South Texas voters will no longer be able to choose a Ruben Hinojosa to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. A 33-year-old law student who wanted to go by Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa on the Democratic primary ballot in March will instead go by a different name: Ruben Ramirez. That’s because state Democratic party officials are forcing him to change it. Party officials say their decision this week to lop off “Hinojosa” — the surname of the candidate’s mother — from the ballot listing could prevent confusion for voters in Congressional District 15. And they say Ramirez failed to prove he goes by the name Hinojosa. But Ramirez, a McAllen native, accuses the party of launching a “culturally insensitive” effort to hinder his campaign, noting that Democrats have commonly allowed candidates to go by nicknames such as “Chuy.” “I think it’s a lapse in judgment,” the U.S. Army combat veteran and University of Houston law student said late Wednesday. “They’re letting their political friendships pressure them, and they’re caving in to their friends.”
After Texas Democrats initially accepted the candidate’s filing to compete under the name Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa, several party members said they were concerned that some voters would support him thinking they were casting ballots for U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Edinburg, who is retiring after representing the district for two decades.
That apparently included the congressman himself, whose staff openly talked about asking the party to change the candidate’s name on the ballot, suggesting that he be listed instead as Ruben Ramon Ramirez — the name he used in the 2012 Democratic primary when he drew about 5 percent of the vote. Last week, a party official told The Texas Tribune that it had “no authority” to change the listing, unless an opponent challenged it in court. Now it has reversed course.
“After further review and on the advice of our legal counsel the Texas Democratic Party requested that Mr. Ramirez clarify that he meets the statutory requirements to use ‘Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa’ as his ballot name in order for us to certify that all information in his filing is correct,” Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in an email Thursday. “Mr. Ramirez refused to sign a sworn affidavit attesting that he has gone by the name ‘Ruben Ramirez Hinojosa.’”