PALMVIEW–Shortly after 7 p.m., cheers erupted at the Imperial Ballroom where Team Liberty volunteers had already begun to come together.
Joel Garcia, La Joya Independent School District board secretary, ran through the crowd, hugging and yelling with joy. Early voting figures just released showed all three incumbents up for reelection with a commanding lead. Election Day votes hadn’t been tallied yet and already volunteers were yelling, “We did it!”
Their challengers were political newcomers. The Diamond Pack consisted of: Fernando Torres, Place 1; Irma Linda Villarreal-Veloz, Place 2; Victoria “Vicky” Cantu, Place 3.
Of all the races, Peña received the most votes, 4,326, to win with 62 percent of the ballots cast. Torres received 2,646.
Garza received 59 percent of the votes, garnering 4,119 ballots in his favor. Villarreal-Veloz received 2,862 votes. Alaniz, with 57 percent and 3,955 votes, won by the slimmest margin. Cantu received 3,023 votes.
As the crowd waited for Peña, Garza and Alaniz, Garcia held up his cell phone yelled out, “Espie says, ‘Thank you.” The crowd cheered once again so Board President Esperanza Ochoa could hear.
Garcia and Ochoa were part of the original Team Liberty slate members elected to office in 2012.
Garza also was one of the 2012 Team Liberty candidates as he’d been running for a seat vacated when Mayor Fito Salinas was elected to office.
By the time, Garza arrived to the party, dozens of people were outside ready with hugs, photos and congratulatory messages.
“This one was pretty bad,” Garza said of the campaign, a large part of which played out on fake and anonymous Facebook profiles and through radio ads. “It was worse than expected.”
Peña arrived at the ballroom next, and said he was confident the team would win throughout the election.
“I attribute it to the people and the public seeing that we’re doing a good job, that we’re being fiscally responsible and our employees and our district are in a good place, and they’re happy,” Peña said.
Alaniz, who arrived last, agreed with Peña, saying he had confidence in the people. In the end, Alaniz said, he felt good about the outcome.
“Starting tomorrow, the first thing is get our minds back in the school district setting and not in the election,” he said.