New decade brings new leadership

Results of the November 2020 General Election

By Jamie Treviño and Jose De Leon III

Tuesday Nov. 3 was a late night for politicians across Hidalgo County.

The final votes for the 2020 General Election were posted after midnight, bringing in a mix of incumbent candidates and new victors. With packed races in several cities and school districts, the Rio Grande Valley was abuzz with local and national politics alike.

Mission CISD

Nine candidates vied for four seats on the Mission Consolidated Independent Board of Trustees.

Retired educator and former coach Nelda Iris Iglesias will serve on the Mission CISD Board of Trustees in the Place 2 seat after earning 7,680 votes (52 percent). Her opponent Beto Garza, a Planning Inspector for Hidalgo County, earned 47 percent with 6,931 votes.

“I’ve just got to thank the voters from Mission CISD for expressing their confidence in me and voting,” Iglesias said. “I look forward to working with the other board members and doing what we can, what is best for the district.”

Iglesias said it took a village of her family and voters to come out of the process successfully.

“It was just exhausting having to go through this, for a first timer,” Iglesias said, adding this was her first time running for the board. “I’m glad that we made it through, I’m grateful to my family and everyone working towards this for their support.”

Place 3 incumbent Jerry Zamora, a Texas state trooper, will remain on the MCISD board after winning 7,579 votes (53 percent). His opponent, retired teacher Sylvia Caratachea, got 46 percent and 6,671 votes.

“I’m super excited about getting re-elected,” Zamora said. “An election is never easy, and this election has dragged on because it was originally cancelled due to COVID, and then they added an extra week for the election. Coming out victorious was a great feeling because of all the hard work put into it.”

Zamora missed the usual opportunities available during election season like going door-to-door to meet voters, but noted his campaign did the best they could to hold open-air activities like a pumpkin patch for safe interactions. He wanted to thank his aunt Cynthia Pacheco for being there “day in and day out” for his campaign.

“I also want to thank all those who supported me again, and the new votes,” Zamora said. “I thank them for taking the time to come out and vote.”

Roy Vela, a representative for Provider Relations, will return to the MCISD Board of Trustees in Place 4 after his victory. Vela earned 8,317 votes (58 percent), while his opponent, representative for Spinal Sales Oscar Martinez, earned 5,888 votes (41 percent).

“It’s a major relief – we put a lot of work, a lot of sweat, a lot of time into this campaign,” Vela said, noting traditional school board elections do not stretch out as long as this one has due to the pandemic and uncharted territory. “I’m glad for the great support of my family, friends and the community.”

Vela said he is grateful the community believes in him, and thanked his opponent for a clean campaign race.

“It’s time to get back to work and continue to put our children – our future – at the forefront of everything we do,” Vela said, adding he aims to help make MCISD an “A” rated school for the Texas Education Agency. “At the end of the day, we’re in it for our children, we’re in it for our taxpayers and for our community. I’m glad I was victorious, and now it’s time to get to what’s really important.”

Director of Development at World Radio Network, Inc. Juan M. Gonzalez unseated the incumbent for Place 5 on the Mission CISD board by winning 43 percent (5,944 votes) in the final count. Incumbent Charlie Garcia III, an architect, lost his re-election campaign and earned 4,768 votes (34 percent). Romeo C. González II, the third candidate for Place 5, earned 2,970 votes (21 percent).

“It was exciting to say the least,” Juan M. Gonzalez said. “It was a very humbling experience – we went in knowing hardly anything about politics. Coming out successful is overwhelming.”

Juan M. Gonzalez said he was ready to work for the district.

“I want to thank those who voted and those who didn’t,” Juan M. Gonzalez said. “We’re going to work together to make a difference in the district.”

La Joya ISD

12 candidates competed for four seats on the La Joya Independent School District Board of Trustees. Three incumbents will remain, with a familiar new addition.

Former LJISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alda T. Benavides unseated the incumbent for Place 4 on the board after just one year of retirement from the district. She won 8,370 votes (43 percent) while incumbent candidate Claudia Ochoa, a nurse, who won 7,788 votes (40 percent). Leonora Garcia, a retired educator for the district, won 3,234 votes (16 percent).

