“Palanca” Vote Secures Democrat Stronghold in the RGV

Democratic candidates in the Rio Grande Valley swept on Election Night, but it wasn’t because of intense campaigning or exciting new ideas. Indeed, Democrats need only thank two causes: Robert Francis O’Rourke and straight-ticket voting, also known as the “palanca” vote.

O’Rourke’s hard campaigning/pandering to the Hispanic community with free events across the valley is what brought unlikely voters during midterms to “pull the palanca” here in the valley, as well as statewide.

Both of these ingredients created a recipe for success for Democrats in all races from the court of appeals, to state district judges, to Texas and U.S. House of Representatives, to state board of education and local seats.

Many believed conservatives had strong chances to inject some red into the region, particularly with 13th Court of Appeals candidates Judge Ernie Aliseda and Judge Jaime Tijerina, who were both endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Yet in the RGV, with the “Beto” effect and straight-ticket voting, voters showed that being a Democrat seemingly guarantees a win — even if you are indicted. For the 13th Court of Appeals race, Judge Tijerina was narrowly defeated by federally indicted former Judge Rudy Delgado. Delgado received 225,551 votes from all 20 counties, with the majority coming from the RGV. Tijerina received 222,331 votes in his race, a mere 3,000 votes shy of defeating Delgado.

Delgado, who is preparing for trial in January, was not seen on the campaign trail, nor did he celebrate his victory on Tuesday evening. He is what you would describe as a “ghost candidate” surrounded by peculiar circumstances—which, unfortunately, is not rare in the RGV.

Why is indicted Delgado even on the ballot? In May, Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey demanded he be removed because of the factual allegations surrounding him, but the Democratic Party of Texas refused to do so, leaving the RGV with an indicted candidate. Furthermore, they pushed locally to vote straight ticket, knowing the factual allegations against one of their candidates.

On Tuesday evening the Hidalgo County Democratic Party hosted an Election Night party, and Delgado was nowhere to be seen. The local newspaper reached out to Delgado’s wife and campaign treasurer for comment on his victory; they were unsuccessful.

Although many Republican candidates worked hard to gain cross-party voters, many Democratic candidates barely lifted a finger on the campaign trail as they felt the effects of Beto’s campaign in their races.

However, though the Valley is blue, Texas is still red. Despite historic spending by O’Rourke and statewide democrats, Sen. Ted Cruz pulled through and defeated him.

Additionally, last year the state of Texas passed House Bill 25 which will eliminate straight-ticket voting in 2020. Voters will no longer punch a single button but will instead have to research their candidates and make an informed decision.

Hopefully electing indicted candidates will also become a thing of the past.

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Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Empower Texans. 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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