Calls for accountability were silenced in McAllen as supporters of Othal Brand Jr. watched the outcome of last week’s mayoral race this past Saturday.

The City of McAllen’s May 6 election consisted of two contested seats: Mayor and City Commission District 2.

Incumbent mayor of McAllen Jim Darling drew two opponents, Othal Brand Jr. and Jonathan Carranza. Mayor Darling defeated challenger Brand 57 percent to 40 percent (4,409 to 3,061 votes). Carranza received a mere 250 votes or 3 percent.

Excited to continue the “progress” he’s started for McAllen, Darling welcomed newly elected commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora as he defeated incumbent Trey Pebley 64 percent to 36 percent (1,004 to 555 votes).

This is the first time since 1997 an incumbent has been defeated in a City of McAllen election.

A University of Texas Longhorn, Zamora has never forgotten his roots in McAllen: “As a child,” he stated, “it has always been a dream to serve my community, as I have a heart for public service.”

Zamora’s experience serving as a Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney for 19 years gave him an advantage in collaborating collectively with residents of the Rio Grande Valley as he has analyzed the city’s needs. Additionally, his grassroots efforts served him well as he knocked on doors in District 2, familiarizing himself with its residents and attempting to bridge the disconnection left behind by commissioner Pebley.

Zamora encourages engagement within the community and hopes to alleviate concerns; he plans to represent his constituents effectively and is not afraid to vote against the board.

Another newcomer to McAllen’s city commission is Omar Quintanilla. Vice President of Frost Bank in McAllen, Quintanilla has been involved in public service for over 11 years. He is filling the uncontested seat of Hilda Salinas, Commissioner – District 3, who’s retiring after serving for 16 years.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University with a degree in Business Administration, Quintanilla’s focus is on reducing spending on events such as the McAllen Holiday Parade, which received negative attention during the election, as well as plans to attract different revenue streams to northwest McAllen.

What’s concerning and rather disheartening to reform-minded citizens’ is McAllen’s low voter turnout as local issues have been addressed during this election. Recently South Texas leaders created AACT (Advocacy Alliance Center of Texas) to organize voter registration and outreach within the community but this group wasn’t active this cycle. Elections in May continue to show low voter turnout throughout the state, the Rio Grande Valley is no exception. Less than 12 percent of the 66,597 registered voters made their way to the polls in this mayoral election.

With new commissioners and a second-chance mayor, local representatives have an opportunity to address the disconnection felt by McAllen residents.

Miriam Cepeda

Miriam Cepeda is the Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief for Texas Scorecard. A second-generation Mexican American, she is both fluent in English and Spanish and has been influential in grassroots organizing and conservative engagement within Hispanic communities. If you don’t find her “Trumping”, you can find her saving animals, running her dog, hiking the Andes, or volunteering with the U.S. National Park Service.