Nov 30, 2011

Burkablog: He Paid The Price For Being A Straight-Arrow

Texas Monthly's Paul Burka commented on my recent decision not to seek re-election:

"Like my former colleague, Patricia Kilday Hart, I always found Aaron Pena to be one of the Legislature’s most interesting members. Pena had no use for the Valley Democratic establishment. Hart chronicled his alienation from the power brokers in a profile for TEXAS MONTHLY earlier this year. He was known to his constituents as a frequent blogger about the Capitol; what was less well known was that he was a reluctant Democrat who loathed the machine politicians who practice petty corruption at election time. It was hardly surprising, then, when Pena switched parties following the 2010 Republican sweep and helped found the House Hispanic Republican caucus.

Pena believed that the Democrats in the Valley were scripting their fate by continuing their old-style tactics of using politqueras — women who were paid to hustle votes — and refused to have anything to do with it; astonishingly, both the incumbent district attorney and his challenger said they would not hire politiqueras in the 2010 elections.

I had several conversations with Pena over the years, and I think he is right that in the long run, old-style politics, a la Kino Flores, in South Texas will inevitably fail, as the Valley becomes increasingly affluent. The emerging business class will have nothing to do with the corrupt politics and will increasingly abandon the Democratic party, because the old-line Democrats will never change their ways. Democrats vowed to beat him this time around, and Pena himself admitted that there was no way he or any Republican could win in his new district. It had come to the point that Pena would rather lose as a Republican than win as a Democrat. I hate to see him driven out of the Legislature, but he paid the price for being a straight-arrow."

Mr. Burka summed up my feelings well. I think that this dynamic community with it's richness in history and cultural traditions is ready to move out of the shadow originally cast by political bosses at the start of the 20th century. Choice, competition and diversity of thought are the ideals of this new movement. I am glad I was able to contribute to it's beginning and look forward with great anticipation to the coming generations to carry it's banner in to the future.

Nov 26, 2011

The Civil Justice Leadership Award

As a result of my work this legislative session, I was once again awarded the TLR, Civil Justice Leadership Award for work done in the 82nd legislative session. The recognition which I previously received for my work in the 81st legislative session, is awarded for outstanding work in supporting a fair and predictable civil justice system in Texas.

"He brings to the Legislature the experience and perspective of a seasoned litigator,” TLR PAC Chairman Richard Trabulsi said. "Rep. Peña stands up for his district and the best interest of Texas and we are proud to present him with TLR’s Civil Justice Leadership Award.”

TLR PAC is the political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the state’s largest civil justice reform organization. TLR is a bipartisan, volunteer-led coalition with more than 17,000 supporters residing in 818 Texas communities and representing 1,266 different businesses, professions and trades.

TLR PAC’s Civil Justice Leadership Award is presented to lawmakers who take a stand in support of the model lawsuit reforms that are boosting the Texas economy, creating jobs and increasing access to doctors and health care in every community.

I am photographed here with TLR Chairman Richard Trabulsi and TLR Executive Director, Mary Tipps.

Nov 25, 2011

“Ten Good Years of Service'

After conversations over the last few days with family and friends I have decided not to seek re-election to the Texas House of Representatives. At the end of my fifth term I would have served a good ten years and feel that we have accomplished as much as we set out to do when I ran for this office in 2002.

At the beginning of the legislative redistricting process I advised colleagues and map drawers that my goal was to present a map that gave every incumbent in the Rio Grande Valley a legislative district that they could win. We did just that. Unfortunately, the map drawn and designated by the three judge federal redistricting panel undid that work. The district I have been placed in is a 75% Democratic seat. It is unwinnable by me or any Republican candidate and I will not move into another legislative district to run against a colleague.

My decision to switch parties was met with derision by many who accused me of doing so as a quid pro quo. As I said then and is now evidently clear I did so because I felt it was the right thing to do rather than because I expected a political favor in return. Providing South Texans with a choice and forcing petty partisans to debate ideas rather than rely on the personality driven politics of the past is a decision I will never regret. The Rio Grande Valley is too dynamic, too diverse to be dominated by a single party that lets bullies thrive and enrich themselves and their cronies.

