Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Aug. 20, 1940, Mercedes .
Education: U. of TX, B.B.A. 1962, M.B.A. 1980.
Family: Married (Marty); 5 children.
Elected office: TX Bd. of Educ., 1974–84.
Professional Career: Pres. & CEO, H&H Foods Inc., 1962–present.
The congressman from the 15th District is Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat first elected in 1996. Hinojosa (Hee-no-HO-sa) grew up in Mercedes, where his family owns H&H Foods, a company that produces Mexican foods and is one of the largest employers in the Valley. Hinojosa graduated from the University of Texas, then went into the family business and was active in civic affairs, primarily in education and regional development. He served on the state Board of Education and led an effort to create three regional magnet schools. After Democratic Rep. Kika de la Garza announced he would not seek re-election, Hinojosa decided to run. In the Democratic primary, he led Anglo lawyer Jim Selman 34%-33%. Selman questioned Hinojosa’s Democratic credentials and said he profited from government contracts. Hinojosa emphasized his interest in improving educational opportunities and extending highways to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa took some moderate positions, calling for a reduction of the capital gains tax and investment tax credits for those making capital improvements. He won the runoff 52%-48% and easily won the general election.
|Rubén Hinojosa (D)||107,578||(66%)||($388,362)|
|Eddie Zamora (R)||52,303||(32%)||($23,843)|
|Gricha Raether (Lib)||3,827||(2%)|
|Rubén Hinojosa (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (58%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (88%), 1998 (58%), 1996 (62%)
Hinojosa has a moderate voting record among House Democrats, especially on economic issues. He has sought to protect benefits for legal immigrants, to promote the North American Free Trade Agreement and to demand that Mexico deliver on its agreement for water to South Texas farmers. He has a proclivity for holding out on votes to make last-minute legislative deals. He got Democratic President Bill Clinton to agree in principle to funding for the Cross-Border Institute for Regional Development in his district before voting for Clinton’s initiative to normalize trade with China in 2000. He supported Republican President George W. Bush’s proposal for broader authority to negotiate trade deals after he was promised a job-training project for his district.
But Hinojosa has struggled to advance in the House. Despite support in 2003 from the Texas delegation for a spot on the Ways and Means Committee, Hinojosa was passed over in favor of Texas Rep. Max Sandlin, an ally of Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi. In early 2005, Hinojosa made an unsuccessful bid for a leadership post when he ran for vice-chairman of the Democratic Caucus, but he abandoned his candidacy after two weeks due to lack of support. After Democrats regained control of the House in 2007, Hinojosa chaired the Higher Education, Life Long Learning and Competitiveness Subcommittee, where he focused on families traditionally left behind in American education.
After a series of easy election victories, Hinojosa had a scare in 2004, largely because of redistricting. His opponent, Republican Michael Thamm, received little national party support and spent only $50,000. Hinojosa spent $819,000 and reminded voters that he favored school prayer and opposed abortion. Thamm won the six most northern counties 60%-38%. But in Hidalgo County, which cast 37% of the vote, Hinojosa won 70%-29% to win 58%-41% overall. The 2006 court-ordered redistricting returned Hinojosa to firmer footing. It removed four of the six troublesome northern counties Hinojosa lost in 2004. He has not faced serious opposition since.