Across the Rio Grande Valley, three counties held Democrat primary runoffs for local and statewide positions on Tuesday. None of these newly elected and re-elected primary victors will face a Republican opponent in November, virtually guaranteeing them their seats. Democratic candidate for governor Lupe Valdez won both Hidalgo and Cameron County, and likely Starr County.
In the races for Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Pl. 2, 197th District Court, and Texas House District 37, less than 6.4 percent (12,769 ballots) of Cameron County’s 201,802 registered voters returned to the polls this runoff election.
Incumbent Jonathan Garcia won his re-election for Justice of the Peace Pl. 2 Pct. 2 with 52.53 percent, compared to Javier Reyna’s 47.7 percent.
Two prominent candidates vied for the seat in the 197th District Court, former Brownsville Port Commissioner Carlos Masso and attorney Adolfo Cordova. Cordova surprised many voters and won the seat with 55.98 percent (7,018 votes) in contrast to Masso’s 44.02 percent (5,519 votes). Cordova garnered the most votes cast in Cameron County this election cycle.
In the heated race for Texas House District 37, Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez unseated 33-year incumbent State Rep. René Oliveira. It’s believed that Oliveira’s recent DWI arrest was the tipping point for many, attracting voters who were either “on the fence” or first-time voters to the polls who supported “change” with Dominguez. Dominguez garnered 56.71 percent (3,287 votes) compared to Oliveira’s 43.29 percent (2,509 votes).
A similar number of ballots were cast in Hidalgo County. Only 12,365 ballots, about 3.5 percent of Hidalgo’s 353,467 registered voters, cast their vote again between the two local races for Hidalgo County Treasurer and Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 Pl. 2. Former La Joya mayor’s daughter Lita Leo won the seat for Hidalgo County Treasurer with 52.09 percent (6,302 votes) compared to David Salazar Jr.’s 47.91 percent (5,796 votes).
Incumbent Judge Homer Jasso Sr. kept his seat at the bench for Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 Pl. 2. This heated race gained attention at the polls last week, as Guerra issued a statement Thursday morning regarding a reprimand Jasso received from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for a number of violations of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. Jasso was reprimanded for sexual harassment of an employee with whom he was previously in a relationship and ordered to repeat an 80-hour training course. However, Jasso defeated Guerra in a close race, winning by a mere 88 votes.
Rio Grande City took the spotlight this runoff election in the rural region of Starr County. Two races occurred: Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 between incumbent Judge Jesse Barrera Jr. and J.M. “Chuy” Alvarez, and Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 between incumbent Martin “M&M” Martinez Jr. and Roel “Role” Valadez. However, as with any rural election, older systems are prone to complications. Starr County Elections Administrator John Rodriguez confirmed on Tuesday evening they would conduct a manual count due to problems with the voting machines. Late last night, the results for local elections returned with newcomers Alvarez and “Role” winning their respective seats.
Interesting enough, these very same voting machines have been problematic in the past. Recently, during the trial for two contested March 6 Democrat primary elections in Starr County, contestants argued voter fraud was evident during the primaries. Witnesses testified their voting machines would jam and be forced open with a stick. However, contestants failed to deliver any valid evidence to sway the judge to allow a new election.