MCALLEN, Texas – Recently, the House Majority Political Action Committee has been sending the Rio Grande Guardian press releases saying the PAC is producing television ads in support of U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez.

When we asked why the PAC has not done the same for Congressional District 15 candidate Michelle Vallejo there was no reply. That seems strange given the PAC’s stated goal.

According to its website, the House Majority PAC “is the only PAC focused exclusively on electing Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives. Formed in April 2011, House Majority PAC’s goal was to answer the barrage of GOP outside spending and ensure that never again would groups funded by Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and right-wing extremists be able to drown out Democratic candidates and leave these candidates in a hole that is difficult to climb out.”

CD 15 is sandwiched between Cuellar’s CD 28 and CD 34, which Gonzalez is running in. Unlike CD 28 and CD 34, CD 15 provides a slight advantage to Republicans. If the 2020 presidential election had been held in the new-look CD 15, President Trump would have won by 2.8 percent. 

There is no question Vallejo has been subjected to “barrage of GOP outside spending.” According to Vallejo, $2.8 million in “dark money” has so far been spent against her. 

The Rio Grande Guardian sought answers from progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros, who has twice challenged Cuellar in hard fought Democratic primaries. Cisneros, a Laredo native, is campaigning for Vallejo. The interview was conducted at a Vallejo rally held recently at Archer Park in McAllen.

Asked if Vallejo is viable, given the amount of negative attack ads she has faced, Cisneros said:

“Michelle is absolutely viable. I mean, I think we’ve seen that from the beginning when she was getting outspent in her previous races. She always comes out on top one way or the other. And I think that’s just a testament to the fact that she and her team are scrappy. I think they are a reflection of what happens when people in the Rio Grande Valley are presented with a challenge. They always rise up and I think that’s a quintessential South Texas story.”

Cisneros said Vallejo’s race is similar to the ones she has run against Cuellar.

“That kind of fight we also saw in our own race, right, where people counted you out from the beginning and then all of a sudden it’s a very close and surprising race, and a nail-biter. I think that’s what I’m anticipating for this race to be, that it’s going to be a nail-biter.”

According to the opinion polls, the race between Vallejo and her Republican opponent, Monica De La Cruz, is close. Closer than many expected, given the mismatch in funding. According to Cisneros, the Vallejo camp is running a smart campaign, making every dollar count. 

“The one thing that I’m really excited to see and hear, in the times that I’ve come here to campaign for Michelle, is that excitement on the ground and the ear to the ground that this team has. I mean, to see them so excited, despite how much they’re getting outspent, which in political terms, means you’re not viable, you’re not going to win, but the fact that they’ve been able to accomplish so much on a shoestring budget just goes to show that they are a smart team. They’re trying to get as much bang for their buck as possible.”

Cisneros was asked about the anger local Democrats have with the House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Both chose not to fund television ads for Vallejo, even though her race was tightening.  

Cisneros responded: “The grassroots energy that Michelle is bringing needs to be harnessed. I think it is abundantly clear that the future for South Texas leadership is a South Texas Latina. The Republicans know that. That is why their three South Texas candidates are Latinas. Michelle is the one that we should be really pushing, again not just because of what she’s been able to accomplish, with that lack of investment from, you know, all these major players, but because she is truly a reflection of the values of the people in the district. That is why she is a force to be reckoned with.”

As Reps. Cuellar and Gonzalez are getting millions of dollars in television ads from groups such as the House Majority PAC and the DCCC, while Vallejo is getting nothing, Cisneros was asked if the two incumbents should funnel some of their money back to Vallejo. Cisneros said she liked that idea.

“They (Cuellar and Gonzalez) have been there (in Congress) for multiple terms. They should be able to fundraise on their own. They should be fine. This (CD 15) is the seat that is a true toss-up in Texas, and it’s just mind-blowing that all of a sudden, you know, the investment just isn’t being spent or put into Texas 15. Michelle is the one who obviously deserves the investment.”

Cisneros said she has been doing her part.

“I’ve been able to fundraise and we’re investing $35,000 across South Texas, not just here in Texas 15 but primarily focused on Texas 28 and local races. And other South Texas races like Rochelle Garza’s for attorney general. That is also really important because, again, she’s a South Texas Latina and Democrats have to recognize that this is the future of leadership in this party,” Cisneros said.

Cisneros added: “I challenge people like Congressman Cuellar to do the same thing. That lack of investment (in the grassroots) in the beginning is kind of what placed us with this problem where we have very low voter turnout in South Texas. And you just can’t expect people to turn out from one cycle to the other. It takes time. And I’m not just like talking to talk. I’m walking the walk and making sure that we’re providing that investment, not just for this election but for what’s to come.”

Editor’s Note: Here is video from the Michelle Vallejo rally at Archer Park in McAllen:


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