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del Barrio wins Palmhurst mayoral race without a runoff

Businessman Fred del Barrio won the four-way race for mayor of Palmhurst on Wednesday.

del Barrio won 52% of 642 ballots cast during the special election, according to preliminary results published by the Hidalgo County Elections Department on Wednesday afternoon.

He defeated former City Councilman Israel Silva, who received nearly 33%; attorney Ricka Tijerina, who received nearly 13%; and former Sharyland school board Trustee Eduardo “Eddie” Montalvo, who received about 2%.

“This is kind of a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ moment. You find out who your friends are and who your supporters are. This is really beautiful,” del Barrio said Wednesday, when he addressed supporters at the Molcas restaurant in Palmhurst. “And I appreciate all of you immensely, all of the help that you’ve given me.”

Wednesday marked the second mayoral election in Palmhurst during the past three months.

Mayor Ramiro J. Rodriguez Jr., who had served Palmhurst for more than two decades, died suddenly in April — after ballots for the May election had already been printed.

Voters re-elected him anyway.

Some cast ballots for Rodriguez to honor the longtime mayor. Others voted for him because they didn’t want his opponent, Silva, to win by default.

Palmhurst scheduled a special election for Aug. 10. Four candidates filed to replace Rodriguez:

> Businessman Alfredo “Fred” del Barrio Jr., 56, who owns a dozen McDonald’s restaurants.

> Attorney Ricka Nicolette Martin-Tijerina, 27, who graduated from the University of Houston and works for Hinojosa Law.

> Former City Councilman Israel Silva, 51, the owner of Texas Health Care Imaging.

> Former Sharyland school board Trustee Eduardo “Eddie” Montalvo, 58, a business analyst with UnitedHealth Group.

Several members of the City Council backed del Barrio, who served on the Palmhurst Planning and Zoning Commission.

“The main thing I heard from the people is that: They want Palmhurst to stay the same. They don’t want a lot of changes in Palmhurst,” del Barrio said. “They want the commercial area where the commercial area is. They want their 1-acre home sites.”

Silva and Tijerina pushed to make City Hall more transparent by streaming City Council meetings online and posting more information on the internet.

del Barrio said he ran a positive campaign, even when other candidates attacked him.

“It got personal when they sent out a DWI arraignment on me,” del Barrio said. “I’ve never been arrested in my life. So I had to respond to that.”

How much the candidates spent remains unclear.

At noon Wednesday, del Barrio was the only candidate who had filed campaign finance reports, according to City Secretary Richard Garcia.

del Barrio loaned himself $70,000, according to his campaign finance reports, and received another $11,600 from supporters.

Major donations included nearly $2,400 from Ezra Bekhor of Las Vegas, Nevada; $1,500 from Victor and Ileana Vicinaiz of Palmhurst; and $1,000 from Carlos and Cynthia Garza of Palmhurst.

del Barrio paid more than $50,000 to political consultant Selina Medrano for wages and expenses, according to his campaign finance reports.

The election results will remain unofficial until canvassed by the City Council.

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