Records reveal that 2018 has seen an upsurge in women politicians throughout the nation, claiming “2018 will be the year of women.” It’s been suggested that opposition to the presidency of Donald J. Trump has led to the increase in women candidates vying for office this year. However, according to TIME, the movement is also driven by some of the same sentiment that helped elect Trump:
“Frustration at a nonresponsive government of career politicians who seem to care more about donors than the needs of ordinary families.”
In the Rio Grande Valley, considered the “bluest region” of Texas, women have taken the reins within both parties as they seek elected office in a male-dominated field. Mothers, wives, teachers, attorneys, administrators, consultants, business owners—women from all walks of life are rising up and looking to lead in all levels of government. In their desire to alter the perception (and reality) of corruption in the region by turning the RGV’s leadership female.
Hidalgo County has 17 (contested) countywide races in the March 2018 primaries, with 16 women candidates. Four are on the Republican ballot, including Adrienne Peña Garza, who’s running to become the county’s first female GOP Chair.
At a recent Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas meeting, all female candidates, mostly democrats, were invited to speak. Most gave their usual introductory speeches, but the gloves came off as candidates took jabs at current Democrat office holders.
In the highly-contested race for Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 between incumbent Joseph Palacios and Ellie Torres, Torres attacked Palacios’ tenure. “I’m about public service, not lip service… I’m here to be your voice,” she stated.
Arminda Garza, 25 years old, is the youngest female candidate in Texas for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2. Additionally, she’s the first and only Republican JP candidate in Hidalgo County’s history. “It means a lot knowing that women want to run for office,” she states. “We are breaking the mold, and we are doing everything we can to show men that we are just as capable at doing the same job, but even better.” She’s called out previous office holders for taking shortcuts and accepting bribes. “Justice must be impartial,” she’s previously stated.
Judge Dori Contreras who currently sits on the 13th Court of Appeals Place 6 and is running for Chief Justice, is no stranger to politics. “I’ve been serving you for fifteen years… In this particular campaign, it has been a little more challenging because the chief justice position has never been filled by a woman. I unfortunately have confronted the ‘good old boy’ network like I’ve never seen it before. There’s a group out there that does not want to see a woman as a chief justice of the 13th Court of Appeals,” she stated.
Incumbent Judge Gina Benavides, 13th Court of Appeals Place 5, observed that “access to justice is the greatest obstacle. Access to justice is a fundamental right; it can’t be only for those who have lawyers, or those who have money or know someone within the court system.”
Running for a second time to represent Texas House District 41, Republican Hilda Garza DeShazo openly attacked sexual harassment within the Texas Legislature (Democrat lawmakers) that have recently been exposed. “Sexual harassment against women at the capitol should not be tolerated, and that’s one of the bills I plan to introduce.” She also said that “it is time for a citizen legislator,” and promised to “represent the constituents, not deep-pocket donors.”
Republican candidate for Hidalgo County Judge Jane Cross stated that her radical slogan is exactly what it means: “Cross out Corruption—Vamonos a la ching!” (Get the f**k out!). Her brash statements seem to resonate with constituents, as a recent criminal complaint against Judge Rudy Delgado for bribery coupled with more pending FBI arrests within the county are what she’s calling out. “Life experience has taught me, if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it’s too good to be true.”
In their closing comments, the candidates reiterated the need for more women politicians and to hold their elected officials accountable. “We need to enable more women to seek office. It does take some guts, but you have it in you,” stated Contreras. “People who don’t change their minds don’t change anything. Change your mind in November—send a woman to Austin,” pleaded Garza DeShazo.
Probate Court candidate JoAnne Garcia said, “A woman acting alone is fierce; women acting together are a force.”
Early voting in the March 6 primaries commenced February 20. Will 2018 be the year of women in the RGV? And if so, will this change the perception of corruption in the Valley?