Saturday, July 21, 2018
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20170715 STAbbottFour years to the day after arriving in McAllen to campaign for the first time for governor, incumbent Greg Abbott returned to the city, this time vowing in his lifetime to see the traditionally Democratic Rio Grande Valley voting Red.


But the head of Hidalgo County’s Democratic Party characterized the governor’s appeal for Hispanic’s votes as hypocritical considering the policies he supported during his first term in office.


Last Saturday Abbott addressed about 100 supporters and volunteers at the Lone Star Bar-B-Q restaurant in McAllen prior to their heading out en masse going door to door to establish a rapport with voters in an attempt to sway them to vote Republican.


“We need to make sure that we win in a big way,” Abbott told his supporters. “But also as governor, as the person at the top of the ballot, it’s necessary that we have coattails, that we help Republicans win up and down the ballot. I have a vision, I have a goal that I intend to achieve, whether it be this election or some election in the future, that goal is to insure that in my lifetime the Rio Grande Valley is going to be voting Republican in every single election.”


The governor’s comments drew cheers and applause from his supporters, among them Republican notables like former State Representative Aaron Peña, who Abbott thanked for helping “to lay the ground work of connecting the Rio Grande Valley with the Republican Party.” Abbott noted Peña was once a Democrat. Also in attendance were McAllen businessman and former mayoral candidate, Othal Brand, deputy Mission city attorney and state appeals court candidate, Jaime Tijerina; Sergio Sanchez, chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party and Jim Barnes, president of the McAllen Tea Party and Republican Precinct Chairman.


Like the others, Barnes said he supports Abbott because of his conservative policies such as his support of the recently passed so-called Sanctuary Cities bill that empowers police to inquire of a person’s immigration status during routine stops and requires local authorities to comply with federal immigration detainers.


“I think the sanctuary city opposition that he’s pushed in the legislature is something that’s good for Texas,” Barnes said. “And I think a lot of people here in the Valley don’t realize that it’s good for them. If illegals are sent back to Mexico and have no place to live or go I think there will be more jobs available in the Valley and they will be at higher salaries than they are now.”


But it is support of the sanctuary city legislation and for a border wall that makes Abbott’s appeal to Hispanics hypocritical to Ric Godinez, chairman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party.


“There’s something about the hypocrisy from our governor saying, ‘we don’t need intrusions from Washington,’ yet they want to intrude on us down here,” Godinez said Monday at his McAllen law office. “You can’t say, ‘I’m with you guys and I support you, and my wife’s Hispanic, and we believe in all of you.’ I guarantee you every single Republican or Democrat is one or two degrees away from somebody they are close to, works for or knows to be undocumented. It just touches every aspect of our lives here.”


Godinez said he isn’t aware of any Democrats expected to run against Abbott in the 2018 general election. And Abbott named only one announced candidate in the March 2018 primary election, Arlington telecommunications contractor Larry S. Kilgore. Kilgore, who has run for governor and the U.S. Senate unsuccessfully, had for several years legally changed his middle name to Secede to underscore his campaign platform that Texas should secede from the United States.


“Now we all know there’s a whole bunch of people who want Texas to secede,” Abbott told the gathering. “He’s going to get 100,000 votes just because he’s pressing for Texas secession.”


Though Abbott currently has no real opposition, Godinez said it was smart for Abbott to start his reelection campaign where he is least popular. Four years ago Abbott received 34.7 percent of the Hidalgo County vote compared to 67.71 percent going to Democrat Wendy R. Davis, a former state senator and Fort Worth city councilwoman. Hidalgo County Elections Office records show no Republican in any race, state or local, received more votes than Democratic candidates in the county in the 2014 general election.


Despite Abbott’s lack of popularity in the Valley, Kenna S. Giffiin, a Mission resident who chairs Democratic Precinct 204 in Mission and who teaches government at South Texas College, said she believes Abbott is apparently hoping to convince some Democrats to vote for some Republican candidates instead of a straight Democratic Party ticket. But she said given the tradition in the Valley of Hispanics generally being loyal to the Democratic Party that could be an uphill battle.


“A lot of Republicans down here are Anglos,” Giffin said. “And the Anglo, Hispanic split is still very much alive.”