheaded and supported legislation that would protect our local businesses from frivolous lawsuits, including our doctors,” he said.
Lucio said one of his goals for the next legislative session is “fortifying political influence for the long-term.” By which he meant having a seat at the table when redistricting is considered.
Lucio pointed out that during the last redistricting cycle, in 2001, he was the only state senator for the Rio Grande Valley. He said he wanted at least two senators based in the region.
“I did what some thought impossible – without sounding arrogant – to achieve. Again, I worked with the leadership in the legislature, especially with then-Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and then-Gov. Rick Perry, and divided my Senate district and took in portions of ranch lands to create a new Senate district based predominantly in the Valley. The rest is history. In 2002, Chuy Hinojosa was elected to the Senate. Now we have a strong Valley-based tag-team. A one-two punch in the Senate and a very strong delegation in the House.”
In answer to a question about transportation from Nedra Kinerk, the leader of Futuro RGV, Guerra said state leaders and the Texas Department of Transportation fully understand the importance of the Valley.
Guerra cited the time he encouraged then Texas Transportation Commissioner Tryon Lewis to take a helicopter ride over the Valley to see how traffic builds up during the rush-hour.
Guerra said it was an eye-opener for the commissioner. “Judge Lewis said to me, ‘I am convinced this is the gateway (to Texas). We have got to get this right’.”
Guerra added: “It is important as legislators that we bring down as many leaders as we can, throughout the state, so they can see the vibrant and beautiful and business-friendly communities we have in the Rio Grande Valley.”