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More Hidalgo County voters went to the polls this November than the last comparable election cycle, according to unofficial early voting data published on the Hidalgo County Elections Department website.
At stake, residents in five cities — Alamo, Donna, Edinburg, La Joya and Weslaco —were asked to choose who they wanted to represent them on their respective city councils or commissions.
According to the county’s election data, 2023 saw a nearly 67% increase in voter turnout over the most recent comparable election in November 2021, when a largely similar slate of municipalities were on the ballot.
Then, as now, voters statewide were also tasked with deciding on a series of proposed amendments to the Texas constitution.
However, this year’s slate of constitutional amendments — which included property tax relief initiatives, more money for retired educators, and major funding investments in statewide infrastructure — that may have driven the higher voter turnout.
Closer to home, the most hotly contested race took place in Weslaco, where former city commissioner Adrian Gonzalez handed an upset to incumbent David Suarez’s bid for re-election as mayor of the “City on the Grow.”
As early voting tallies began to trickle in late Tuesday, it appeared votes for Gonzalez outpaced Suarez’s by 473.
Some 1,620 Weslaco voters cast a ballot for Suarez, who was seeking a fourth term as mayor. Meanwhile, Gonzalez received 2,093 votes, or just under 57% of the ballots reported as of press time.
All election results are unofficial until canvassed by their respective political entities.
Meanwhile, in the race for the District 2 seat on the Weslaco City Commission, incumbent Leticia “Letty” Lopez led challenger Pete Garcia Jr. by just over 3%.
Lopez garnered 462 early voting ballots to Garcia’s 434, county records show.
District 1 Commissioner Josh Pedraza, who ran unopposed, received 556 early votes.
Edinburg and Donna also saw incumbent upsets.
In the All-America City of Edinburg, Place 3 Councilman Johnny Garcia trailed challenger David Salazar by an even 4%, according to early voting tallies reported as of press time.
Garcia — who raised and spent the least amount of campaign contributions of any of the six candidates running for office in Edinburg — had received 2,224 early votes to Salazar’s 2,388.
And just 10 votes separated Place 4 incumbent David White from his challenger, Gerardo “Gerry” Lozano.
Between July and the end of October, campaign finance reports showed that both candidates amassed six-figure campaign war chests, making the race for Place 4 the most expensive of the three offices up for a vote in Edinburg.
Meanwhile, Edinburg Municipal Judge Hector Bustos Jr. secured a reelection victory by a nearly 2-to-1 margin against opponent Armando Guerra.
With 19 out of 22 precincts reporting as of press time, Bustos had 3,231 votes — or about 69.9% — to Guerra’s 1,392 votes. That figure includes both early voting and Election Day tallies.
In Donna, incumbent Rick Morales looked to be headed to a runoff with his former running mate, David Moreno.
Moreno, who serves as mayor pro-tem, left his Place 3 seat to challenge the man he ran on a political slate with just three years ago.
Nor was this election the first time Morales’ running mates have turned against him.
In 2020, David Moreno and Richie Moreno, no relation, ran together with the mayor against a different pair of his former running mates, Gus Gonzalez and Arturo “Art” Castillo.
This election cycle, David Moreno created a slate of his own — the “From Donna For Donna” slate, with Jesse “Coach” Jackson and Lupita Bueno.
Jackson hoped to unseat incumbent Richie Moreno at Place 1 on the Donna City Council.
But with three people in that race, including Arturo “Art” Mendoza, things appeared headed toward a runoff.
Jackson and Richie Moreno were the two highest vote getters in the Place 1 race, with Jackson earning 878 votes, or just over 42% of the electorate, to Richie Moreno’s 747 votes, or 35.73%.
In Texas, a candidate must get 50%-plus-one vote to be declared the winner outright.
The three-way race for Place 3 also appeared headed to a runoff late-Tuesday, with Bueno trailing behind Ernesto Lugo.
Lugo — who, along with Gus Gonzalez and Art Castillo, ran a failed bid against Morales’ slate in 2020 — led this year’s race for Place 3 by 362 early votes.
Some 982 Donna voters cast their ballots for Lugo this election cycle, while Bueno garnered 620 early votes. Candidate Joe A. Segura rounded out the race with 494 early votes.
And finally, in the race for Donna municipal judge, incumbent Javi Garza won the day by a margin of 2-to-1.
Garza won 1,379 early votes to challenger and former Donna Independent School District trustee, Roberto “Colonel” Perez’s 728.
Alamo Mayor Diana Martinez was trailing far behind J.R. Garza, who left his seat as the Place 3 commissioner two years early in order to challenge Martinez.
With three out of 16 precincts reporting, Martinez had just 629 votes to Garza’s 975.
Garza ran on a four-person slate with Place 2 incumbent Pedro “Pete” Morales, and newcomers Arturo “A.J.” Garcia and Roel “Leon” Moreno Jr.
All four members of the slate showed healthy leads against their opponents.
At Place 2, Pete Morales had 984 votes to Robert “Mailman” De La Garza’s 597.
A.J. Garcia won 1,062 votes to Luis “Louie” Olivarez’s 507 votes for Place 4, while Roel Moreno won 1,027 votes to Diego “Manny” Guerrero’s 525 for the unexpired two-year term at Place 3.
Meanwhile, in western Hidalgo County, one campaign slate unanimously prevailed in all four seats up for election on the La Joya City Council.
With three out of five precincts reporting, Mayor Isidro Casanova held a comfortable 97-vote lead over his opponent, Esequiel “Chuck” Garza.
His three running mates on the “We Are La Joya” slate — Enrique “Henry” Cantu, Laura Mendiola Macias and Irma Veloz — enjoyed similar leads over their opponents on the “The Future of La Joya” slate.
Macias, the only other incumbent on the We Are La Joya slate, won 850 votes to Blanca Lamar Gonzalez’s 646 in the race for Place 4.
At Place 2, Cantu’s 808 votes led Roel Bermea’s 685.