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The College Republicans at UTPA hosted their first meeting of the semester Sept. 9 as approximately 40 students gathered at the Business Administration Building to learn about politics and discuss conservative issues. Several representatives arrived to talk in the name of Texas Republican candidates, such as George P. Bush, who is running for Texas land commissioner, Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor and Sen. Ted Cruz, who attended the meeting to support his Republican colleagues. 

Joshua Rojas, the club’s president, began the meeting by explaining the purpose of the organization and the benefits members would gain by joining such as acquiring political experience, meeting elected and future politicians and free food and drinks. The club has been at UTPA since its foundation in 2011. It has never had more than 10 members but now has more than 30 students who attend regular meetings. 

Rojas worked on recruiting students throughout the summer and stated that he was excited to see the number of people who attended. He also expressed that being in the club is a great opportunity to make change as a young Republican.

“It’s not only about being Republican, but it’s the conservative principles that we are trying to defend. After all, these are the same exact principles that made America,” said Rojas, a UTPA finance major. “We try to bring awareness of the current situations in Texas, things that most of the students (don’t) think are important to know.”

Josh Ballenger, a junior economics major, was pleased to see how much the group has grown since its foundation.  

“It first started (with) a few members and it’s amazing how tremendously it has grown,” said Ballenger, who has been part of the group since 2012. “Here it is where students develop their philosophies so it’s a great opportunity to make an impact on them.”

Rojas’ introduction was followed by an appearance by 92nd District Court Judge Jaime Eduardo Tijerina, who graduated from UTPA in 1991 with a degree in business administration. This motivated him to speak with the students and show them the work he has done throughout the years as an attorney, businessman, veteran and public servant. 

Tijerina was appointed 92nd State District Judge by Texas Governor Ricky Perry in 2013 to fill the vacancy left by Ricardo Rodriguez. Tijerina is now running for reelection and encouraged the attendees to vote on election day Nov. 4 and, more importantly, to invite nine other people to do the same.

As a former UTPA student, Tijerina stated that when the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is established next fall he will do his best to improve parking around the University.

“I’m aware that the parking situation on campus is a big struggle for all of you,” Tijerina said. “I was a student like you, and I would like to make a change for you.”

The last candidate to speak was Elijah Israel Casas, who is running for state representative for District 41. Born and raised in the Valley, Casas graduated from the University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He founded the College Republicans at UTPA in 2011 and stated that through involvement in the organization he learned most about politics, which led him to run in this year’s election.

“I was a student like all of you,” Casas said. “I created this group with the main goal of letting the students express their thoughts and learn more about politics.”

The next College Republicans meeting is scheduled for Sept. 30 at noon in Room 120-G in the Business Administration Building. Members will go over basic ideas about conservatism and compare them with other political views.

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