Villalobos, Whitacre headed for runoff in McAllen mayoral race

McAllen mayoral candidates, from left, Othal Brand Jr., Michael Fallek, Dr. Shahid Rashid, Javier Villalobos, and Veronica Whitacre

McALLEN — City Commissioners Javier Villalobos and Veronica Whitacre are headed for a runoff election in the race to be the city’s next mayor.

Villalobos took the lead Saturday with 2,610 total votes, or 26% of the vote while Whitacre followed with 2,381 votes, or 24%, according to numbers announced by the city.

Because no candidate in the five-person race received more than 50% of the vote, the two hopefuls with the most votes must go head-to-head in a runoff.

“We’re pretty excited,” Villalobos said after the results were announced. “Of course, very happy to be the top vote-getter and looking forward to the runoff. We have a pretty good support and now, we know where the numbers come from, where they’re at and everything so we’re going to calculate and regroup and get ready for the runoff.”

Earlier in the day, Whitacre appeared hopeful of the increasing voter turnout, which was higher than it was during the previous election, but also knew a runoff was likely.

Reflecting back on the campaign, she noted that each mayoral candidate remained positive.

“The biggest takeaway from the beginning is that I asked each one of my opponents … that I was not going to be negative and that it was all going to be a positive race,” Whitacre said, adding that she wanted to set an example.

“It’s important that we respect, because that’s what McAllen is all about,” she said, “it’s important that we get along and it’s important that we have the same passion and that is for the city.”

Of the remaining three candidates, Michael Fallek followed closely behind Whitacre with 2,269 votes, or 23% of the votes.

Othal E. Brand Jr. received 1,749 ballots cast in his favor, or 17% of the vote while Dr. Shahid Rashid received about 1,041, or 10% of the total. Rashid issued a statement Saturday evening in which he felt hopeful despite the election results and seeks to continue efforts to “heal” the city of McAllen.

In the runoff elections on June 5, the mayor’s race won’t be alone on the ballot as nearly all other contested races also resulted in a runoff.

In the race for city commissioner District 1, Antonio “Tony” Aguirre Jr. finished with 1,188 votes, or 41%. He will be facing Lucia “Lucy” Thompson, who received 1,004 votes, or 34% of the vote, in the runoff election. Timothy “Tim” Wilkins came in third in the District 1 race with 723, or 25% of the total early, in-person, votes.

Aguirre, a business owner and member of the McAllen Public Utility Board, campaigned on his qualifications.

“I’ve served the most, I understand everything from finance to the infrastructure of the community, of the area, not only in the city of McAllen but all the region,” Aguirre said.

He said there was a lot of work that needed to be done in the city and pointed to the significance of the $42.6 million the city was allocated under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The first thing the city needed to focus on when it came to those funds was COVID-19 and the health of the citizens.

“After that, we’ve got to put the money into use that will help us for the long run,” Aguirre said. “Post COVID is going to be a little different than what it was before so there’s some good opportunities to get people coming in to our area because of our low cost of living, and if we can go after those professionals that can work out of their house — those are good jobs, they’re high-paying jobs, and they’ll be buying homes and spending money throughout our community so I think that’s something that we really need to focus on.”

How the city would utilize those $42.6 million was also a major concern for Thompson.

“It shouldn’t be going to things that the city already pays for,” Thompson said. “It should be something that … we’re planning for the next 5-10 years, this is investment money that we didn’t have — what are we going to do with it? And that’s important for me as well.”

Overall, Thompson said her job as an attorney and a mediator really distinguished her from her opponents.

“As a mediator, my role is to get two parties to sit down, calm down, listen to both sides and then reach a resolution of sorts. I think, right now, the city of McAllen is really not doing that,” she said, adding that she believed the city should work closer with other cities and the school district.

“I think I definitely have the skills to bring people together,” she said.

Incumbent Julian Omar Quintanilla led in the District 3 race with 45% of the votes which came out to 511 votes. He will be in a runoff with Thelma E. Tamez who received 313 votes, or 28% of the votes. Mario Reyna came in third with 307 votes, or 27%.

In the special election for District 6, Jose R. “Pepe” Cabeza De Vaca received the most votes with 880 votes, or 48%. In the runoff, he will be running against Lawrence “Larry” Esparza who received the second highest amount of votes with 479 votes, or 26%

Mayra Gutierrez received 240 votes, or 13%, followed by Andrew Perez with 169 votes, about 9%, and Andres Fernando Salinas with 66 votes, or 4% of the votes.

In another special election, for McAllen Public Utility Board Trustee Place D, Ricardo “Ric” Godinez received 4,738 votes, or 54% of the votes. Jaime Enriquez received 2,176 votes, or 25%, while Dawn Goldammer received 1,805 votes, or 21%.

District 2 City Commissioner Joaquin “J.J” Zamora ran for reelection unopposed as did McAllen Public Utility Board Trustees Charles Amos for Place A and Ernest Williams for Place B.

McAllen voters also overwhelmingly approved three propositions.

Proposition A, which imposes term limits of three four-year terms for the mayor and city commissioners, passed with 8,566 votes cast in favor of it while only 912 were cast against it.

Voters approved Proposition B, which requires that the mayor and each city commissioner reside within the city at least six months before the election, with 8,940 votes cast in favor and 496 votes cast against it.

They also approved Proposition C which updates the city charter to remove the requirement that officials post a cash bond, removes unnecessary references to gender, allow for annexation authority consistent with state law, and to reflect the correct election dates. That proposition passed with 6,990 votes cast in favor of it and 2,299 votes cast against it.