A local businessman will remain the county Precinct 3 commissioner-elect after a visiting judge dismissed the lawsuit that would’ve called for a new election.
Visiting Judge Jose Manuel Bañales dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday that was filed by outgoing Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jose “Joe” Flores against Everardo “Ever” Villarreal, who beat him in the local March 2020 Democratic Primary.
In that election, Villarreal, beat Flores in the primary by 92 votes. Citing more than 1,000 illegal votes, Flores filed the lawsuit after the March Democratic Party primary election and requested that the results be declared void and a new election be held.
As Villarreal has no Republican challenger in the November 2020 general election, he is the commissioner elect.
“Villarreal built his political campaign around a promise of honesty and transparency. The discouraging reality, however, is that Villarreal’s campaign demonstrated the extreme opposite. His campaign paid many voters to vote for him,” according to the lawsuit.
“Villarreal’s campaign altogether consciously ignored the law in order to obtain more votes. Victory at the expense of the true will of the voters is not a victory at all but rather a slap in the face to our democracy and the citizens of Hidalgo County Precinct 3. A new election must be ordered to restore trust to the citizens of Hidalgo County Precinct.”
Villarreal responded by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last June. Bañales dismissed the lawsuit the day before it was set to go to pre-trial.
“It is further ordered that all of Contestant’s claims and causes of action asserted against Contestee be and are hereby dismissed with prejudice,” the dismissal signed by Bañales stated. “This order disposes of all parties and all claims and is final and appealable. Any and all relief not granted herein is expressly denied.”
To void the results of the March election, Flores’ legal team had to prove that enough illegal votes were cast for Villarreal to call for a new election. According to the summary judgement order, 104 votes were claimed to be illegal by Flores’ lawyer-Orlando Garcia, but the court found only 10 votes that were made illegally. Only eight of those votes were found to be for Villarreal.
“Although the Court has found that illegal votes were cast, that most of the illegal votes went for Contestee, and that it is uncertain how the additional illegal votes were cast, the outcome is not affected,” the order stated.
Garcia said he disagreed with the court’s decision.
“The court sustained various objections, we disagreed with these objections and are evaluating and determining how we’re going to pursue,” Garcia said, adding that he and Flores are considering appealing this decision.
“The court found sustained objections on  of the illegal votes saying they shouldn’t be counted as evidence even though we know the voters voted illegally and who those votes were for,” Garcia said.
Javier Peña, Villarreal’s lawyer, argued that an appeal from Flores would not be successful.
In a previous hearing, Peña argued that several of the testimonies from people claiming they illegally voted for Villarreal that were collected by Garcia should not be counted as Garcia admitted on the record that those people were provided up to $300 for their testimony.
“I don’t think they ever had a chance of winning, they don’t have the evidence,” Peña said. “That’s what the counter evidence showed. It’s hard to have people believe testimony when it’s bribed testimony and the judge saw right through it.”
As commissioner-elect, Villarreal will be sworn in in the new year.
“Through everything we’ve seen and everything that’s come out, the next step for the commissioner elect is to start getting his team together for when he gets sworn in so it goes smoothly.” Peña said. “The voters of Precinct 3 voted for change and with this summary judgement saying there’s not enough evidence, the judge has finally fulfilled the will of the voters.”