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Trenton Crossroads Plaza, featuring Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, set to open in about 60 days


Four leading members of the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District have endorsed Democrat Eddie Sáenz in his race for the Texas House of Representatives District 40, saying that his strong support for teachers and opposition to private-school voucher schemes will provide the principled leadership area public schools need in Austin. Trustee Saúl Garcia said that Sáenz’ opponent, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, has taken at least $47,500 from Austin lobbyists in the past five months, including more than $25,000 in direct contributions from special interests representing the Republican Party of Texas, including Speaker of the House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and San Antonio millionaire James Leininger, all of whom are pushing a plan to siphon millions of tax dollars out of public schools to pay for a private-school voucher scheme. Featured from left are: García, Mingo Rodríguez, Sáenz, Richard Ozuna, Juan Ybarra. See related story later in this posting.

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured standing during a recent presentation before area retired teachers, is reminding voters of key votes that helped them, such as his support for a measure that earlier this month provided an extra pension checks to retired teachers. Peña has been endorsed in his re-election campaign in House District 40 by former Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting, who served as state party chair from 2003-2006. “I have known Aaron and his family for over 30 years and it is a pleasure to endorse him,” said Soechting. “Aaron is a good Democrat and I encourage every Democrat to come out and vote for him. Peña has a long history of Democratic activism. He got started in politics at age nine as a volunteer for Hubert Humphrey’s Democratic Presidential campaign. And, he worked for Democratic State Representatives in the capitol, for the Texas Democratic Party, and for U.S. Senator Bob Krueger. He also helped draft the National Platform at the Democratic National Convention that nominated Al Gore for President in 2000. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Peña has served as chair of the Texas New Democrats and the Tejano Democrats as well. See story later in this posting.

South Texas College welcomes Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario to its Pecan Campus Building D Auditorium in McAllen on Saturday, February 2 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Part of the college’s Distinguished Speaker Series, Nazario’s talk will examine issues related to immigration through the eyes of her latest book, Enrique’s Journey, the story of a young child’s trials to reach his mother in the United States. Based on the true story of one Honduras family, the book talks about the consequences of leaving one’s homeland, the struggle to remain close when separated and the tribulations of trying to reunite and bond again. “I was inspired to write this book by what I learned and found it unbelievably moving – the story of children wanting, at all costs, to be with their mothers and going through dangerous and terrifying worlds to reach them,” said Nazario. “To prepare to write the book I retraced the journey of Enrique for myself and I saw the dangers and misery of it through his eyes. The level of poverty and deprivation that these immigrants face is appalling and I want to give their voices an outlet.” See story later in this posting.
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Judge Susan Criss raises $317,000 in her Democratic campaign for Texas Supreme Court, Place 8


The University of Texas Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, will hold their next regular meeting at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7. The regents, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, wield tremendous influence over how and where the UT System’s $10.7 billion, two-year budget is spent. District Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, a candidate for Texas Supreme Court, has called on the UT System to bring a law school to the Rio Grande Valley, which is predominantly Hispanic. “Of the more than 77,000 lawyers in Texas, only 14 percent are from minority populations, according to a report produced last spring by the State Bar of Texas,” said Criss. “Yet more than 59 percent of Texas schoolchildren are considered to be from minority populations, and Mexican Americans make up one-third of our state’s population. We need to encourage more minority students to pursue careers in the law.” Featured in this group portrait taken in November are: standing from left: James D. Dannenbaum; Colleen McHugh; Robert A. Estrada; Paul Foster; John W. Barnhill, Jr.; Printice L. Gary; and student regent Randal Matthew Camarillo. Seated from left: Vice Chairman James R. Huffines; Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr.; and Vice Chairman Robert B. Rowling. The UT Board of Regents is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on February 1 of odd-numbered years. In addition, the governor appoints a student regent for a one-year term that expires on May 31.



Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg, featured right with La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, who has endorsed his bid for state representative, House District 40, continues to build momentum – and financial support – in his bid to unseat Rep. Aaron Peña in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz has raised more than $140,000 between July and December 2007, according to his campaign finance report released on Tuesday, January 15. Sáenz’ report for the period ending December 31 shows that he has raised $140,835 since launching his campaign last September, with an average donation of $800 from 45 individual contributors and including a $105,000 loan from the candidate. See story featured later in this posting.



Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who is facing a challenge from Eddie Sáenz, also of Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary, displays what he hopes is a good omen – a dice that he drew containing the number 1, which placed his name first on the election ballot for the House District 40 legislative district, which includes most of Edinburg. He was among dozens of elected officials, candidates, family members, and Democratic Party activists who showed up at the auditorium in the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, January 10, to draw for places on the ballot for contested state and local offices in Hidalgo County. “Local political lore maintains that the first poll position is to be desired and can be advantageous,” Peña said after the drawing. “I am not quite sure if this is true but most of the candidates in the room this night seem to share the belief that it does.” Also celebrating what they hope is a lucky pick by the local legislator were his daughter, Adrienne Peña Garza, and his son Aaron. A list of the contested races in Hidalgo County, with the order in which the names will appear on the ballot, is featured later in this posting.



