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Team L1berty divided over school board candidates

Split over who to support for school board, Team L1berty may splinter during the next few weeks.

Filing starts Monday for three seats on the La Joya Independent School District board, but members of Team L1berty — the dominant political party in western Hidalgo County — are divided over who to support.

LJISD LogoWhile the situation remains in flux, school board Trustee Frances A. Salinas and school board Trustee Johnn Alaniz probably will run for re-election on separate tickets.

“Like any other group, there’s going to be some disconnect sometimes,” said Alaniz, who downplayed talk of a schism. “But to the point of splitting and breaking up? I don’t see it.”

Alaniz said he thought Frances Salinas did an excellent job on the school board, but didn’t know whether or not they would run together in November.

“I don’t know yet,” Alaniz said. “We’re trying to see what’s our best option.”

The Progress Times spoke with six western Hidalgo County politicos about tensions within Team L1berty. All requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

They said Team L1berty didn’t experience a major disagreement or spectacular fight. Members simply drifted apart, formed cliques and fought amongst themselves over relatively minor issues.

La Joya Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and his wife, City Commissioner Mary Salinas, will support their daughter, Frances Salinas, when she files for re-election. Frances Salinas may run with Nereyda Cantu, the sister-in-law of school board Trustee Alex Cantu.

Frances Salinas, 50, of La Joya serves as executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority. Nereyda Cantu, 40, of Palmview co-owns a daycare with her husband.
Neither Frances Salinas nor Nereyda Cantu responded to requests for comment.

Alex Cantu said he didn’t know if his sister-in-law would run — or who she might run with.

“We don’t know yet,” Alex Cantu said. “We’re still in talks.”

Alaniz, 42, of Palmview, is the CEO of the La Joya Area Federal Credit Union. He may run for re-election with David Nacianceno, 37, of Palmview, who currently works for the school district.

“I know that’s a name that’s been thrown out there,” Alaniz said.

Attempts to schedule an interview with Nacianceno, who would be forced to choose between working for the district and serving on the school board, weren’t successful.

Power brokers in Peñitas, including school board President Armin Garza and Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, probably will support Alaniz, along with school board Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas of Sullivan City. They’ll be joined by Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero and Peñitas Chief of Staff Andy Morales, who play a key role in funding campaigns.

Meanwhile, businesswoman Mary T. Hernandez and Hidalgo County Economic Development Director Michael Leo, 43, of Palmview may mount independent campaigns for school board.

“I’m kind of in the exploratory phase, so to speak,” Leo said. “But I have not made an official decision.”
With three seats on the ballot, every team will need a third candidate.

There’s also the chance that, however unlikely, Team L1berty could reach a compromise before the filing deadline on Aug. 20.

“I guess at the end we’ll see what happens,” Alaniz said. “Who comes (to file) and what deals will be cut. Things like that.”

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