Endorsing U.S. Sen. John Cornyn this election cycle are Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, businessman Alonzo Cantu, and Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. (Photo: Ron Whitlock)

As a veteran Rio Grande Valley broadcaster who now also works as a governmental affairs consultant and public policy advocate for The Shepherd Group, I am proud to endorse U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for re-election. 

Cornyn, a Republican who has served three six-year terms in the Senate, is being challenged by U.S. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, a Democrat. The election takes place Nov. 3.

I would note that I have only once before endorsed a political candidate and that was a Democrat – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo.

Why am I supporting Senator Cornyn? Because, when it comes to the Valley, Cornyn equals jobs. An example? Look no further than the federal funds appropriated to dredge the Port Mansfield ship channel.

Senator Cornyn, in a bipartisan manner, crossed party lines and worked with Congressmen Filemon Vela, Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez to secure $20 million in federal funds to totally dredge Port Mansfield for the first time since 1962, which was the year it was originally constructed.

Once the Port Mansfield ship channel is fully dredged it will, for the first time in ages, be open for business, with 800 jobs slated to be created through the development of barge container traffic.

It should be noted that Port Mansfield is in Willacy County, the poorest county in Texas with a high percentage of Hispanic families. I am a resident of Willacy County and started my broadcast career in the 1960s in Raymondville, the county seat, at K-SOX Radio.

Dredging the ship channel is a game changer for Port Mansfield and Willacy County, with Willacy County Navigation District developing plans for container business at the port.

There plenty more examples of Sen. Cornyn ‘bringing home the bacon’ for the Valley, including transportation funding to get Highways 77, 281 and 83, not only up to interstate standards, but, in collaboration with the Obama/Biden administration, securing the all-important I-69 designation. 

Let us go back for a minute to the 2008 presidential election. During the Democratic Party primary, Federico Peña, representing the Obama campaign, and longtime Democratic Party operative Gilberto Hinojosa, representing Hillary Clinton, participated, as surrogates, in a TV debate I hosted. It was held in Hidalgo’s State Farm Arena.

Peña, a Brownsville native, graduated from Saint Joseph’s Academy. He became mayor of Denver and was President Clinton‘s Cabinet Secretary for Transportation. 

During this debate, Peña pledged to me that if Barack Obama were to be elected he would get I-69 constructed in south Texas, so that I-69 shields could go up!

However, the Obama/Biden administration needed some help. U.S. Sen John Cornyn, seeking to fulfill a commitment, reached across the aisle and knocked on the door of the White House. That was but one of the many times he has done that. 

Why did Sen. Cornyn do it? Because, when he was campaigning to replace retiring U.S. Senator Phil Gram, the then-Texas Attorney General had committed to me to obtain federal funding to help get I-69 constructed and the shields put up. He did this during a debate I organized at UT-Brownsville.

Due to Cornyn’s determination to honor his commitment, the very first hearing he brought to Texas, six months after assuming office, was a Senate Transportation hearing. There, he took testimony on the need to complete I-69, not only for ‘just in time’ shipments to U.S. automotive plants/maquiladoras in Mexico, but also for tourists to be able to reach the beaches of South Padre Island more quickly.

Cornyn joked, during our interview on KRGV TV 5, which then aired Ron Whitlock Reports, that fulfilling his promise to me was made a lot easier because his friend, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, revealed that his family happened to have a condo on SPI, and he, therefore, was already very aware of how important it was for Interstate 69 to be completed – so that tourists such as himself could get to SPI quicker!

In closing, I am also pleased to say Sen. Cornyn is currently pushing to get the Valley’s land ports of entry re-opened to so-called ‘non-essential’ travel, such as the Mexican shoppers and tourists that love to visit South Padre Island.

Therefore, I am wholeheartedly endorsing Senator John Cornyn, and for that matter, Congressmen Vela, Cuellar and Gonzales, and asking voters to re-elect them.

We are going to need their experience, know how and ability to work across the aisle in the 117th United States Congress that starts Jan. 3, 2021. 

There is so much on the line for deep South Texas. We need them to help appropriate the funds to build a second causeway for South Padre Island, not only for our regional economy, but also in order to develop stronger diplomatic, political and economic ties with Mexico.

By the way, it is not only myself that has endorsed Sen. Cornyn for re-election. Here is a list of some of the South Texas VIPs that are publicly backing his campaign:

Editor’s Note: The above op-ed was penned by public advocacy consultant Ron Whitlock and appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s consent. Whitlock can be reached at: [email protected].

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Ron Whitlock.

Editor’s Note: The above endorsement has been made by Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports. It has not been made by The Rio Grande Guardian. The Rio Grande Guardian does not make endorsements.

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