A new political era: Lucio bows out, LaMantia survives recount

Dec. 30—The year 2022 witnessed the close of a South Texas political era as state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. wound down his final year in office representing Dist. 27.

Lucio, a conservative Democrat and third in seniority in the Legislature, announced in 2021 that he would would not seek reelection after nearly a half-century of public service. The Brownsville native served 12 years in county government as a state representative from 1987 to 1990 before being elected to the Senate.

"Forty-eight years is a long journey in the political arena," Lucio told the Brownsville Herald in October.

He recalled that when he became state representative in 1987 Lucio was representing just Brownsville, though when Lucio became senator he was responsible for Cameron and Hidalgo counties — until redistricting.

"I was able to convince my colleagues that we should redistrict where we would be paired with Corpus (Christi), and that way Corpus could continue with a senator if they voted that person that in, or the (Rio Grande) Valley could elect a new senator," Lucio said. "That was actually my plan, to be able to get two senators from deep South Texas, and it worked. So we've had two senators since 2001 thanks to that redistricting plan that my colleagues supported me with on both sides of the aisles."

He was challenged in the 2020 Democratic primary by political newcomer Sara Stapleton Barrera and forced into a runoff election, which Lucio won.

The new senator for Dist. 27 will be Democrat Morgan LaMantia, a South Padre Island resident and attorney employed by her family's business, McAllen-based L&F Distributors. Barrera took another shot at the nomination in 2022 but was bested by LaMantia in the primary. LaMantia, who had Lucio's endorsement went on to squeak by Republican challenger Corpus Christi resident and business owner Adam Hinojosa in the November election.

Hinojosa, who lost to LaMantia by 659 votes out of 175,415 total votes cast, requested a recount in three counties that had relatively high numbers of paper and mail-in ballots: Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy. The results of the recount did not change the outcome of the election, but netted 73 more votes for LaMantia and 55 more for her opponent in Cameron County. Hinojosa conceded on Dec. 16. LaMantia assumes office on Jan. 10.