Former candidate sues Mission following removal from ballot

A former candidate for the city of Mission’s upcoming May municipal election is now suing the city after they removed him from the ballot after discovering he had changed his voter registration from McAllen to Mission to a few days after he applied to run.

Jose Vargas, who filed to run for Mission city council Place 3, filed a petition for a temporary injunction against the city on Monday after the city attorney notified him last week that he would be removed from the ballot for not meeting candidate eligibility.

Vargas, co-owner of TLC Pharmacy and Medical Equipment, submitted his application to be on the ballot on Jan. 27 and, soon after, he began taking on election expenses by hiring political consultants, purchasing signs and incurring other campaign-related costs.

Those costs, he said, exceeded $45,000.

But then on Feb. 24, he received a letter from City Attorney Gus Martinez notifying Vargas that he did not meet the requirements to run for office laid out in Section 141.001 of the Texas Election Code. The code states that candidate must be “registered to vote in the territory from which the office is elected” by the filing deadline.

In the letter, Martinez said Vargas did not meet that meet that deadline.

“Based on the information obtained by the Hidalgo County Elections office voter registration division your voter registration status in the territory for which the office is being sought was effective on February 22, 2022 which was after the filing deadline of the February 18, 2022,” Martinez wrote.

The city attorney further wrote that after seeking an opinion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office, Vargas was found to be ineligible to run for the May 7 election since his registration status was changed from McAllen to Mission on Jan. 24 and became effective in Mission on Feb. 22.

“Voter registration status does not became effective until 30 days after the change is made,” Martinez noted.

In his lawsuit, Vargas argues that state election code allows cities to have their own requirements and states that Mission’s city charter only requires candidates running to be on the city council to have been a citizen of Mission at least six months before the election, a requirement he says he meets.

Other requirements listed in the charter are that they must be a qualified voter of the state of Texas and that they must not be indebted to the city at the time of taking office.

Vargas also argues that the city missed the deadline to review his candidate application, pointing to another section of the Texas election code that states “the review shall be completed not later than the fifth day after the date the application is received.”

However, the election code further states that that section only applies to a review of the candidate’s application, not to a determination of a candidate’s eligibility.

Still, Vargas says that he should be allowed to run for office and asks that the city be ordered to add him back to the ballot.

“Important deadlines regarding the City of Mission election are accruing (for example submittal of election information to Texas Secretary of State),” the lawsuit states, “and it is imperative that Plaintiff Joe Vargas be added as a candidate as soon as possible to ensure he is ultimately included as a candidate in the May 2022 Election.”

The order has not yet been signed by a judge nor has a hearing been scheduled in the case.