Senate District (SD) 27 stretches from the Rio Grande Valley and up the coast, wrapping around most of Corpus Christi.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) is retiring at the end of his term, making the race all the more lucrative to candidates who won’t have to compete against an incumbent’s advantages.
Though competitive, the district still favors Democrats with a Texas Partisan Index rating of D-57%. Most recently in 2020, Biden carried the district with 52 percent of the vote.
Among the Democratic candidates in SD 27, businesswoman Morgan LaMantia from the influential LaMantia family in South Texas has emerged as the frontrunner, securing endorsements from several Rio Grande Valley legislators including Lucio himself.
LaMantia has also reported nearly $200,000 in contributions in addition to receiving five campaign loans of $250,000 each from others in the LaMantia family, easily making her the best-funded candidate in the race.
Other Democrats in the race include former Lucio primary challenger Sara Stapleton Barrera; state Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville); and Salomon Torres, a consultant who was previously the district director for former Congressman Ruben Hinojosa.
Though the district still leaned toward Democrats in the most recent elections, the region has seen a shift toward Republicans who have bolstered their focus on South Texas in this election cycle.
Eight years before Biden carried the district with 52 percent of the vote, Obama carried it with 61 percent of the vote.
Roman Pérez, who closely follows South Texas GOP politics on his own podcast, told The Texan that in order to swing the district, “The eventual Republican nominee will need passion, determination, investment of the people, and a superior platform.”
“They must unite the party, including those inclined to support a LaMantia, who some feel is a closet Republican much like Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.,” said Pérez. “In a potential red wave as occurred in 2010 with [congressional district] 27, the northern counties will make the difference in flipping SD 27.”
While each of the other open state Senate races features Republican primaries where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has endorsed candidates, he has not endorsed any candidate in the SD 27 race thus far.
“The Lt. Governor has not yet made an endorsement in the SD27 race,” Allen Blakemore, senior advisor to Patrick, told The Texan. “At this time, we are watching the race and the candidates’ performance.”
Three candidates are vying for the nomination: Adam Hinojosa, Isreal Salinas, and Raul Torres.
When asked what sets him apart from the other Republican candidates, Hinojosa told The Texan, “I’m a successful businessman.”
“My two brothers and I own five small businesses here in Corpus Christi,” said Hinojosa. “My background is in finance — I’m the CFO of those organizations.”
“I’m a strong conservative and I’m ready to bring pro-life, pro-public safety values to South Texas,” said Hinojosa, touting the endorsements of Texas Alliance for Life, Corpus Christi Right to Life, the Corpus Christi Police Officers Association, the Beeville Police Association, and the Nueces County Sheriffs Association.
In addition to his pro-life and pro-law enforcement positions, Hinojosa also said that as a senator, he would seek to be “a defender of our oil and gas jobs and industry,” and also support border security efforts to protect against the “drug cartel, and violent criminals, and human trafficking.”
Asked about what he thinks is needed for the Republican to win against the Democratic nominee in the November general election, Hinojosa pointed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s near victory in the district in 2018 with 48 percent of the vote.
With Biden’s “awful policies” on the border and inflation, Hinojosa says “this November gives us our biggest chance to flip the seat.”
“I do have extensive family members in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Hinojosa. “A lot of family relatives that have notoriously voted Democrat, but they’re starting to see the writing on the wall as well. They’re conservative and they’re tired of a lot of the issues that the Democrats have not been addressing.”
“I think it’s going to be a lot more issue-based than it is going to be money-based,” said Hinojosa. “All of the Democrats that are in the primary now are on record as being for abortions, and I’ll be the only pro-life candidate in this race endorsed already by the pro-life groups.”
Though the lieutenant governor has not endorsed in the race and Hinojosa said he had not spoken to Patrick at the time of the interview, he said he had “been approached by many people on the state level that are ready to jump on board as soon as I get through the primary.”
“I think they’re just waiting to ensure who the Republican nominee is going to be,” said Hinojosa. “I think if it’s anybody other than me, they may not be as excited about it, but I know for a fact that when I get through the primary, there’s gonna be a lot of excitement.”
“What sets me apart from the other Republican candidates is that I am a blue-collar individual,” Salinas told The Texan. “I do not come from money or a politically involved family. I am a common man looking to represent south Texas.”
Three issues that Salinas said that he was emphasizing are “state sovereignty, security, and education.”
With respect to state sovereignty, Salinas said he wants to “invoke the 10th amendment to the constitution of the United States” to combat policies out of the federal government, such as “vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and illegal election bills.”
On the issue of security, Salinas supports bolstering defense on the southern border, equipping and training police, and “giving much-needed attention to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”
“I also seek to promote legislation that will stop politics in our public schools such as CRT, and other ideologies that are not needed in the mission of properly educating our students,” said Salinas.
Asked about how Republicans might be able to swing SD 27 in the fall, Salinas says the GOP’s path to success is “by truth conversation with the Hispanic community in South Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“Many Hispanic voters have strong conservative values but believe the Democratic party upholds and supports those values,” said Salinas. “It is our duty to show that is not the case.”
One of the things that sets Torres apart from the other Republican candidates in SD 27 is that if he were to win in November, the 88th Legislature would not be his first time representing constituents at the Texas Capitol.
Torres was previously elected to the legislature in House District 33, but was elected in a redistricting year and was subsequently drawn into a district with another lawmaker.
“Once elected, I will be ready to submit legislation and begin the process of working with other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to get my legislation a good opportunity to be heard in committee and sent out to the Senate floor for a vote,” said Torres.
Asked about specific policies he would seek to advance, Torres had no shortage of answers, including:
- “Submit legislation that will eliminate the Margins’ Tax, which is projected to create over 130,000 jobs over the next five years.”
- “Submit legislation that will ensure that Texas K-12 schools focus on teaching the fundamentals of a solid education [. . .] and avoid and eliminate all efforts of indoctrination in Texas schools.”
- “[T]he full implementation of the concepts we authorized in SB 563 in 2011” to “reduce wasteful spending in government by an estimated $20 – $25 billion per year.”
- “Submit legislation to create a law to permit E-voting via the Internet for our local military enlisted personnel and their families when they are living outside of their county.”
- Author legislation that leads to “the death penalty for anyone found guilty participating, transporting, harboring victims, or threatening a victim in any activity associated with sex trafficking” or “anyone found guilty in any act associated with human smuggling and transporting illegal individuals across our southern Texas border.”
- “Submit a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to add the Drug Cartels to the Terrorist List.”
- “Submit legislation that will create term limits for all elected officials in Texas.”
Torres said that he has “relationships with the Governor and the Lt. Governor, and many current members of the Senate, who I served with during my term in office in the Texas House.”
“All of these elected members and I have very similar legislative priorities so working with them will be much easier due to our previous experience working with one another,” said Torres.
Asked about what it would take to swing the district toward Republicans in this cycle, Torres said, “People are hungry for the truth.”
“They want to know if the person can be trusted and if we, the candidate, will always put the people before everything else when making decisions in Austin.”
“We are in the process of creating one common voice for all the districts so when we are in Austin we will clearly be heard as to the importance and the needs of all the South Texas region because I believe it is time we make South Texas great,” said Torres. “We have beautiful people, an abundance of natural resources and the proper infrastructure to be a big player in the Texas economy.”
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.