HARLINGEN — Across the city’s south side, campaign signs are still standing as politicos head back to the streets, knocking on doors to rally voters to the polls.
Earlier this week, city commissioners called a June 19 runoff election in the District 4 Harlingen City Commission race pitting former City Commissioner Basilio “Chino” Sanchez against Frank Morales, a political newcomer who racked up the strongest showing in the May 1 election’s four-man scramble to fill outgoing Commissioner Ruben De la Rosa’s seat.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the election’s shifting of power showed as commissioners named two-term District 1 Commissioner Richard Uribe mayor pro-tem, a title longtime District 4 Commissioner Michael Mezmar had held for years.
On Wednesday, city officials canvassed the election’s final vote showing Morales won 233 votes, including a hefty 129-early vote draw, while Sanchez took 141 votes.
Meanwhile, Xavier Jaramillo, who works at his family-owned business Valley Wide Sprinkler Systems, drew 112 votes while Anselmo Aparicio Jr., a counter salesman, picked up 33 votes, each falling short of the runoff.
“I’ve got to work twice as hard to get people out to vote,” Morales, a semi-retired former textbook salesman, said Thursday, noting runoffs tend to draw fewer voters to the polls. “It’s not easy. I’ve got to reach out to the voters. We can’t leave any stone unturned.”
While his campaign appeared to draw voters backing newly elected District 5 Commissioner Rene Perez and former Commissioner Robert Leftwich, Morales said, “I am my own man.”
Morales said he stands for change.
“It’s people’s concerns that stand out,” he said. “We have some defined issues we need to address. People do need and do want change. We can’t keep the same mentality and go through the motions.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez, who served in office from 2012 to 2015, said he’s got the background to work as a “full-time commissioner” for District 4.
“I’ve got the experience and I’ve got people who believe in me,” Sanchez, a retired newspaper production technician, said. “I always worked with the other commissioners and the mayor and I know how to read the budget. I’m going to serve the community. It comes from the heart. The people are my boss. I tell them, ‘You can be my eyes in el barrio . We can work together. We’ll get solutions.’”
Like Morales, Sanchez is back on the street, knocking on doors to draw voters into the runoff.
“To bring the people out again in the runoff is very hard,” he said. “We’re going to go door-to-door to try to get voters to vote in early voting and in the election.”
De la Rosa, a Texas Southmost College instructor who first won office in 2015, said he chose not to seek re-election after deciding to move his family to a home in District 5 while running for the Cameron County Commission’s Precinct 4 seat in the March 2022 election.
Uribe named mayor pro-tem
Through much of his tenure in office, Mezmar had served as the city’s mayor pro-tem.
Amid the commission’s shifting of power, that’s changed.
During the meeting, commissioners unanimously named Uribe the city’s new mayor pro-tem.
Uribe took the title after District 1 Commissioner Frank Puente nominated him before Perez seconded the motion.
Moments earlier, De La Rosa’s nomination of Mezmar died for lack of a second.
Officials canvas election’s votes
On Wednesday, officials canvassed the election’s final results.
The official tally shows Perez, a schoolteacher, won 425 votes to defeat three-term District 5 Commissioner Victor Leal, a businessman who took 398 votes.
Three years ago, Leal drew 368 votes to narrowly defeat Jim Young, an attorney who picked up 355 votes.
In the race for the District 4 seat, Mezmar, a financial analyst who first won election in 2012, drew 547 votes, including a big 328-early vote tally, to defeat Leftwich, a real estate broker who took 400 votes.
Leftwich had served in office from 2007 to 2013, when he chose not to seek re-election.
In the 2018 election, Mezmar won 505 votes to defeat businessman Richard Garza, who drew 296 votes.