To help celebrate Fiesta Edinburg’s 40th Anniversary, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Fiesta Edinburg is going “retro”. On Thursday, February 21, the community is invited to participate in Fiesta Hidalgo’s first Disco Dance Party to help kick off the annual event’s fourth decade. The festivities will be held in the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 Palm Drive. The Fiesta Edinburg Committee, featured in this promotional photograph, are hosting the Disco Dance Party, featuring the popular Deejay, “Johnny Joe”. The dance will take place from 7-11 p.m., and everyone is invited to come out and take part in reliving the 70’s. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in their flashy “retro” attire, as there will be a costume contest with $100 prize money, and $100 also will be awarded to the best dancer. The fee is $5 per person. For more information, contact the local chamber at 956-383-4974.

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Judge Criss, Rep. Peña, Rep. Flores draw top billing on Hidalgo County Democratic Party primary ballots


Mrs. Dolia González, A Gold Star Mother whose late son, U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” González, is featured in this bronze bust in Edinburg, will be accepting the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – the state’s highest recognition for valor – on his behalf at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 4 from Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, shown with Mrs. González several weeks ago, on Tuesday, January 8, announced the big event during a city council meeting. What is sure to be a major ceremony, probably to take place at Cats Stadium, will speak volumes about Edinburg’s native son and his mother and all of South Texas. “It will again send the message to the entire state and nation that Edinburg is the home to heroes,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alma A. Garza. See story later in this posting.



Edinburg principals of the elementary campuses that made the list of top campuses in the state by Texas Monthly magazine were honored recently by the Edinburg school board. This is the fourth year in a row that Texas Monthly has published a list of top public schools and the second consecutive year that they have ranked schools according to the number of subjects in which they continually excel, including reading, math, science, writing, and social studies. Elementary campuses making the prestigious list were Austin Elementary headed by Principal Homer Cano; Canterbury Elementary under Principal Dahlia Guzmán; De la Viña Elementary under Principal Erika Playle; Jefferson Elementary under Principal Ana Villalobos-Salinas; Lincoln Elementary under Principal Eva Sandoval; and Treviño Elementary under Principal Cynthia Sáenz. See story later in this posting.



U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, featured in a file photo, pulled off a major victory on Tuesday, January 8, winning the New Hampshire Republican Party primary, received 37 percent of the GOP vote. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts placed second with 31 percent, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had won several days earlier in the Iowa caucuses, came in third with 11 percent of the vote. “I hate to use the word kid, but I think we showed the people of this country what a real comeback looks like,” he told supporters of his long-shot win in a state he won eight years ago against then candidate George W. Bush.



Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, in this campaign photo, won the New Hampshire Democratic Party primary against former Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on Tuesday, January 8, less than a week after she placed a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses. She received 39 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Obama in New Hampshire. Clinton’s victory speech is featured later in this posting.

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Election legal paperwork filed by Justice Yañez could result in Republicans kicking her off ballot


Eddie Sáenz, featured second from right, on Monday, December 31, officially filed for state representative, House District 40, to challenge Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz was joined by his family and by Juan Maldonado, Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman, and Maldonado’s son, Juan, at the county Democratic Party headquarters in Pharr. Sáenz said that under the legislative terms of Peña and Peña’s Austin allies, hundreds of thousands of eligible children have been stripped of their health benefits, college tuition costs have almost doubled at Texas’ flagship university, families and small business are charged an average of 54 percent more in utilities, and homeowners are forced to pay more than twice the national average to insure their homes. Peña, meanwhile, criticized Sáenz for failing to appear at a local Democratic Party event onj Wednesday evening, January 2, hinting of some of the attacks Peña, a local trial lawyer, will launch against Sáenz, a civil engineer: “Based on information that has reached our campaign on his residence and his disregard and failure to appear at tonight’s important Democratic function for a minimal debate he should really consider dropping out of the race,” Peña wrote in his political website. Featured with Sáenz in this portrait are, from left, his wife, Sandra; Juan Maldonado and his father, Juan Maldonado; Eddie Sáenz; and Eddie and Sandra’s daughter, Cassie. See story later in this posting.



McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos, left, hears from a potential constituent, Fred Zambrano, last summer in McAllen at the onset of Villalobos’ campaign run for state representative, House District 41 – currently held by Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen – which includes southwest Edinburg. Villalobos filed as a Republican candidate on Wednesday, January 2, marking his official first entry as a political candidate. If elected, Villalobos would be the first Republican to win a state representative seat in Hidalgo County. In addition to Villalobos/ Gonzáles race, which won’t be decided until the November 2008 presidential election, there are two other contested battles for the Texas Legislature in Hidalgo County. Eddie Sáenz and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, are involved in the House 40 Democratic Party primary contest, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, is being challenged by Sandra Rodríguez for the House 36 legislative post.



Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left during a recent event at the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, was one of three Hidalgo County lawmakers who drew no opponents for their respective legislative seats in 2008. In addition to Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also will be unopposed for reelection. Lucio and Hinojosa will begin serving new, four-year terms beginning in January 2009; Martínez will begin serving a new, two-year term in January 2009.

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Titans of the Texas Legislature