WESLACO, Texas – Five lawmakers from the Rio Grande Valley have brushed aside the candidacy of one of their legislative colleagues and instead endorsed a newcomer.
State Reps. Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez of Weslaco, Sergio Muñoz of Mission, Oscar Longoria of La Joya, Terry Canales of Edinburg, and R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen, all Democrats, are backing Morgan LaMantia in the open Texas Senate District 27 race.
They believe LaMantia, an attorney from South Padre Island, is a better bet for the Senate than Alex Dominguez, an attorney from Brownsville. Dominguez is currently a state representative and a colleague of Martinez, Muñoz, Longoria, Canales and Guerra in the Texas House of Representatives. He is one of four Democrats vying for SD 27.
LaMantia has also won the backing of state Rep. Abel Herrero, a Democrat from Robstown.
“This is an incredible honor. It’s this kind of unity that brought South Texas its own medical school,” said LaMantia. “I’m a collaborative leader by nature, and I know that we stand strongest when we stand together for South Texas families.”
Senate District 27 is open because the incumbent, veteran state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., is retiring at the next election.
Rep. Martinez said: “As the longest serving member of the Rio Grande Valley delegation, it’s an honor for me to think about people that can actually move our leadership into the next generation. That is why I’m endorsing Morgan LaMantia for State Senate.”
Actually, Martinez is not the longest serving member of the Valley’s House delegation. That honor belongs to state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City. Guillen has been in the Texas House one term longer than Martinez.
Rep. Canales said: “We need legislators who understand the interconnectedness of our community and will fight for regional solutions to our transportation and infrastructure challenges. That’s why after researching all the candidates, I’m endorsing Morgan LaMantia for the State Senate.”
LaMantia is a native of South Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio. A news release from her campaign says she is “part of the next generation of leadership in the family business that supports over 1,200 jobs across Texas and beyond.”
That family business is L&F Distributors, which distributes Bud Light and Budweiser beer in South Texas and other parts of the state.
“She (LaMantia) is running for State Senate, District 27, to bring her experience in health care, job creation and community development and stand up for the opportunities all South Texas families deserve,” the news release states.
The news release says Reps. Longoria, Muñoz, Guerra and Herrero like LaMantia’s track record in tackling health care costs and job creation. They say LaMantia is committed to helping students afford college, and that she has a “steadfast commitment to stand up for working families.”
Asked about the endorsement of LaMantia by his Texas House colleagues, Dominguez said he was not fazed. He said that all the Valley members are from Hidalgo County, not Cameron County, where SD 27 is anchored. And, he said, with the exception of Martinez, none of the Valley reps live in SD 27.
“Money can’t buy experience, heart or character. The endorsements are by House members who each have received thousands in political contributions from Ms. LaMantia’s family and do not even live in SD 27,” Dominguez told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“Clearly, this candidate thinks she can buy this nomination because that’s what out of touch wealthy people without any accomplishments who live in McAllen do, instead of actually helping communities.”
Actually, according to her application for a place on the Democratic Party primary ballot, LaMantia lives on South Padre Island, not in McAllen. The document says the candidate has lived in SD 27 for one month.
Dominguez added: “Anyone foolish enough to believe these endorsements are anything other than a quid pro quo is fooling themselves.”
According to candidate filing reports, Rep. Martinez has received $4,000 during the past four years from the LaMantia family or WBDT, a political action committee with ties to the LaMantia family. During the same period and from the same sources, Rep. Muñoz has received $14,500, Rep. Longoria $4,000, Rep. Canales $5,000, Rep. Guerra $17,500, and Rep. Herrero $22,750.
Dominguez acknowledged he, too, has received campaign funding from the LaMantias in the past.
In addition to LaMantia and Dominguez, there are two other Democrats running for Senate District 27. They are Sara Stapleton Barrera, an attorney from Brownsville, and Salomon Torres, a small business owner from Harlingen.
Asked for a comment on the endorsements of LaMantia by the Valley lawmakers, Torres said: “I look forward to working in Austin with these and other House members as Senator for District 27. They will find in me an independent and spirited advocate for the Valley and the Coastal Bend.”
Editor’s Note: In the interests of full disclosure, Salomon Torres hosted, with the Rio Grande Guardian, a one-day conference on the 175th Anniversary of U.S.-Mexico War in Port Isabel last November as the Guardian’s unpaid director of event initiatives.
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