Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Rio Grande Guardian Covers Clinton Visit To The Valley

MISSION, February 9 - Hillary Clinton looks set to hold a rally at the University of Texas-Pan American on Wednesday evening as she seeks to solidify her strong ties to the Rio Grande Valley by attracting more students and young people.

Details were being finalized by Hidalgo County and Starr County elected officials and key Democratic Party insiders at a meeting in Mission on Saturday afternoon. The group also agreed to open up a Valley campaign headquarters for Clinton in Pharr. The building is situated at 1210 Expressway 83 West in Pharr. It will open for business on Monday.

“We are very excited about Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Valley. She has strong ties to the region, going back many years and we expect a great turnout for the rally,” said state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, the Clinton campaign’s outreach director in the Valley.

Peña said no other events have been confirmed at this stage because the Valley’s Democratic leadership wants to give the advance planning team, led by Garry Mauro, Clinton’s Texas campaign manager, as much flexibility as possible. The advance team is wrapping up its work in other competitive states, Peña said.

In addition to Peña, other elected officials at the Mission meeting included state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and state Reps. Kino Flores, D-Palmview, Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, and Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.

Among the Democratic Party insiders present at the meeting were McAllen banker and developer Alonzo Cantu, IBC banker David Guerra, Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Juan Maldonado, Texas Democratic Party Treasurer Victor Garza, La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, former Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, and Sandra Rodriguez, a Texas House District 36 candidate.

Peña said one of the key points addressed at the meeting was the need to make sure Democratic activists at the precinct level were mobilized for Clinton.

“Even though polls show that many South Texans support Hillary, the real battle often starts at the precinct conventions the moment the polls close,” Peña said. “Whoever is best organized between the two candidates has the best chance of success in securing delegates at the county convention, then the state convention, and then the national convention. It’s all about the number of delegates.”

Some analysts believe that U.S. Sen. Barak Obama, D-Illinois, Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, is better organized at the precinct level.

“Definitely, one of the key points made at today’s meeting was that we have to educate people on the delegate selection process, which begins with the precinct conventions. These rules are not well known, except by a handful of party insiders,” Peña said.

Ester Salinas, a Democratic Party activist from Mission, is hoping that Clinton will make a campaign swing through the contaminated Mission Superfund site because as a U.S. senator she has championed efforts to make big polluters pay for toxic clean-ups. “We want to tell our story because we believe Hillary will understand. We think she will help,” Salinas said.

Writen by Steve Taylor of the online political magazine the Rio Grande Guardian.

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