Clinton shows support for moderate, progressive candidates ahead of Election Day

Former President Bill Clinton and Congressional District 15 candidate Michelle Vallejo cheer and drum up support at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Over 500 people showed up to hear President Bill Clinton stump for fellow Democrat Michelle Vallejo in Edinburg on Monday afternoon, a day before Election Day.

A rally atmosphere filled the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance during the ‘Get Out the Vote’ event for the U.S. Congressional Dist. 15 candidate. The event lasted about an hour.

“We need Hidalgo County and all of South Texas to come out big, and when we do, we will win not only in HIdalgo County but in the state of Texas,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said before Clinton took the stage.

Several top Democratic leaders and candidates attended the event, including Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who held his own event in Laredo with Clinton on Monday morning.

Richard Gonzales, chairman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, introduced Vallejo who was welcomed by an energetic crowd.

“Vamos por quince,” someone in the crowd shouted as Vallejo took the stage.

The Democratic candidate emphasized points in her platform like healthcare, education, and improving the quality of life for South Texas. “This is a fair warning, when I get to congress, I’m not coming alone. I’m coming with my entire community,” Vallejo said.

Vallejo preceded Clinton who started his 20-minute speech by saying, “That woman is the future of South Texas and the future of America.”

The 76-year-old former president first met with the county’s party chair, Garza, Cuellar, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez and local businessman Alonzo Cantu, a “long-time friend,” prior to the event.

Clinton emphasized current hot-topic issues like crime rates, which he said were low along the border, threats to democracy through events like those of Jan. 6, 2020, and school safety following the deadly massacre in Uvalde this past summer.

Young voters, like 24-year-old Sabrina Gonzalez, a Rio Grande Valley native who currently lives in Austin, watched on. The visit brought to mind her first experience with politics at a young age.

“The first time I ever went to a political event was when Hillary Clinton was running in 2008,” Sabrina Gonzalez said. “She went to the Dodge Arena.”

Democratic supporters listen to former President Bill Clinton Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

While Clinton represents a different time in the Democratic Party, Sabrina Gonzalez said she felt inspired to witness an act of solidarity during divisive times.

“I think something that really stuck out to me was how united the Valley delegation seemed to be,” Gonzalez said. “There are definitely differences in opinion between moderate and establishment and progressive Democrats. But the fact that the Valley delegation, no matter where they stand on that spectrum, the fact that they wanted to come together and represent the RGV is really promising to me.”

Cuellar, a staunch moderate who held his event at a police union hall on Monday, and Vallejo, a young progressive, were both equally supported by the former president who touched on the polarizing rhetoric employed by the opposing party.

“They don’t want you to think. They want you to be angry,” Clinton said, referring to the Republican party. “They want you to be afraid. They want you to be divided. They want you to look at other people and say, ‘our differences are more important than our common humanity.’”

But despite the national and international attention the District 15 race is getting, local voter turnout was less than stellar.

“Voter turnout is lower than we expected,” Vallejo said after the event.

So far, voter turnout across the Valley failed to reach the statewide average of 31% of registered voter participation.

“We want to see you on Tuesday, but I need to make it very clear that please do not come alone,” Vallejo said. “Bring your neighbors. Bring your family. Bring anyone who you know that has not voted. There are hundreds of thousands of eligible voters who have not shown up yet, and your vote can very much make the difference in this race.”

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Delcia Lopez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Former President Bill Clinton shows support for Democrats in South Texas