Abortion activists have launched digital ads and a website attacking long-time Texas Senator Eddie Lucio, calling him “Sucio Lucio” — a Spanish rhyme meaning “Dirty Lucio.”
Lucio, a 29-year incumbent in the Texas Senate representing the Rio Grande Valley, bested two Democrat challengers in the Super Tuesday Democratic Primary, but he narrowly missed a majority by just 137 votes of 61,970 cast.
That forced him into a runoff against Sara Stapleton-Barrera, who notched 35.6% of the primary votes with the backing of outside abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood.
The showdown between the newcomer and the veteran senator — one of Texas’ last elected pro-life Democrats — will play out July 14, with early voting starting June 29.
Planned Parenthood’s campaign includes digital ads, an attack website, and a social media effort through “young community activists” in the Rio Grande Valley.
The website states, “Sen. Lucio has a solid record of voting for and supporting anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-environment, anti-worker, anti-health care, and anti-public school policies.”
The website identifies Lucio as “a close ally of extremist politicians, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott.” Similarly, a YouTube video released by Planned Parenthood ties Lucio to Patrick, highlighting the fact that Lucio called the lieutenant governor a fellow Christian.
After some introductory text, the ad begins with a clip in which Lucio says, “My Brother in Christ, Dan Patrick, trusted me to carry legislation this last session…” The clip appears to have been taken from a speech that Lucio made at a 2019 annual benefit dinner of Texas Alliance for Life, which honored Lucio with an award for “Courageous Defense of Life.”
According to required disclosure notices on the YouTube video and website, SucioLucio.org, both are paid for by the Planned Parenthood Texas Votes PAC.
Planned Parenthood’s first wave of “Sucio Lucio” ads generated 34,000–45,000 “impressions” on Facebook, and were shown only to women, in the two days immediately preceding Super Tuesday, according to Facebook’s Digital Ad Library, which discloses political ad spending.
Those ads said, “30 years of dirty politics is enough. May your voice heard. Election Day is March 3.” A button sent Facebook user to the website suciolucio.org. The strategy suggests that Planned Parenthood could be planning a similar ad blitz prior to the July 14 election day.
For her part, Lucio’s opponent Sara Stapleton-Barrera hasn’t made abortion rights a central theme of her campaign messaging, though she does declare her support for public funding of “reproductive health services,” including for Planned Parenthood.
The Issues section of her website states,”We need to ensure adequate state funding for reproductive healthcare safety net programs, and allow trusted and qualified healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood to participate in those programs.”
In order to win, Stapleton-Barrera will need to win over sufficient numbers of the district’s majority Hispanic Roman Catholics. Senate District 27 is 90% Hispanic and its largest city, Brownsville, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese that is the country’s largest as measured by the number Catholics as a percentage of the total population of the territory.
Lucio himself is a practicing Roman Catholic, a faith that teaches that abortion is the taking of a human life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.”
“This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”
Lucio also has drawn attacks from Progress Texas and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, another abortion organization, which helped run a phone bank for his opponent.
Progress Texas wrote in a blog post, “Lucio began his departure from Democratic values when he actively supported tort reform, an issue primarily funded and driven by conservative extremists. Since then, he has consistently aligned himself more within Republican party voting lines by voting in favor of legislation that restricts abortion access…”
Texas Freedom Network (TNF PAC), a group that supports Progressive candidates in Texas, is running digital ads against Lucio similar to those of Planned Parenthood. The ads accuse him of “dirty politics” and use the hashtag #SucioLucio, according to Facebook’s ad library.
It’s not yet clear how much money these groups have given to Stapleton-Barrera directly, if any, because she hasn’t filed a campaign finance report since January 23.
One group that has come to Lucio’s defense is Life PAC, based in Arlington, Texas. The anti-abortion group set up its own pro-Lucio website that called Planned Parenthood’s use of the #SucioLucio hashtag a “racial slur.” The website share a similar web address to the attack site, suggesting an effort to draw in searchers who were looking for the actual attack site.
Life PAC’s website notes that it is “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”
Senator Lucio himself is running for reelection on a platform that includes protecting South Texas colleges from coronavirus-related budget cuts, support for public education, and protecting veterans’ benefits.