Three months since the June 9 runoff election, former mayor of 20 years, Norberto “Beto” Salinas, and the current mayor, Armando “Doc” O’Caña, are contesting the outcome of the election and both accusing each other of voter fraud.
At a final pretrial hearing on August 31 at the 93rd District Court, both parties argued over the extension of the investigation period.
Salinas’ attorney (and son) Rick Salinas claimed “one thousand voters were tampered with” and requested more time to allow for new witnesses to emerge. However, O’Caña’s attorney Gilberto Hinojosa (former Cameron County judge and Democratic Chair) called the notion “hog wash” and urged the visiting judge to end the discovery period immediately, stating “at this rate, we’re never going to be finished.”
Salinas filed a petition in July claiming the runoff election was “peculiar.” In May, Salinas was only three votes shy of winning the 50 percent threshold, but in the June runoff, 600 additional voters suddenly appeared and caused Salinas to lose the race by 157 votes.
Initially, Salinas reportedly accepted defeat, but after dozens of residents admitted to selling their votes, his team started an investigation.
Salinas’ petition alleges 15 specific instances where non-residents voted in the June runoff election, beginning with O’Caña himself, whose Texas driver’s license lists College Station as his place of residency. Additionally, among allegations of bribery, Salinas claims 75 mail-in ballots were illegally harvested and at least 158 votes were illegally cast. Salinas insists the election is void and wants the city to either declare him as the winner or call a new election.
O’Caña’s team had a different perspective. Hinojosa called Salinas’ accusations ridiculous and denied the claims of illegal activity, saying if any voter fraud occurred, it came from Salinas’ camp. Hinojosa also questioned why Salinas would be requesting more time if they already had evidence.
“Where’s the beef?” Hinojosa said. “They either know what they got, or they don’t. If you have something, cough it up.” Hinojosa also said that out of the “thousand voters that have been tampered with,” he’s only received about eight or ten affidavits that “may have something to say.”
Reiterating the allegations of bribery and voter fraud, Salinas made a request for more time on the grounds of the complexity of the case, and in order to allow an opportunity for additional witnesses to come forward with information.
Visiting Judge J. Bonner Dorsey approved two additional days for the discovery phase, extending it until September 9.
As far as the amount of time for trial, Salinas asserts it will take up to 14 days, while Hinojosa believes it shouldn’t last more than five.
As planned, the trial begins September 24.