Legislature candidates push messages in forum as election season ramps up

McALLEN — Candidates seeking two state representative seats anchored in Hidalgo County displayed their cases on Thursday at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, where they discussed medical marijuana, health care and transportation issues in the area.

Challenging incumbent state Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, were Democrat Richard Gonzales, a municipal judge in Edcouch, who is hoping to defeat Guerra in the March 3 primary election. The other candidate, Republican John Guerra, is an OB-GYN.

Challenging incumbent state Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Pharr, in the upcoming primary is Democrat Abraham Padron, who runs Safeguard Insurance.

The incumbents tended to often stick to reading from scripts about legislation that provided funding for teachers

“Teachers are the cornerstone of our community,” Gonzales said.

“I will continue to hear our teachers,” Guerra said.

“We have to take care of our teachers,” Padron said.

The other candidates also said they supported teachers, an issue that was brought into focus during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019. The Texas House and Senate both unanimously passed legislation — one bill that included $6.5 billion and another for $5.1 billion — aimed at improving public education, pay teachers and lower school district taxes.

Another issue that made advances in the 2019 session was expanded medical marijuana access, led by Fort Worth Republican state Rep. Stephanie Klick, who was mentioned by name by multiple candidates at Thursday’s forum.

Bobby Guerra said he was part of the Public Health Committee in recent legislative sessions and he mentioned Klick’s legislation as a beacon on bipartisan support. But he cautioned to say that medical marijuana needs to be implemented safely.

“We want to make sure that it’s done correctly, so what happened in California doesn’t happen here in Texas,” Bobby Guerra said.

John Guerra, speaking what he said was from a medical perspective, cited the tragedy of addiction from opioids.

“Slowly, we’re getting patients off opioids and hard narcotics,” John Guerra said. He added: “Marijuana does have a place in medical treatments.”

Padron was not so certain, though he said Klick’s legislation has helped “160,000 kids with seizures.”

But on medical marijuana, Padron concluded: “We need more studies.”

Muñoz stressed a kinship with researchers and doctors.

“One of the most important things about it is working with the medical community,” Muñoz said.

And about construction on Expressway 83, the candidates said that the construction delay was due to a contractor not being able to finish the project and projects of that large scale can get delayed at times.

But the candidates were united that construction is a necessary headache at the moment that is expected to lead to smoother transportation, and the candidates all praised the merging of the three metropolitan planning organizations in South Texas to form one Rio Grande Valley MPO.

“Finally,” Bobby Guerra said, “the three entities were able to put it together.”