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20111202_Senator_Hinojosa_StetsonMonday was the first day candidates were able to file to run for state offices and incumbents state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and state Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview, both announced they’d seek re-election while state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, and Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, said they would not seek re-election in their reconfigured districts.

Weeks leading up to the first day to begin filing, even into this week, have been confusing as maps have been reconfigured and protested, leaving some politicians working to determine if they still want to run for election in a district that might have been restructured a second time.

On Thanksgiving night, Peña published a message on his website titled “Ten Good Years of Service to the Community I Love.” In it, he explained his reasons for not seeking re-election and also reflected on his time as an elected official. Peña explained the new redistricting maps would make it impossible for him to win a seat in his district. Peña, under the original redistricting plans would have run for office in District 41, but with the new plans, he’s been pushed back to District 40, a largely Democratic area.

“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,” he wrote. “The district I have been placed in is a 75 percent 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.”

Peña defected from the Democratic Party last December.

“My decision to switch parties was met with derision by many who accused me of doing so as a quid pro quo,” he said last week. “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,” he said.

Peña, who will finish out his term, said he was thankful for the opportunities given to him by the community. He listed his successes in his message, the latest being the opening of the John Austin Peña Primary Care and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Edinburg.

Gonzales, whose District 41 was mostly returned to its original state, did not participate in the Hidalgo County Democratic Party’s filing event on Monday and announced she would not seek a fifth term on Wednesday.

“This decision did not come easy, but I believe that it is the right one for me at this time in my life and one which will allow me to focus more attention on my law practice and personal life,” she told supporters Wednesday.

A few weeks ago Gonzales and her supporters celebrated the reconfiguration of her district, which restored much of her original boundaries. The previous maps left her with less than two percent of the original district.

“I made a commitment when first elected in 2004 to work tirelessly to promote the best interests of the Rio Grande Valley and to do so with integrity and professionalism and I believe I have kept that commitment,” Gonzales said. “The legislation I passed was diverse, but was always done with a goal of improving life for border residents and I am confident that the work I have started.”

Incumbents like Muñoz and Hinojosa, however, had minimal changes to their districts leaving them prepared to begin campaigning on Monday.

Much of Muñoz’s District 36 remains intact after a three-judge panel released interim redistricting maps that will be used in the March primaries. District 36 now consists of all or parts of the cities of Pharr, McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo, Palmview and Granjeno.

“I am very pleased with the results of the court and firmly believe that the good people of Hidalgo County and the Democratic Party will have an even bigger voice in Austin. The court’s decision has allowed me to focus my campaign in much of the same communities that I represented during the last legislative session.” Muñoz said. “I learned a lot from so many people in my district and I want to return and do as much as I can to take care of them. It will be a tough fight and I won’t give up on them.”

Hinojosa also filed the necessary paperwork to seek re-election for state Senate office in District 20. His district also remains largely unchanged.

“Even in the face of a recession and an increasingly polarized political environment, I take pride in what my office accomplished last legislative session. We expanded job training and higher education opportunities, and initiated high school dropout prevention programs,” he said. “We also increased border security, allowed South Texas to plan for long term water needs, and addressed long neglected infrastructure projects. There are many challenges ahead for Texas and I know that my work is not done.”

Former Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Guerra, who had announced his intention to run in District 41, did not attend Monday’s event, either.

The filing period for state and county elections ends Dec. 15. The primaries will be held on March 6, 2012.

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