SAN BENITO, Texas – State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., believes his son, the retiring state Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, can go all the way to the top in Texas politics.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the eagerly anticipated RGV Epicenter project in San Benito on Saturday, Sen. Lucio (pictured above) said he hopes his son will “take over the baton one day.”

But Rep. Lucio announced earlier this month that he would not seek re-election to the Texas House of Representatives and instead spend more time with this family and on his business interests.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, the Rio Grande Guardian was granted an in-depth interview with Sen. Lucio about the current political scene in the Rio Grande Valley. It was clear Lucio was not impressed with the recent legislative session and how the redistricting process went. Asked if he would like his son to succeed him in the Texas Senate, Sen. Lucio said: “He is young but experienced. I would like him to take over the baton. He could open so many new frontiers in the Valley and all throughout Texas.”

Both Lucios are Democrats. Both are based in Cameron County.

Sen. Lucio said of his son: “He can reach the top of the mountain because he has all the tools. He has everything working for him. He is respected highly on both sides of the aisle in Austin. He debates the issues and can win debates easily if the leadership does not get involved and allows the House to serve by itself. That happened in one amendment. He lost it 72-70 but the governor of Texas got involved and was able to win that vote by one. If it had been tied that amendment that they wanted would not have passed. It was one vote.”

But, Rep. Lucio has announced his retirement, the Rio Grande Guardian pointed out. Lucio responded: “I wish he hadn’t. I hope he does (change his mind) but I don’t think so. Only my son can answer that. I respect him so much. He loves his family. His daily life is of God, family and community. Nothing could be more sacred for me than to see my son respect people, his elders and work with his generation to make things better, here where we live and across the whole state.”

Sen. Lucio said he prays his son is happy with his retirement.

“That he finds what he wants to accomplish in life. He still has miles to go before he sleeps. He is just 41 years old. Only God knows what plans he has for him. And others. There are some wonderful young people I respect that have shown themselves worthy of being able to serve in that capacity. I hope that the public looks at what is happening in our community and not follow either the state or the national norm of disrespect for elders, disrespect for life and (instead) do the right thing under God’s name.”

The 72-70 amendment that Sen. Lucio was referring to was an amendment offered to a new redistricting plan for the Texas House of Representatives. The amendment, filed by state Rep. J. Lozano, a Republican from Kingsville, radically changed the boundary lines of the three Texas House districts in Cameron County. Lozano’s successful amendment compacted Rep. Lucio’s district in Brownsville, leaving only one seat (District 37) to cover a large swathe of Cameron County. The entire map was crafted by Republicans. As the GOP has a majority in the statehouse it was able to draw the boundary lines it wanted for Congress, the Texas House and the Texas Senate.

Asked about the Lozano amendment to the Texas House plan, Sen. Lucio said: “He (Rep. Lucio) was not happy and I don’t blame him. What ended up happening has left Cameron County with a strong and a weak representative instead of two strong ones. The way you become strong is you represent a region. The region in this case is the county. You would have had two strong representatives. Now, the one that just runs in Brownsville is just going to work for Brownsville’s issues, not for Cameron County’s issues. Maybe she or he will, whoever gets elected. Maybe. I pray that is the case. But she or he does not have to because they have to take care of their district. Being able to work as one of two strong state representatives in Cameron would have been the thing to do but we allowed somebody who never comes to the Valley, who does not know the Valley, who does not know one public official here, Representative Lozano, to dictate to us what is good for us, instead of us dictating what is good for ourselves.”

In a debate about his amendment on the House floor, Lozano said he had been asked to draw the new lines in Cameron County the way he did by un-named leaders in Harlingen.

“That is not true. That is not true,” Lucio said of Lozano’s claim. “He (Lozano) is known by many in my new district, in Nueces, where I have been received warmly. They can’t help but tell me he deceives them and just does not tell the truth. I hope that he changes his ways but we don’t have a friend in Representative Lozano.”

Asked about the redrawing of his Senate seat (District 27), Lucio said he was reasonably happy. The new district contains less of Hidalgo County and a small part of Nueces County. This has made the seat more of a swing district, one that Republicans could win.

“I am fine. Yes (it could turn Republican), but I think it is healthy to have a competitive district. It keeps everybody honest, working hard. And it keeps us working together, not separately. If we have a district that is 80 percent Democrat, we are not going to care for our brothers and sisters on the Republican side. Or vice versa. I like it where it is competitive, where it forces us to sit down at the table, all together, all for one and one for all,” Lucio said.

The Rio Grande Guardian also asked Lucio about the new congressional map, as it impacts the Valley. Congressional District 15, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, has been reconfigured to boost the chances of a Republican breakthrough win. Gonzalez himself has been positioned in neighboring Congressional District 34, which is now more solidly Democratic.

Asked about the fact that Gonzalez, who lives in McAllen, has been drawn into a district anchored in Brownsville, Lucio said: “I understand the reasoning for that. You have got a seasoned congressman who already has proven himself in Washington within his party. So, they are going to want to keep him there. And they are going to pump in all the resources that Mr. González needs to get elected. But, the other side of it is will he pull evenly for both sides? Many times there are competitive issues. The Port of Brownsville may need federal funds. But there is only so much to go around. Does he (Gonzalez) pull for the other ports of entry where he lives? I hope that he pulls evenly. He is a wonderful person, a smart man. I respect him but I think he is going to see that people in Cameron County would like to see someone who is from here, who comes from here.”

Asked if Democrats can hold on to Congressional District 15, Lucio said: “That one is more competitive. I think that one could go either way. But that is the way I wanted to see (Congressional District) 34. I wanted 34 to be competitive. I wanted people to listen to everyone and respond to everyone and have it more of a district where it forces people to work together, all work together, not just one party.”

Lucio said his views might not be received well within the Democratic Party.

“I will be scorned by my party but, hey, why? I have delivered. What have I not delivered for the Valley? Name one thing. I think there is a lot of talk right now that Representative Dominguez is getting ready to run. He cannot announce right now but wants to run in Senate District 27. He is making a big mistake because he doesn’t have a resume. He doesn’t have a resume. He hasn’t accomplished anything. He has only followed. He hasn’t led.”

Lucio was referring to state Rep. Alex Dominguez, a Democrat from Brownsville who has made clear he wants to run for higher office. Dominguez has been drawn out of his current district – District 37 – and moved into District 38. But, rather than run for re-election to the Texas House, there is speculation he may run for Lucio’s Senate seat.

‘I wish him (Dominguez) the best, though. Anyone deserves the chance to run for whatever they want to run for. But I would hope he establishes himself before he starts seeking higher office.”

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