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The stage is set for Hidalgo County as the filing period for entering the March primary concluded Monday. While some candidates are familiar faces in the political arena, other new faces have emerged.

Beginning with the U.S. House, both Democrat incumbents – Representative Vicente Gonzalez (D-CD 15) and Filemon B. Vela (D-CD 34) – will be challenged by former Republican opponents in the November general election. Once again Gonzalez will face Tim Westley, while Vela will be challenged by Dr. Rey Gonzalez.

Most of the statewide legislative seats in the Rio Grande Valley will remain uncontested in both the House and Senate, except for what is often considered to be the most conservative district in the area – House District 41. This district, which encompasses McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, and Pharr, will have two well-known candidates vying once again for the seat, in addition to a new one.

Third-term incumbent Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen) will have Mr. Michael L. Pinkard Jr. (D) as his primary opponent in March. According to Pinkard’s Facebook profile, he is a seventh grade humanities teacher at Abraham Middle School in McAllen.

Another candidate in the race, who quelled all rumors Monday by filing right before the 5 p.m. deadline, is Republican Hilda Garza DeShazo. Welcomed with open arms by her former supporters from her 2016 candidacy, many are grateful she has “taken one for the team” after it appeared there were no viable Republican candidates for the seat before Monday.

She is seeking the position to “serve my friends and neighbors in the Texas House of Representatives, as a representative of the people, not the powerful.” As a former teacher, her platform is primarily focused on improving the Texas educational system and fighting the controversial Health Care District that Hidalgo County is considering placing on the ballot for the third time.

Last year alone, Guerra spent almost half a million dollars in his campaign against DeShazo, which he won by 5,900 votes.

Other candidates have risen within local races in Hidalgo County, such as the open seat race for Justice of the Peace Pct. 3, Place 2. Candidates include Arnaldo Corpus (D), Juan “JJ” Pena Jr. (D), and Arminda “Mindy” Garza (R).

In the contested race for Hidalgo County Judge, the winner of the primary election between Democratic candidates Richard Cortez (former McAllen city mayor) and Eloy Pulido (former Hidalgo County Judge), will face business real estate property manager Jane Cross (R) in November.

Other contested races include Chief Justice, Place 4, and Place 5 in the 13th Court of Appeals. 13th Court of Appeals Place 6 Judge Dori Contreras will face Ray Thomas (D) in the primary race for Chief Justice. The winner in March will then face Judge Ernie Aliseda (R) in November. Many believe that “conservative Democrats” in the RGV will cross-over to the Republican ticket to vote for Aliseda.

13th Court of Appeals Place 4 will see a contest between Democrat Rudy Delgado and Republican Jaime Tijerina. And for Place 5, the candidates are Democrat Gina Benavides and Republican Clarissa Silva.

It is believed both Aliseda and Tijerina will be the frontrunners in their respective races given their track records as well as endorsements ranging from Gov. Greg Abbott to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Lastly, within the probate court race, we have three candidates, JoAnne Garcia (D) opposing Fidencio Guerra Jr. in the March primary, and the winner will challenge Mark Talbot (R). Talbot, who is an active member within the Republican Party as well as the community, is the principal attorney at Talbot & Talbot, PC, where his practice is dedicated to probate administration and estate planning.

With a region that has historically voted democrat, many of the candidates are, as expected, running on the democratic ticket. However, changes in the political landscape following the 2016 elections may make for a less-predictable campaign season for the aforementioned candidates.