My decision ten years ago to run for office was spurred by a family tragedy that highlighted the dire need for drug treatment services for our community. Shortly after winning election to the Texas House I, joined by family and friends, set out on a ‘promesa’, a walk, from a highly respectable but private substance abuse treatment facility in the hill country of Central Texas to the State Capitol. The walk was meant to call attention to and begin the drive for a meaningful dialogue on the impact that drug and alcohol abuse was having in all our communities. In my third term of office, I secured $3 million in state funding for a substance abuse treatment facility for Hidalgo County. After finding another $400 thousand for the storm proofing of the building, Hidalgo County began construction of the facility. It is now complete and will be serving adolescents and their families in a location east of Edinburg on Schunior Road.

Much to the chagrin of my family, I have completely dedicated my life to public service. I was once a wealthy man. I have traded that material wealth for a spiritual and emotional growth that I cannot regret. It is time to bring focus back to a family that has been supportive beyond all reasonable expectations. I am so proud to have been given the opportunity to serve my community and will continue to seek ways to do so. I am so proud of a hardworking and dedicated staff that has helped me and this office accomplish so much. Our strength has been in remaining independent of the partisanship that mars local politics, of late affected the Texas Legislature and has virtually paralyzed Washington, D.C. for generations.

That independence allowed me to put the needs of my community before the dictates of party bosses and special interest groups. The construction of the Substance Abuse Treatment Center, securing funding of $750,000 for a park at the new Boys and Girls Club facility in Edinburg, the passage of bonds for a $40 million fine arts complex at UTPA, legislation authorizing the construction of a $25 million Student Fitness and Wellness Center also at UTPA were all made possible because of relationships built on trust and mutual respect. The establishment and success of the Regional Academic Health and the emergence of a Medical School for South Texas are great achievements that I share with many local and state leaders.

My election to the Texas House in 2002 coincided with the selection of the first Republican Speaker of the House since Reconstruction. As a Democrat I was asked to serve on substantive committees like the powerful Appropriations Committee and the tax writing committee Ways and Means. I served as a Chairman of Committees on Criminal Jurisprudence, Technology and Emergency Preparedness under two different Speakers. At the beginning of this past legislative session I founded the Hispanic Republican Conference and was joined in this effort by five other newly elected Hispanic Republican House members.

Independence allowed me to take on issues that were unpopular to partisans in South Texas but important to the rest of the community. Talking about the importance of voter integrity, the undue influence of politiqueras in the process, the corruption at the local, county and state level by bullies left unchecked were met by threats of retribution and on more than one occasion a challenge at the polls. On the issue of Voter ID I was firmly behind the will of the people of my community.

On homeland and border security I once again stood at odds with some local, state and federal officials that believe sticking your head in the sand is a viable policy in confronting the violence that has ravaged Northern Mexico over the last few years. I have been a vocal proponent of increasing federal, state and local law enforcement resources in order to continue to secure our border. In the last two sessions I have called for and supported over $110 million in state funding each biennium for the border region. It is not important whose definition is used to attribute violence in our community as spillover from the cartel wars in Northern Mexico. We must not think that we are building up an arsenal of hardware and manpower to prepare for an eventuality of a drug war in South Texas but it is our duty to our children and every Texan to be vigilant and guard against the possibility of the occurrence of that threat.

Arguably one of our communities’ proudest achievements lies on the self sacrifice and service of countless of military veterans and their families. I remain an ardent supporter of the commitment of local, state and federal resources for the construction of a full-fledged veteran’s hospital for the Rio Grande Valley. I have stood with veterans on every major and minor piece of legislation over my career. From reducing the tax burden on disabled veterans to passing legislation conferring the Legislative Medal of honor to Edinburg heroes Freddy Gonzales and Pedro Cano, I have been proud to do my part in honoring our citizen soldiers. I joined veterans of South Texas in a walk from Edinburg to San Antonio to highlight the trip that many have faced in receiving health care. The walk, a march to the veterans that I joined in the 230 mile trek, was a simple act rooted in a deep and meaningful gesture. I will never forget the friendships earned on that trip and I will never give up on the fight for getting those veterans and the others that will follow the hospital they deserve.