“I just wanted to give people a choice,” Benavides said. “I felt that, win or lose, I had given people a choice. I think people responded to that choice, so I’m happy and excited to be of service to the community. That’s my whole goal.”

Armin Garza, who worked for Precinct 3 as a Chief of Staff, narrowly retained his Place 5 seat on the board by just 127 votes. Garza earned 7,502 votes (39 percent), while opponent and Hidalgo County Division Manager Anthony Uresti earned 7,375 votes (38 percent). Dietician Dr. Andie Lee Gonzalez earned 4,295 votes (22 percent).

“I just want to thank all the supporters who came out and showed their faith in myself and in my team, that they felt confident enough in us to serve another four years and continue to guide La Joya ISD and be advocates for students and staff alike,” Garza said. “I want people to know that we’ll continue to invest in our kids and invest in those who invest in our kids. That’s what we’re there for.” 

Garza said he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and thanked his opponents for their good campaigning.

“It was very hard fought,” Garza said. “I wish them the best of luck in whatever endeavors they have in the future.”

Oscar “Coach” Salinas, who is self-employed, will stay in the Place 6 seat for the LJISD board after winning 9,177 votes (47 percent). Speech pathologist Irma Villarreal-Veloz won 6,769 votes (35 percent) and teacher Pamela Flores won 3,210 votes (16 percent).

“I have to give my biggest thanks, first of all, to my Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior, for giving me the strength and ability to be out there along with all the followers and campaign workers and block walkers who went against not only our opponents, but this ugly pandemic,” Salinas said. “This is not just a one-man thing, it’s a team.”

Salinas also thanked his family, wife Alma and son Oscar Andres for their support, and said it felt good to be victorious.

“I’ve always worked for better benefits and better pay,” Salinas said. “I want to congratulate those who did win and those who didn’t win – there’s always tomorrow. Everybody should keep their head up and move forward. I’m thankful to everyone who helped in every method and every level of the election.”

Incumbent candidate Alex Cantu, a self-employed business owner, will also stay in the Place 7 seat on the board. Cantu won 40 percent with 7,725 votes while his opponents Jerry “Chief” Alaniz, the Palmview Fire Chief and administrator Norma Chapa earned 6,349 votes (33 percent) and 5,112 votes (26 percent) respectively.

Cantu was not available for comment before press time.

City of Palmview

The Palmview city commission will see two incumbents retain their seats alongside a new member following Tuesday’s voting results.

The city may also hold a runoff election following results of the city’s special election.

Incumbents Javier Ramirez and Joel Garcia will retain their Place 1 and 5 seats after winning nearly 53% and 57% of the early voting totals, respectively.

Business owner Linda Sarabia, who is the mayor pro-tem and was elected to the office in 2016, trailed behind her challenger, school counselor Alexandra Flores, for her Place 5 seat. Flores ended up with nearly 52% of the votes Tuesday according to the Hidalgo County Elections Department website.

“People appreciate the work we’ve done and want us to continue,” Garcia said of him and Ramirez’s victory. “We’re going to finish what we started with making the city grow.”

“I’m very grateful for all my supporters who have given me another opportunity to serve them for four more years,” Ramirez said. “I feel like I didn’t win completely because I lost Linda, that hurts but I’m sure Miss Flores will be a good public servant.”

Sarabia was a member of the “Progress for Palmview” slate alongside Ramirez and Garcia. Flores was part of a competing slate called “A New Palmview” which focused on much needed street repairs and what they called a lack of progress for the city’s sewer project.

“I am proud of the contributions I have made to my city and sincerely believe that I’m leaving Palmview in a better state than it was,” Sarabia said. “I know the community wants the progress to continue because they reelected my running mates.  I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and perhaps this will impulse me onto my next goal of public service.” 

Flores said she plans to honor the will of the voters.

“And what they want is me in the city,” Flores said. “They wanted a positive change and role model and people who are there to work and that’s what I stood for this whole time.”

