MCALLEN, RGV – A top Democrat in Hidalgo County says he does believe his party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, Beto O’Rourke will connect with colonia residents and voters from the barrios.

The question came up in a phone interview O’Rourke gave to the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM. Asked if he was connecting with this portion of the electorate, O’Rourke answered by saying he has visited every county in Texas. He also said he would hold a rally in a border colonia.

“I have seen Beto at about half a dozen functions in South Texas and I see him generating a lot of enthusiasm. You see people you do not generally see at a function or a rally. He is running a great campaign. It is a people’s campaign,” said Fernando Mancias, a longtime Democratic Party donor and activist. 

Mancias, an attorney, is running for judgeship of the 93rd state District Court of Texas. He has held this position before, from 1989 to 2000.

Asked if O’Rourke is connecting with voters in the border region’s colonias and barrios, Mancias said:

“Absolutely. People connected to the barrios are becoming connected to Beto. It is the in-between person, someone that knows the barrios and knows Beto. He is using the right people to connect to the barrio people.”

With around 80 days to the November election, Mancias said a lot of hard work still has to be done to ensure a large turnout. He said that without a large turnout in Hidalgo County, candidates like O’Rourke and Democratic candidate for Governor Lupe Valdez will have a hard time winning statewide.

“We have to get the vote out this November. It is really important. There is always strength in numbers. We need to get the right people into office,” Mancias said.

“Hidalgo County can make all the difference. We have about 300,000 registered voters. Just imagine if we were to get half of those out to the polls. It could have an incredible impact.”

Asked how many Hidalgo Country residents traditionally vote in a non-presidential election year, Mancias said about 13 percent. 

“It is pitiful, we have really low numbers. It has not been happening for us for about a generation. All this time we have had a low turnout. We have good turnouts in the primary, as a general rule, but in November people just slack off and let it go by. We cannot afford that.”

Mancias said he detects a difference this year.

“I think this year could be different. We have some good people on the upper ballot, people like Beto O’Rourke and Lupe Valdez and Mile Collier and some other individuals. I think they are generating a lot of support and enthusiasm from the voters.”

Collier is running for lieutenant governor.

Mancias does not know who the Republican Party will nominate for the 93rd state District Court. The party has until Aug. 24 to nominate a candidate. The 93rd state District Court is open because Judge Rudy Delgado, a Democrat, resigned under a cloud back in April. In February, a federal grand jury indicted Delgado on three counts of federal bribery and three counts of violating the federal Travel Act.

Asked if Hidalgo County voters need reassurance after what allegedly happened with Delgado, Mancias said: “For the 12 years I was there I was always above board. People should not be concerned with any bad issues with me.”

Mancias said his pitch to voters will center on his experience. 

“I have experience, not only as a judge, but practicing all kinds of law for the last 18 years. For me there is no learning curve, I can get on the bench, a big one, and hit the ground running,” Mancias said. “For the last 18 years the voters have been asking me to run, run, run. I always said, I have to take care of my kids first. Now, they are thanking me for running again. They know I am a public servant.”

Mancias gave an exclusive interview to the Rio Grande Guardian at Poncho’s Restaurant in McAllen on Saturday morning. He was there for a meet-and-greet with Valdez, the Democratic Party candidate for governor. The event was hosted by the Hidalgo County Democratic Women’s group.

“It is Saturday morning at 10 o’clock and we have got a large group out. Last night we had about 400 people with us in Laredo. All over people are paying attention. This is the year Texas is in play. We are going to make a difference,” Valdez said.

Valdez said she is getting big turnouts whenever she goes. 

“The people are excited to vote for someone they can identify with. We had a young man here this morning come up close to tears, saying my story resonates.”

Valdez said she will surprise a lot of folks who believe the election is a shoe-in for Republican Governor Greg Abbott. 

“We are going to surprise a lot of folks. The people are ready for a change. They want to see somebody they can identify with. We have had too much of the good old guard.”

Asked what her message for the voters of the Rio Grande Valley is, Valdez, a former sheriff of Dallas County, said:

“Latinos need to get out to vote. Education needs to be changed and we need to change our priorities. Public education and healthcare are the things we need to pay attention to. In order to make that happen, we have got to get our voices heard. When there are more voices and people at the table, things happen. When it is all one-sided, people get left out.”