BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., who retires from public office on Tuesday, is not a typical Texas Democrat.
Many times he has consistently supported Republican efforts to pass anti-abortion laws, and in 2022 he supported the re-election of Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Lucio plans to be in Austin when Patrick is sworn in on January 17.
But if Lucio’s career had started today instead of 48 years ago, he would still be a Democrat, he said.
“I consider myself a Democrat for many reasons, but I am a conservative Democrat,” Lucio told ValleyCentral. “I am a pro-life Democrat and very little [Democrats] that will tell you. There are many, many, many Democrats who are pro-life, but they won’t interact with anyone in the community because they don’t want to fight anyone.”
For Lucio, he says, his pro-life views reflect his community, which was more important than keeping up with a political party.
“I represent a neighborhood that is very conservative, very Catholic, very Christian,” Lucio said. “And I never — never — got the support of my party. Never have party leaders called me to say, “Hey Lucio, let’s get your next campaign going.”
According to him, Lucio was guided by his faith and his faith in God’s commandment of love.
“Never, never in all the time that I was there [in the Senate] if I ever wanted to harm anyone, dislike anyone,” Lucio said. “I believe that the greatest commandment of God is what we should live with and try to live up to, and that is the commandment of love, but I do care about people, especially the unborn. But I take care of everyone.”
He plans to detail this story in a book he plans to write in the next 15 to 20 months. The book will draw on his life in public service for half a century.
“I started working in the public service in 1970. [when] I ran for county treasurer and served as Cameron County Treasurer for eight years,” Lucio said. “Then we had Bob Bullock, the State Comptroller. I worked with him to create a unified system to help rural district treasurers, in particular, understand what their job as treasurer was and the system of checks and balances that was created through [Texas] Constitution”.
Lucio campaigned on the Cameron County Commission in 1970, won the seat, and served four years.
“Immediately after this race, when we had redistricting, I personally redistributed my counties from the Brownsville city limits to the countryside. At the time, I was quite idealistic – it was my plan, which was considered by the court, ”said Lucio. “And when I went camping [for reelection]something funny happened.”
The villagers wanted Lucio to use the county’s resources and labor to improve private roads and properties, he said, but he refused, explaining to them that it would be against the law.
“And it’s against the law today,” Lucio added. “But when the elections came, I lost. I lost in areas where I told people I couldn’t help them because it would be against the law.”
Lucio said no one wants to lose the election campaign, but now he believes that this defeat happened with a purpose. He left the county government and taught for five and a half years at the Brownsville Independent School District.
“It was so important to me,” Lucio said. “I love teaching. I loved coaching, football, basketball, athletics when I was a young man. It turned out to be a wonderful experience that I had in my early years.”
In 1986, he returned to public office, winning election as a state representative. Then in 1990 he ran for the Texas Senate and won.
He was sworn into office in 1991 and has served as a state senator ever since. Tuesday will be his last day in office. Reflecting on his 48 years of public service — in the county, public schools, and government agencies — he told ValleyCentral he couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do than serve the community in the capacity in which he served.
For a time, Lucio was the only senator in the Valley. He was influential in creating the Interstate Highway and helped redistribute the position of the Senate to represent the western end of the Valley.
“And, you know, I’ve been involved in a lot of things, but one of the greatest things I’ve done for citizens in general has been to add more doctors to our medical school,” Lucio said. “In 1997, I passed the first bill to create [Valley’s] first medical school.
Those efforts led to the establishment of the Harlingen Regional Academic Medical Center in the late 1990s, which became the University of Texas School of Medicine in the Rio Grande Valley, an “amazing achievement,” Lucio said.
“So I am grateful to God, I am grateful to the citizens who have kept me there all these years, giving me the opportunity to really be a part of the great changes that have taken place in the Rio Grande Valley,” Lucio said.
The senator told ValleyCentral he has no particular plans to celebrate his retirement on Tuesday other than to wish good luck to those who take office. “And I did it,” he said. “I called them and wished Tema all the best. I offered them [my help], since I have a lot of institutional knowledge about public administration. They can ask me for advice or guidance at any time if they want to talk to me.
“If they don’t, that’s fine. We continue to be friends and part of our community.”
His father told him in 1970 when he first ran for public office, “Son, people don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.”
Lucio says he remembered his father’s words throughout his career.
“I never forgot it, I never forgot it in all the days that I served in the public service,” Lucio said. “I wanted to show people that I really care.”