Velia “Vel” Gonzalez, who was running under the “A New Palmview” slate alongside Flores, in the special election for the Place 4 seat with nearly 42% of the votes, or 1,636 out of the 3,923 of the votes cast during the election season.

Because she did not receive 51% of the votes required by the city charter to win a seat on the city commission, the city is looking into holding a runoff election next month before declaring a winner, city Secretary Annette Villarreal said Wednesday.

Voters in this race also elected for a referendum to dissolve the Palmview Crime Control and Prevention District so all funds generated from it would go toward the police department. 

Sullivan City 

In the special election to replace two seats left vacant on the city commission, the city’s former fire chief, Rene “Cuate” Peña and his running mate, La Joya ISD asset management Supervisor Jaime Villarreal, seem poised to fill in those empty spots.

Peña received nearly 58% of the votes, or 760 votes, while Villarreal received nearly 69% of the votes, a nice lead over his challenger.

“We have a lot of work to do and to accomplish and set forth priorities that will benefit all of our citizens of our bright city,” Villarreal said. “The city will progress with our unified team.”

“It was a lot of work, but this feels good,” Peña said of his victory. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and we will do our best.”

Sharyland ISD

In Sharyland, one incumbent will continue to serve on the school board while another is seeing the end of his term.

 Certified Public Accountant Ricardo “Ricky” Longoria will retain his Place 1 seat on the school board of trustees with more than 45% of the vote over his three challengers.

“I’ve done this for 12 years and am dedicated to continue to do this and serve our children,” Longoria said of his victory. “The more immediate goal is to continue to work with our colleagues, school board members and staff and try to navigate this COVID-19 environment.”

Engineer Julio Cerda, who has been on the board since 2014, trailed behind his challenger, criminal investigator Alejandro Rodriguez, who previously ran for school board in 2014 against Longoria.

Rodriguez ended with nearly 56% of the votes to Cerda’s 44.25%

“It speaks highly of the hard work we’ve been partaking in the campaign and of the needs and wants of the community who want something positive on the board,” Rodriguez said of the support he received at the polls. “They want someone who takes care of teachers, admin and students.”

Cerda congratulated Rodriguez on his victory and attributed his loss to the amount of voters partaking in the election.

The races for the Place 1 and 2 school board seats drew a total of more than 26,000 votes between both races.

“All the people in Ricky’s race who voted against him probably didn’t send their votes my way,” Cerda said. “We usually get around 5,000 ballots per race in the elections so this voter turnout is great. I would’ve loved to continue serving on the board but God clearly has different plans for me so I wish the best to Alex.”

Sharyland voters also voted against two different propositions to renovate and add new buildings to three Sharyland campuses and create a new admin headquarters for the district. Both bonds would’ve totaled $40 million and raised the school property tax rate.   

District superintendent Dr. Maria M. Vidaurri expressed disappointment at the results.

“We have a lot of needs in the district but we respect the voters, the community and their decision,” Vidaurri said, adding that the district held three town halls to inform voters of the bond elections. “Maybe we needed to do a better job of informing voters but if these proposals were to return on the ballot, it’d have to depend on the board.”

Agua SUD

Team Agua SUD, a slate featuring an incumbent director, will have new representation on the Agua Special Utility District Board of Directors. 

Current board director Homer Tijerina will keep his District 2 seat while his running mates, business owners Maribel Diaz and Esmeralda H. Solis, are the new District 1 and 3 directors.

Diaz had more than 51% of the vote against incumbent director Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz and Solis pulled ahead of incumbent Franco Lopez with nearly 69% of the votes. 

“I am very humbled and very excited to have been elected as the next Agua SUD District 3 Director,” Solis said. “I am very thankful to all the people that exercised their right to vote and placed their trust in me to be their voice to represent our community. I am looking forward to working with my running mates and bring back some integrity to our utility district.”

Tijerina said he and the new members will work on trying to lower the water rates for district members after they were raised last year.

“I feel very excited to have the win for all three of us and we now have the majority to do what we have to do for the people,” Tijerina said. “We worked very hard to make it happen.”

 

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