I have had the honor of working with national and international business leaders and local and state officials to bring much needed jobs to our community. I have been woken in the middle of the night by parents of drug addicted youths at their wits’ end. Great gestures come from grand designs, multi-billion dollar enterprises that traverse continents and create jobs and wealth but they also come from kind words and extending a helping hand to someone in need.

My wife, children and grandchildren allowed me the luxury of working full-time, seven days a week at a job that pays $7200 a year. To Monica, Adrienne, Aaron, Alyssa, Anthony and John, thank you. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I was given to serve the community I love so much.

Nov 24, 2011

The Power of One

You must always remember

Life can be a challenge
Life can seem impossible
It's never easy when so much is on the line

But you can make a difference
With courage you can set things right
The gift to dream and make dreams real
Is yours and mine

The power of one
Begins with believing
It starts in the heart
Then flows through the soul
And changes the world
Imagine how life will be
When we stand in unity
Each of us holds the key
To the power of one

Each of us is chosen
There's a mission just for you
Just look inside you'll be surprised
What you can do

The power of one
Begins with believing
It starts in the heart
Then flows through the soul
And changes the world
Imagine how life will be
When we stand in unity
Each of us holds the key
To the power of one

And one by one
We can make the world a much better place

The power of one
Begins with believing
It starts in the heart
Then flows through the soul
And changes the world
Imagine how life will be
When we stand in unity
Each of us holds the key
It's inside of you and me
Each of us holds the key
To the power of one

~ Donna Summer in her song "The Power of One."

What I Am Thankful For

On this Thanksgiving Day, I, like so many others, have reflected on the countless blessings our Lord has provided: a loving and supportive family, the fortune to be born in this the greatest country ever seen and to be given the opportunity to serve the community I love.

This ten year adventure into public service has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I think I will have in my lifetime. It has been a journey that allowed me find purpose at a most difficult time by following HIS highest calling - the service to others.

Out of this came countless blessings to the larger community:

1. Health, Family: State-built Drug Treatment Center ($3M)

2. Health: UTPA Student Wellness and Recreation Center ($25M)

3. Education: UTPA Fine Arts Academic and Performance Complex ($40M)

4. Education: UTPA Regional Academic Health Center ($5M)

5. Education: Passage of future Valley Medical School

6. Child Safety: Jessica's Law and Other Tough Child Sexual Predator Legislation,

7. Military: Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Freddy Gonzalez and Pedro Cano, Military Toll Booth Exemptions

8. Veterans: Championed Construction of Veterans' Hospital for South Texas, Veterans Walk to San Antonio

9. Border and Homeland Security: Secured over $110M each Legislative Session for Border Region, Chaired Interim Committee on Emergency Preparedness, Internet Security from Foreign Attacks, University Emergency Alert System,

10. Election Reform: Championed Election Integrity Legislation, Passage of Voter ID, Petition Allowing County to Run City or School Elections

11. Anti-Crime, Pro-Business: Organized Retail Crime Bill

12. Jobs: HHSC "Maximus" Call Center; Provided Over 400 Jobs

13. More Jobs: Santana Textiles; Provided Over 800 Jobs

14. Parks: Secured Funding in the Amount of $750,000 for a Park at the New Edinburg Boys and Girls Club Facility

15. The Opportunity to Serve: Chairman of Criminal Jurisprudence and Technology Committees, Hispanic Republican Conference, Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness; Current Member of Redistricting, Voter ID and Voter Fraud, and Homeland Security Committees; Past Member of Powerful Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees.

I am eternally grateful to God and the citizens who have given me this opportunity. Despite the tenor of the times, I look forward with tremendous optimism towards the future. I wish you and your family the best this holiday season. I plan to remain eternally faithful to this community and betterment of it's future.

May God bless!

Happy Thanksgiving Dear Friends

"Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting."

Here is President Barack Obama's 2011 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Also worth reading are the presidential Thanksgiving proclamations throughout our country's history. Those can be found here.

Nov 23, 2011

State Rep. Aaron Peña Receives Champion for Retailers Award

Congressional Redistricting

The three judge federal panel out of San Antonio has issued it's interim congressional redistricting map. It is C220 and can be seen on District Viewer.

