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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, RGV – The chances of state Rep. René Oliveira winning his runoff election against challenger Alex Dominguez do not look good, if history is anything to go by.

At a Texas Municipal League conference on South Padre Island on Friday, lobbyist Snapper Carr said that, usually, incumbents that are forced into a runoff “do not do well” in Texas. In fact, only three incumbents have won in the last 28 runoff attempts, Carr said.

Carr, who represents the needs of local governments before the Texas Legislature and helps private-sector clients understand and navigate local government processes, did not speak directly about the Oliveira-Dominguez race. Rather, he was giving an overview on what happens in runoff elections in Texas.

“In an open seat that is pushed to a runoff, it is often a tossup,” Carr told TML members from Region 12. “Incumbents, though, just by the numbers, do not fare well. In the last 28 elections, where an incumbent has been pushed to a runoff, the record is three and 25. That is a very significant situation for incumbents.”

Oliveira has held Brownsville-based District 37 since 1981. He is the fifth longest-serving member of the Texas House of Representatives and dean of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation. One of his proudest achievements was filing legislation to establish UT-Rio Grande Valley and its four-year school of medicine.

Dominguez has been Cameron County Commissioner for Precinct 2 since June 2014. A Brownsville native, Dominguez is a criminal defense attorney and former educator.

District 37 includes Brownsville, South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Los Fresnos, and Rio Hondo.

The runoff election is on May 22. Early voting starts Monday. The last opportunity to see both candidates together before early voting starts is on Saturday, May 12. Both are slated to attend a Valley Interfaith accountability session.

The session starts at 11:00 AM and is expected to last one hour. The venue is St. Eugene de Mazenod Catholic Church, 5409 Austin Road in Brownsville.

The Rev. Kevin Collins is pastor at St. Eugene de Mazenod Catholic Church and a Valley Interfaith supporter.

“Instead of our parishioners coming to listen to what the candidates have to tell us, we have the candidates come and listen to their needs. We have met with the candidates ahead of time and we have told them what our issues are. We want them to respond to these issues,” Collins said.

“Given the direction the state took last session with regards to issues that affect our families, this is an important opportunity to get our candidates’ commitments to fight for our communities. We want them to come back to the center and legislate on issues that directly impact our families.”

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Collins explained the four parts of Valley Interfaith’s statewide legislative agenda. He said Valley Interfaith would be looking to the candidates to:

  • Commit to support Valley Interfaith in repealing of Senate Bill 4, the anti-sanctuary cities legislation;
  • Commit to investing $3.2 billion dollars in public education, with the funds coming from the state’s so-called Rainy-Day Fund;
  • Commit to supporting local control for local governments, so that, for example, the City of Brownsville’s Pay Day lending ordinance can be maintained;
  • Commit to support VIDA, a Valley Interfaith workforce training program, by ensuring $500,000 is allocated from the $5 million ACE Fund to the program every two years.

Collins said of SB 4: “We want them to commit to the repeal of SB 4, which is the anti-immigrant, show me your papers, law. We feel this legislation does not make our community any safer. People are afraid to tell peace officers if they have seen a crime, for fear of deportation.”

On education funding, Collins said it has been “cut, cut, cut,” over the years. “So, we are asking them to commit $3.2 billion to public education from the Rainy-Day Fund because it is raining. It is time to tap into that fund,” Collins said.

On the predatory lending issue, Collins said: “We want them to protect local control of ordinances our city has passed, especially the one against predatory lending practices. Right now, local control is still there but every session there is a big push to upend local control, especially in the predatory lending arena. We realize there is a huge lobby and it is not a party issue. You have both Democrats and Republicans both for and against predatory lending.”

As for VIDA, Collins said the program is special.

“It is close to my heart. I am on the board of VIDA. The state has been supporting the $5 million ACE funding for many years. VIDA gets $500,000. It is a very good, sustainable, workforce development program in the Valley. It allows people to go back and get training for a good paying job.”

Asked about the accountability session, Rosie Hinojosa, a leader from St. Eugene Catholic Parish, said: “So many of our families struggle with immigration, education, and poverty, that we see these as the most important issues for our elected officials to work with us to address. This is our chance to get their commitments so that we can hold them accountable and work with them in the upcoming legislative session.”

Collins said that in addition to the accountability session, Valley Interfaith is organizing a Get Out the Vote campaign in the local parish.

“We are going door to door, telling people about the issues, getting buy-in. We are telling people, you have to vote in this election and every election.”

Valley Interfaith is a broad-based community organization with institutional members across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Its purpose is the development of community leaders who organize residents to develop effective strategies to deal with issues that affect the welfare of families. Issues include education, housing, job training, health care, and infrastructure, among others. The organization is nonpartisan and does not support candidates for public office, political parties or political philosophies. Valley Interfaith is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of organizations that includes 12 organizations throughout Texas.

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