MCALLEN, Texas – Congressional District 15 candidate Michelle Vallejo says she is and always has been ready to participate in a candidate forum or debate, no matter which organization hosts it.

The McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the Pharr Chamber of Commerce, students at UT-Rio Grande Valley, and Futuro RGV, among others, have all wanted to put on a CD 15 candidate forum.

They have been prevented from doing so because Republican Monica De La Cruz has either refused to respond to their invitations or claimed she has had a series of scheduling conflicts.

“I’ve been looking forward to connecting with my community by way of a debate or candidate forum since the day we got into this general election,” Vallejo said.

The Rio Grande Guardian caught up with the Democratic Party candidate at a campaign rally at Archer Park, McAllen, on Saturday. In the interview, Vallejo said her door will always be open to all the chambers of commerce and their members.

“I’ve been excited to work on policy opportunities and proposals that we have here in the community that are rooted in the need that people have because of their lived experience,” said Vallejo referring to her interactions with the business community.

 “I firmly believe that our community members, our chambers of commerce, our business leaders, know what they need and what is best for the services that they’re providing and the work that they’re doing in our community, in order to be more efficient and effective. And it’s a shame that my opponent has decided to disrespect our community in this way, by not even responding to local press, to our chambers of commerce, to people at our local university who are have been working really hard to create these platforms for our community and constituents to be informed as they’re headed to the polls.”

CD 15 is an open seat. Because neither De La Cruz or Vallejo has served in elected office before many people in the community wanted to see them share a stage, to see who is the most competent, the most articulate, and the most intelligent.

It looks as though they will be deprived of that opportunity. Every suggested date for a forum has now been and gone, with the exception of the Pharr Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event. This was due to be Oct. 27 at the Pepe Salinas Community Center, but De La Cruz has not responded.

“We now have early vote, starting Monday, and still the candidate forums have not come fruition,” Vallejo said. “My opponent has yet to respond to our community and it’s very telling of the type of person and candidate she is. If she were to be any kind of representative for anybody here she would definitely not be serving the people of South Texas.”

Rather, Vallejo said, her opponent would be serving the Super PACs from outside South Texas that have been pumping in millions of dollars to pay for negative commercials on TV, radio and the internet. “They are calling the shots for her and for her team. We haven’t seen anything coming from her. She hasn’t responded to any of the questions, invitations, or concerns of our community,” Vallejo said.

Vallejo speculated that the reason De La Cruz does not want to debate her is because she would have to defend extreme policy positions. “They’re out of step with South Texas. They’re extreme, they’re radical, and they’re divisive,” she said.

It was put to Vallejo that if her opponent wins, the South Texas border region would be represented in Washington by someone out of step with the Valley leadership. Hitherto, Valley leaders, no matter if they are Republican or Democrat, have always hit back at claims in the national media that the region is a dangerous place to live, that its residents are living in a war zone.

Vallejo responded: “Our communities are viable. They’re strong, they’re deserving of investments. And whenever we have anybody, even community members, even candidates, especially at the national level, like my opponent, who has been trying to depict our home as a place of chaos, that is lawless, it really affects negatively our business community, the investments coming our way and the way that our community is organized in order to serve the needs that everybody has.”

McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos

Vallejo said she agreed with the analysis of McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos that the Valley is a safe place to work, live and play.

“I have a very good and positive working relationship with Mayor Javier Villalobos. He will say just as much as anybody else, that our communities are safe.”

It was pointed out to Vallejo that Villalobos, a Republican, has liked a number of her campaign tweets. Asked if he was backing her, Vallejo said:

“We have spoken a few times about this race and about what the community needs. And we are excited, I think, to serve our community in every way possible. Once I’m in office, I know we would be able to work very well together to continue keeping our community safe and keeping the investments coming in a positive way so that we all benefit and we’re able to care for the constituents that we all love so much.”

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