On the last day of early voting, actress, comedian and San Juan native Cristela Alonzo attended several events across the area alongside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.
Cambio Texas, People for the American Way and La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, organized the day’s events, which were originally going to feature civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, who was unable to attend due to health complications. Valdez had planned campaign stops along the border.
Valdez, who served as sheriff of Dallas County for 13 years, said the record number of voter registration and turnout this election, particularly along the border, has her optimistic, despite most polls putting her at least 20 points behind incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I can’t help but think these record numbers will be in our favor,” Valdez said, referring to Latinos in Texas as a “sleeping giant” capable of swinging this election. “Le vamos a dar una buena patada a ese sleeping giant.”
Both Valdez and Alonzo said the Rio Grande Valley is often written off in statewide races. Alonzo, who grew up off 4th Street in San Juan, said this has long been the case. When she saw candidates like Beto O’Rourke, the popular Democratic candidate running to unseat U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, visiting the Valley so often, she decided to get involved in this midterm.
“Those people (statewide candidates) need to come visit us, they need to know the people here,” Alonzo said. “Nobody came to canvass in my neighborhood, nobody visited us — I didn’t even really know what voting was or how it worked.”
Often, immigration is the only issue associated with Latino voters, Alonzo said. As a result, issues like health care, education and law enforcement are not thought of with Latinos in mind, and voter apathy grows. It’s no coincidence Latinos vote less than other demographics, Alonzo said.
“It’s almost as if we’re real people,” she said. “People suppress the vote because they’re scared; remember that.”
Tania Lopez, a California native and resident of Edinburg, stopped by the Lark Community Center in McAllen to cast her ballot in Texas for the first time after living here for years.
“You look at the news and it’s scary,” said Lopez, adding that she regrets not voting in the 2016 presidential election. “Changes need to be done, I don’t like what I’m seeing every time I turn on the TV. If this is what I can do to help, then I’ll do it.”
Early voting ended Friday, meaning that by the time Alonzo and Valdez left the Valley, most of the ballots for this midterm had already been cast. Election Day is Nov. 6; for more information on voting in Hidalgo County, visit: https://www.hidalgocounty.us/105/Elections-Department.