Democratic Gate Keepers And The Republican Welcome

Southern Democrats are losing clout and influence because they’re fighting for control over their shrinking bases while Republicans increasingly welcome individuals from minority groups, former Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis told The Daily Caller.

Nov 20, 2011

Texas Redistricting: The Interim Congressional Map

This week I am expecting the federal panel in San Antonio to release the awaited interim congressional map for Texas. Speculation is rampant and it's any body's guess as to what the map will look like but here's my guess based in part on the court's prior ruling.

I am expecting the creation of a new Hispanic opportunity district in Dallas. I am also expecting an additional congressional district in deep South Texas. We may also see a district that allows Congressman Lloyd Doggett a better chance for success. My colleague Rep. Joaquin Castro will no longer be placed in a position where he will be challenging Congressman Doggett.

Regarding the interim state house and senate maps that the court released late last week, I am expecting some small changes based on the objections. I am also expecting the court to make their interim proposals permanent, at least for the upcoming election cycle.

After that look for a flurry of activity as candidates make the necessary adjustments in order to run for office (or not). The first day to file for office based on the court's ruling is November 28th and the final day is December 15th.

Nov 19, 2011

This Day In History: Lincoln Delivers the Gettysburg Address

On this day in history, November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

As described, "Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, ensure that democracy would remain a viable form of government, and would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant."

Here is the speech delivered by Lincoln impersonator, James A. Getty who has a voice that I suspect was close to that of Lincoln. There is still much discussion on what Lincoln sounded like but I think James A. Getty captures it.

Nov 17, 2011

The Court's Interim House Map Is Out

A panel of federal judges in San Antonio proposed new redistricting maps for the Texas Senate and the Texas House today. The House Plan is H298 if you use District Viewer.

There are 12 pairings of incumbent House members under the Federal Court plan. There are also 13 open House districts under the proposed interim House map. Additionally, the federal panel in San Antonio has by it's ruling clarified that the "county line rule" is trumped by the Voting Rights Act.

Read more here from the Texas Tribune.

Nov 16, 2011

An Army of Two: Evan Smith and Joshua Trevino

Entitled an "An Army of Two," Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune joins Joshua Trevino of the Texas Public Policy Foundation in this edition on The topic is the Republican primary in the run up to the presidential election.

Nov 8, 2011

Federal Panel in San Antonio Will Draw Interim Maps for Upcoming Election

A federal court in Washington, D.C. today denied the state of Texas summary judgment on the pre-clearance case of the proposed political maps drawn by the Texas Legislature. Having done so it effectively rejected plans to use the proposed political maps for the 2012 elections. A trial will be necessary for the D.C. Court to hash out the issues and reach a conclusion.

Since a trial can't be completed by the first day candidates are supposed to file for next years primaries (Nov. 28), a San Antonio three judge federal panel is expected to draw interim maps to be used for next year's elections.

We should have those interim maps for the public and the candidates to see within the next 10 days. That is a guess-timate.

In the mean time, our team and myself,continue to campaign regardless of the eventual outcome. We are very excited about our November 29th, noon time fundraiser with Joe Straus, the Speaker of the Texas House, here in Mission, Texas at the Cimarron Country club. We are continuing our block walking program and letting people know of our re-election campaign. Our website is up and if your interested in joining our effort, please feel free to make that known to us by making note on the interactive "Volunteer" page.

You can reach us the old-fashioned way by telephone - 956-720-0026 - if you wish to participate in our weekend block walking teams. I myself, will be participating in these door to door efforts and hope to see you on the trail. If you have time mid-week, I'll be walking on dates in the middle of the week. I know it's tough duty, but as someone recently said, "We are in it, to win it!"

It should be fun. Come join us.

Nov 1, 2011

Speaker Straus Honored Guest At My First Fundraiser

I am pleased to announce that Joe Straus, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, will be my special guest at our first fundraising event of the 2012 campaign season.

When: November 29, 2011

Where: Cimarron Country Club, Mission, Tx.

When: 12 noon (lunch provided)

If your interested in being a part of this event or our campaign please contact my campaign office at 956-720-0026.

On-line contributions to the campaign can also be made via our new website at