EDINBURG – In political limbo following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to issue a stay of Texas elections, candidates for District 40 say they will run regardless of the outcome.
The Edinburg Review attempted to reach out to all five candidates who have filed for office, or who are at least mulling a run despite the Supreme Court ruling, which for the moment blocks temporary maps drawn by a panel of judges in San Antonio last month.
At the behest of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who requested the emergency stay that suspends enforcement of interim maps drawn by the three-judge panel, the decision likely bars candidates from filing for office and could delay legislative and congressional primaries, originally scheduled for March 6, possibly until May.
The new look District 40 previously created by the panel included most of Edinburg, Elsa and north Pharr. Candidates are vying for the seat left vacant by current state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, who has announced he will not be seeking another term.
The candidates who have filed so far include Edinburg businessman T.C. Betancourt, TV personality Miriam Martinez, as well as Edinburg attorneys Terry Canales and Agustin Hernandez Jr.. ECISD School Board Trustee and businessman Robert Peña has said previously he had formed an exploratory committee to consider running, but as of Monday had not filed, and was unsure if he would do so.
As of press time, Betancourt, Martinez, Canales and Pena responded to calls. Hernandez did not respond as of noon on Monday.
"It no doubt puts a hold on plans that we may have made as candidates, in regards to the election," said Peña, who along with his tenure on the Board serves as vice-president of Texas Energy Consultants. "As for me, I had not officially filed. If the stay also affects filing, then obviously I'm left in a holding pattern waiting to see what the Supreme Court is going to say."
"I'm still going to continue to working on the fact that a March Primary is still in the works, and wait to see what the Supreme Court has to say, regarding the election," Peña said.
The deadline for candidates to file is Dec. 15, even though the decision by the Supreme Court effectively removes the interim maps currently set in place, making district lines possibly meaningless until a decision is made. Betancourt, whose residence lies within the boundaries of District 41, according to previous maps, says he intends to run in either district.
"I am still running. We will continue to run our campaign as we have always run it. We will wait to see what the courts do. At this point we will either end up in (Districts) 40 or 41. We don't know," Betancourt said. "My advisors warned me back in August that this was very much going to be the case. We're not completely surprised by it. It's disappointing, but we're not surprised. We will continue to run in whatever district we end up being (in)."
In the stay, the state is requesting that congressional and legislative primaries be delayed from March 6 to May 22, however it also asking that other primaries including those for president and U.S. Senate remain in March. The Court has not ruled on the primary date change. Supreme Court Justices have asked lawyers for briefs, and have set a hearing on Jan. 9.
"It wasn't a surprise for me that the Supreme Court had decided to put everything to a halt, and then they are going to meet on Jan 9. I was prepared for all of this," said Miriam Martinez. "I know there is a lot of controversy. What I'm expecting, what I'm prepared to do is analyze everything is going on...and move forward.
"If the District ends up being bigger, that's fine. If it ends up being smaller, that's fine. I'm prepared to continue in a very positive (campaign) with their decision," she said. "Anything can happen in politics."
Canales issued the following statement, "I believe the maps drawn by the Republican Texas legislators were discriminatory...the fact that it will likely disrupt the primary election is unfortunate, and burdensome in so many respects...redistricting is prevalent in Texas, we last saw this problem in 2006, and usually see it after every census...I didn't see a problem with the court drawn maps, but if I had to guess, I would say the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court will rule in favor of the majority Republican Texas legislature as they have repeatedly done in the past. Therefore, I believe we will see a map much like the one the legislature drew, and less like the court drawn map. Undoubtedly, the Supreme Court's ruling will effect not only the election dates, but those who decide to run for any particular district. As a voter, and a candidate I hope for a quick and just resolution to this problem, so that we can begin the electoral process."