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The billboard on Interstate 2 couldn’t be clearer: When western Hidalgo County residents head to the polls, they should vote “STRAIGHT TICKET DEMOCRAT.”
Candidates with Republican opponents — Richard Cortez, who’s running for Hidalgo County judge; JoAnne Garcia, who’s running for probate court; and J.J. Peña, who’s running for justice of the peace Precinct 3 Place 2 — purchased the billboard near the intersection of Interstate 2 and South Conway Avenue.
“The party is supporting all of our candidates,” said Cortez, the former mayor of McAllen. “Who I’m going to vote for is my private, personal choice.”
Peña, a businessman who serves on the La Joya school board, provided a similar answer.
“We’re nobody to tell anybody who to vote for,” Peña said, adding later: “Everybody has a right to vote for whoever they want.”
Garcia couldn’t be reached for comment.
While la palanca is a tradition for many Rio Grande Valley voters, the November ballot may prompt them to reconsider.
Former state District Judge Rudy Delgado, a Democrat who’s running for the 13th Court of Appeals, remains under indictment.
Federal agents arrested Delgado in February. The charges against him include bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
An attorney bribed Delgado for favorable decisions, slipping him small amounts of cash, according to court records. Federal agents recorded the attorney meeting with Delgado on Jan. 17, when the judge accepted a white envelope stuffed with $5,500.
Delgado pleaded not guilty. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.
While he didn’t withdraw from the ballot, Delgado isn’t campaigning for the 13th Court of Appeals.
“Defendant has been advised that the only way another candidate can be listed on the Democratic ballot is if Defendant Delgado was convicted in the instant case or surrendered his law license. Defendant has surrendered his position as a state district judge,” according to a motion filed by Delgado’s attorney in September. “He no longer makes public appearances as a candidate. He no longer is actively disseminating campaign materials. The law does not require that he surrender his law license during the pendency of a case, so he has not done so. But regardless, he is not practicing law. Defendant is no longer campaigning for office.”
Democrats who vote straight-ticket, however, would support Delgado anyway.
“There’s a lot of corruption. And if Rudy Delgado does get elected, that just goes to show how the voters are not aware of the situation that is going on right now,” said Arminda “Mindy” Garza, the Republican candidate for justice of the peace Precinct 3 Place 2. “My personal opinion is if they want him in office again, go ahead and vote straight-ticket Democrat. We’re going to continue with the same results.”
Delgado faces state District Judge Jaime Tijerina, who’s running as a Republican.
“I think that people should become more educated about the people they’re electing,” Tijerina said, “And vote race-by race for the candidate that is the most qualified.”