PHARR, RGV – Next week’s live Congressional District 15 forum on CBS 4 will be a great event for students studying government to attend, says retired political science professor Gary Joe Mounce.

Gary Joe Mounce
Gary Joe Mounce

The event takes place at the Pharr Events Center on Monday, February 15, starting at 5 p.m. All six Democratic Party candidates and all three Republican Party candidates running for the open CD 15 seat have confirmed their participation. The event is free and open to the general public.

The forum will be broadcast LIVE on KGBT-TV and News Talk 710 KURV. Questions will be posed to the candidates by reporters from CBS 4, KURV and the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I would encourage all the political science professors in our colleges and schools to take their students to this forum. The students will learn a lot,” said Mounce, who taught political science for many years at UT-Pan American.

Mounce writes a regular column for the Rio Grande Guardian, often on subjects related to Latin America. In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Mounce said: “Democracy means rule by the ‘demos’ or the people. But all the people cannot go to Washington. In our indirect democracy we choose only one. Professors, especially not just of political science professors should urge their students to take advantage of this unique forum. The rewards are not just academic. A young voter will become a better informed citizen.”

Mounce said a lot should be learned at the forum.

“At the very least voters should learn which congressional candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time. We should discover more important information: How will economics and education in the Rio Grande Valley benefit? How will l as an individual benefit? There will be many choices among parties with opposition in the primary—six Democrats and three Republicans. Who will represent this part of the Valley, at least for the next two years? Who will succeed Kika de la Garza and Rubén Hinojosa? This is the first step in choosing someone who might go on to an even higher office—Senator? Governor? President? It all starts here, at the grassroots.”

Mounce also provided historical perspective and details of this year’s primary election.

“Who will South Texas send to Washington? Who will represent the people along our river, the Rio Grande, in the Capitol along the Hudson River, in the District of Columbia? The first Mexican American to represent this unique area was Eligio “Kika” de la Garza. He served from 1965 to 1997. He was followed by Rubén Hinojosa, 1997 through 2016, who recently announced he will not run for another term.

“Currently, there are six Democratic candidates for this important position and three Republicans. The primary (or first) election will occur Tuesday, March 1st, 2016. May 24th is the date if a runoff is required between the top two candidates, if no one gets 50.1 percent of the vote. This year, Texas voters will have the opportunity to play a larger part in selection of their candidate for President. That is, they will be part of “Super Tuesday,” or, “SEC Tuesday,” so-called because of the many states in the South East Conference of Football.

“While presidential politics are exciting (and confusing and exasperating) don’t forget how important is the Congressperson to be chosen. Will s/he be a woman? Will s/he be a lawyer? A businessperson? Someone experienced? Our voters will determine that.”