WASHINGTON — A powerful national Democratic group endorsed former Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairwoman Dolly Elizondo Monday in her bid to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Edinburg, a leg up that could prove pivotal in the crowded Democratic primary.
Elizondo is in a six-way primary for the Democratic nomination for the 15th District, which stretches from Guadalupe County near San Antonio to the border. But the boost from EMILY's List, an organization that exclusively backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, is a consequential development in this South Texas race.
EMILY's List, which derives its acronym moniker from its motto, “Early Money Is Like Yeast," has a mission to elect more Democratic women to all levels of government. Along with donating directly to campaigns through its super PAC, the group's endorsements have a history of attracting other donors to its roster of candidates.
Elizondo faces a crowded Democratic field, and the race is expected to go into a May 24 runoff after the March 1 primary. One of her rivals shares a name with the outgoing congressman: law student and veteran Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa is also running for the party nomination. Last month, the Texas Democratic Party forced him to go by Ruben Ramirez on the primary ballot to avoid confusing voters.
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Also in the Democratic race are Edinburg School Board member Juan "Sonny" Palacios Jr.; Joel Quintanilla, a former Hidalgo County Commissioner and Mercedes mayor; McAllen attorney Vicente Gonzalez; and Rance G. "Randy" Sweeten, a McAllen accountant.
EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock praised Elizondo and pointed to history in her endorsement.
“As a former teacher and a successful entrepreneur, Dolly fights tirelessly to increase economic opportunity for students, families, and communities," Schriock said.
"Texas is home to millions of Latinas, but the state has never elected a Latina to Congress," she added. "When elected, Dolly will be a forceful advocate for Texans whose voices aren’t being heard in Washington, and the EMILY’s List community of over three million members is excited to endorse her historic campaign in 2016.”
There are three female members in Texas' 36-member House delegation: U.S. Reps. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. Granger was the last female freshman Texas sent to Congress for a full term, in 1996.
“I’m honored to receive the EMILY’s List endorsement," Elizondo said in a statement. "Their work in Texas and around the country to support pro-choice Democratic women candidates is inspiring."
Former Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén O. Villarreal, Xavier Salinas and Tim Westley are in the running for the Republican nomination. Given the district's voting history, Democrats are widely expected to hold this seat in the fall.