By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS
At the last minute, the main attraction (arguably) to a political forum sponsored on Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union canceled and missed the opportunity to face the challengers vying for his seat at the Texas Senate District 27.
Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., who’s been State District 27 senator since 1991, had agreed to attend a “Rights for All RGV Candidate Forum” in Brownsville but did not arrive. ACLU officials had to announce a few minutes before the meeting that he would not be attending after all.
Ruben Cortez, Vanessa Tijerina, and Sara Stapleton-Barrera alleged that Lucio usually votes with Republicans in the State Legislature, often without concerns for his constituents.
Although she is running as a Republican for political strategy, Tijerina, a nurse, said most of her political views are more aligned with the Democratic Party.
When asked why she thought Lucio decided to cancel the engagement, Tijerina said, “I don’t know, but I’m thinking that with some of the more conservative stands he took with many of the issues, perhaps he’s going to be looking less progressive.”
All three candidates supported more progressive views such as health care for all, voting, and abortion rights, no walls on the border, and protecting the rights of the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.
Cortez said Lucio constantly votes against the rights of the LGBTQ community despite the fact that 71 percent of residents in Senate District 27 support that community.
Cortez also reprimanded Lucio because he usually votes with the Republicans even when all the rest of the Democrats in the Senate vote against legislation detrimental to the Rio Grande Valley’s residents.
“Over and over you see this,” Cortez said. “We need a senator who’s going to focus on everybody’s rights and focus on doing the right thing for every Texan.”
Another question from a moderator asked Cortez how he, if elected, would vocally oppose further expansion of (immigration) detention centers both operated by the government and private companies in Senate District 27 and Texas.
“We see the valley as ground zero for a lot of this in the national media,” Cortez said. “This is part of the hateful policy that this Republican administration, joined by our current senator, that supports every move of Dan Patrick (Republican Lieutenant Governor of Texas). We need to stop these practices.”
Stapleton-Barrera, also a lawyer, said she is not a career politician but a mom.
Born and raised in Brownsville, Stapleton-Barrera said the reason she entered into the political fray about a year ago was because most of the people making the decisions in Texas are men and Republicans without caring for all Texans, especially women.
“I would like you to imagine a Texas that has health care for all of us,” she said.
Stapleton-Barrera said the Rio Grande Valley needs someone on the ground with the people day in and day out.
“(We) need to answer the phone, answer the hard questions, and answer the messages,” she said. “It’s a community effort that’s been lacking for all this time.”
Early voting runs from February 18-28. Election day is March 3.
Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Jan. 17-23, 2020 issue of the NEWS.