As of November 2020, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office the Rio Grande Valley as a region had 657,073 registered voters.  

Compared to Texas counties, this total ranked sixth after these counties:  

  1. Harris County (Houston) 2,480,522
  2. Dallas County 1,398,469
  3. Tarrant County (Ft Worth and Arlington) 1,212,524
  4. Bexar County (San Antonio) 1,189,373
  5. Travis County (Austin) 854,577
  6. Rio Grande Valley 657,073

Our region has the foundation to be a more significant “influencer” for statewide or national elections. Of course, the percentages of Republicans v. Democrats will vary across Texas. The rate of registered citizens who actually vote also varies from region to region. Such factors have greatly determined outcomes in the past and how influential an area is deemed to be. It is time to treat the past as a learning lesson only, not as a determining predictor for future races.

In the future other factors will weigh greatly. One is the median age in the region. The activism of local groups to promote voter registration and actual voting will be significant. How well the national parties invest in statewide and local party efforts and muscle for voter education and outreach will be huge. Another factor is how well future campaigns recruit swing voters or even voters from the other political party. Convincing a swing voter to vote for the other party is not out of the question if candidates advocate for sound policies.  

A final point is how well political campaigns value all voters. Citizens registered to vote – regardless of their level of education, income bracket, past voting record, or language fluency – should not be taken for granted. They should be respected and treated as a valuable voice in our democratic system.

Over the holiday season, I was pleased to place hundreds of calls to Latino voters (including many who only spoke Spanish) in Georgia to support the two victorious Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Prior to agreeing to serve to do phone banking for Latino outreach, I evaluated the candidates. The visions, ethics, and policy platforms of the Republican Senators could not be any more different than those of the Democratic challengers. The Republican incumbents were unabashedly divisive in their rhetoric. I could not vote in Georgia but I could certainly influence. The January 5 special runoff election was expected to be extremely close – and that is exactly what happened.  

The Rio Grande Valley as a region could play a similar pivotal and deciding role in a future statewide or national election. We do not know when. What we do know is that the Valley has the foundation to become another must field to harvest either blue or red voters.   

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Salomon Torres (pictured above), a Harlingen resident and former candidate for Congress. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Torres can be reached at: [email protected]

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