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The Rat Race for District 15

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

By Jonathan Salinas

Photos by ballotpedia.com

There are seven candidates running for the 15th Congressional District, inside the Democratic Party: education administrator and former congressional staffer, Eliza Alvarado, left-wing rancher Julio Garza, former judicial staffer and attorney Roberto Haddad, former educator, practicing attorney and army veteran Ruben Ramirez, Vanessa Tijerina, "Progressive" flea market owner Michelle Vallejo and Christian attorney John Villarreal Rigney.

Six candidates are running in the Republican primary, with Monica De La Cruz out front. The vacating of incumbent Vicente Gonzalez' seat, who claims that his "house" is now located in another district (34) as a result of Republican gerrymandering, has left a vacuum and crisis within the Hidalgo County Democratic Party and District 15 at large. Working people, however, have no dog in this fight.

Since 1865, but especially after the civil rights-era gains of the 1960s and 70s, the Rio Grande Valley and its congressional districts have been reliably Democratic. That's now changed, as Vicente barely got away by the skin of his teeth in 2020 to Republican, Monica de la Cruz Hernandez, as well as the subsequent redistricting largely seen as an advantage for the GOP. Not to mention Trump taking Zapata County and very nearly taking the rest of the Valley.

Gonzalez saw the writing on the border wall and booked it over to District 34 where Congressman Phil Vela, who nominated Gonzalez as his hand-picked successor, will be calling it quits. Gonzalez is sure to win 34, easily. Some say Vicente is taking the easy way out, ignoring the fact that his "home" is located in another district. Sure, why wouldn't he want to stay in office?

To the extent Gonzalez believes District 15 is going Republican no matter who runs on the left, however, is the extent to which he'd be correct. The Democratic Party primary for District 15 is merely a race for who will lose to De la Cruz Hernandez in 2022, as working people become more repulsed by the anti-working-class contempt enshrined in today's Democratic Party and all its wings.

And the Democrats know this. You can tell it in their voice, their worries, the insecurity they possess, as well as the scorn and resentment they hold against Gonzalez for "suddenly switching districts" after redistricting. A Nov. 1 article in the liberal-leaning Texas Tribune, for example, described Democrats in the Rio Grande Valley as "scrambling" to "make up for lost time..."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, had named Gonzalez a "Frontline member" in the 15th District, a designation reserved for the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. The committee says the seat "remains a priority."

“The DCCC will be fighting from now until Election Day to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands,” DCCC spokesperson Monica Robinson said in a statement to the Trib.

Democratic lawyers are tying-up the courts to postpone the primary, in case they can't find someone who stands a chance against De La Cruz Hernandez, by March. "The clock is ticking. While litigation over the new maps could postpone the primary..." the Trib reported. [Emphasis mine. - J.S.]

The first two Democratic contenders in this race were Ruben Ramirez and Eliza Alvarado, according to the Trib. Alvarado, "director of partnerships and career pathways" at the Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg and former staffer for Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, said the close 2020 results were a “call to action” and that Democrats were “absolutely” playing catch-up due to Gonzalez’s decision.

“I think that we knew it was coming, but that didn’t mean that we were sure that was going to happen,” Alvarado said.

“Definitely stepping up and having to make up for lost time is something that’s going to be really important. I hope this race draws attention from the national party … Hidalgo County has been the Democratic stronghold since the 1800s, and this is something that’s not going to be given up lightly.”

Alvarado comes from the old establishment behind Hinojosa who backed Gonzalez, in 2016, although there's no clear front-runner. On the left-wing of the local Democratic Party, stands La Union del Pueblo Entero with a big hold on local left-wing activism which it funnels back into the DP, come election time. As we reported earlier this week, LUPE's new political arm endorsed local flea market owner, Michelle Vallejo. They're posing as a working-class alternative to what spokesperson, Dani Marrero Hi, described as the Valley's "top 1%.”

Julio Garza, a self-described "local business owner" and "part-time rancher," also expressed such fears as Alvarado above. According to his campaign press release, he says, "I could not be on the sidelines. I want to be in the fight to keep this district blue," lamenting the Republican redistricting.

It concluded by saying that even if he loses the primary, "I vow to back the nominee because every candidate on the Democratic ticket is better than anyone on the Republican ticket. I know my peers are equally qualified and can do a good job, but I feel I could do it a little better."

Garza, like Vallejo, occupies left-wing reformist politics, according to his campaign website. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party is a capitalist party, despite claims by its left wings to speak on behalf of the oppressed. You don't reform the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party reforms you. As history has proven time and again, middle-class capitalist reformers who advance a road of parliamentary reformism as a means to "advocate" for working people always side with the capitalists in the end, regardless of their "labels."

Both twin-capitalist parties, and their reformist "third parties," understand they need a segment of working people who constitute the vast majority in society to win elections. Democrats appeal to social justice. Republicans appeal to lower taxes. In the end, they represent the interests of the capitalists and middle-class hangers-on who say they're "advocating" on our behalf.

The working class can "advocate" for itself by forming a labor party that's of, by and for industry workers, small farmers and vendors, and the oppressed, for a workers and farmers government.


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