Democratic primary runoffs have taken the spotlight this week in Cameron County, particularly in the race for Texas House District 37. The two remaining candidates have publicly exchanged jabs as early voting commenced this week.

Last week, incumbent of 33 years René Oliveira (D-Brownsville) faced Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez in a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Rio Grande Valley and Frontera Progressives at the Brownsville Public Library. This packed event garnered attention as it was Oliveira’s first public appearance since his DWI charge last month.

Contrarily, Commissioner Dominguez attributed his four and a half years as commissioner as his qualification, stating that “less than five percent” of representatives have experience running a county. “People in Austin don’t know how the county works,” he said.

Oliveira rebutted, “We don’t need a junior member.”

The March Democratic Primary for HD 37 was a three-way race between Oliveira, Dominguez, and Arturo Alonzo. Oliveira received 48.4 percent of the vote, 2 points shy of avoiding a runoff; Dominguez received only 36.4 percent.

However, since Oliveira’s DWI arrest, Dominguez has received an outpouring of support. “[The arrest] pushed people over the top,” he said. “If they were ever on the fence, they have fully come to our side. People want a change at this point.”

Dominguez claims that Oliveira has become too comfortable with Austin, and has lost support from constituents because of his unwillingness to fight for them. “It hurts me when I see people really struggling,” Dominguez stated. He also alluded to rumors of Oliveira’s retirement. “There’s no reason to help the constituency because they’re retiring anyways … The district should not have a piece of furniture.”

Oliveira’s campaign has offered name recognition and his 33-year tenure. His current resume includes Chairman of the House Committee on Business and Industry and member of State Affairs Committee. He also was a member of Republican House Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team.

Dominguez argues that Oliveira’s past appointments are irrelevant because of Speaker Straus’ retirement, and claims that his own innovative ideas and experience running a county are what the Cameron County people need in Austin.

As of Thursday evening, 5876 votes were cast in the three local races: Texas House 37, 197th District Court, and Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Place 2. Today is the last day of early voting. Election day is on Tuesday, May 22.

Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Texas Scorecard. A second-generation Mexican American, she is both fluent in English and Spanish and has been influential in grassroots organizing and conservative engagement within Hispanic communities. If you don’t find her “Trumping”, you can find her saving animals, running her dog, hiking the Andes, or volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service.


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