Former police chief wins La Joya runoff election, ousts mayor
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Former police Chief Isidro Casanova crushed Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas during the La Joya City Commission runoff election Tuesday.
Casanova — who campaigned with Agua Special Utility District board member Roger Hernandez and real estate agent Laura Mendiola Macias as “We are La Joya” — won nearly 61 percent of 1,500 ballots cast during the runoff, according to preliminary results published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department on Tuesday night.
“They just wanted change,” Casanova said. “Something different. Something better.”
The “We are La Joya” candidates defeated Salinas, who campaigned with Daniel Flores, a local teacher, and Dalia Arriaga, the wife of police Chief Adolfo Arriaga.
“I just wish them all the luck,” Salinas said, adding that he’s ready to enjoy retirement and spend more time with his grandchildren.
The campaign started in March, when nine candidates filed for City Commission.
Salinas faced Casanova and Jaime Gaitan, a JROTC instructor at the La Joya Independent School District.
Casanova and Gaitan split the anti-Salinas vote in November.
Casanova won 48.2 percent of about 1,550 ballots cast, according to results published by the Elections Department. Gaitan won nearly 17.5 percent.
None of the nine candidates, though, won a majority of the vote. That sent Casanova to a runoff with Salinas.
Casanova made corruption at City Hall a major campaign issue.
FBI agents raided City Hall in mid-August, carrying away boxes of documents. Three days later, they arrested Sylvia Garces Valdez, a public relations consultant who worked for the city.
The indictment against her implicated a member of the City Commission.
“Defendant gave, offered, and agreed to give cash to Person A intending to influence and reward Person B, an elected official for the City of La Joya, for their influence in granting a public relations contract to the Defendant,” according to the indictment against Garces Valdez.
Court records didn’t identify the elected official by name.
Concerns about corruption at City Hall re-emerged in October, when former City Administrator Mike Alaniz pleaded guilty to a federal theft charge.
Casanova supporters blasted Salinas on Facebook, accusing him of fostering a culture of corruption.
Salinas and his supporters fired back, claiming that Casanova is a sexual predator.
The mayor’s daughter, Frances A. Salinas, posted on Facebook excerpts from a lawsuit that accused Casanova of sexual harassment. Casanova denied any wrongdoing.
Voters overwhelmingly supported Casanova, Hernandez and Mendiola Macias during the runoff. They may form a new majority on the five-member City Commission.
While he acknowledged defeat, Salinas said he didn’t plan to call Casanova to formally concede the election.
“I don’t have to concede,” Salinas said. “The numbers will say that. They can count.”
The results will remain unofficial until canvassed by the City Commission.
“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all the citizens that came out and voted, that wanted a change, that wanted something different,” Hernandez said.