Hidalgo County’s 332nd heads to runoff; Lopez-Singleterry wins 476th

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Nereida Lopez-Singleterry poses with her sign as she campaigns at Lark Community Center on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The race for who will preside over the 332nd state District Court in Hidalgo County appears to be headed to a runoff as election results continued to trickle in Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Nereida Lopez-Singleterry maintained a comfortable lead over Jesse Contreras in the Democratic Primary for the 476th state District Court.

Neither race drew any Republican Primary candidates, meaning the Democratic Primary winners will go on to take the bench in their respective courts early next year.

However, no clear winner emerged in the three-way race for the 332nd, whose seat was opened up after Hidalgo County’s longest serving judge, Mario E. Ramirez Jr., announced last December that he would not be seeking reelection.

Ramirez has presided over the 332nd since the court’s creation more than four decades ago. He will retire in December.

In the wake of Ramirez’s retirement announcement, three people threw their hats in the Democratic Primary ring to succeed him — Abiel Flores, an attorney and former city councilman from Mission; Juan Ramon Alvarez, a municipal judge for Weslaco and Mercedes; and Nereyda Morales-Martinez, a Mission resident with a law office in Edinburg.

Flores and Alvarez had garnered the highest number of votes in the contest, but neither had secured the 50%-plus-one vote needed to secure the primary victory outright.

As of press time, the unofficial results posted to the Hidalgo County Elections Department website showed Flores leading with 11,350 votes, or 35.87% of the electorate, while Alvarez had 10,799 votes, or 34.13%.

Morales-Martinez had just 9,492 votes.

Flores and Alvarez will head to a runoff later this spring; however, all election night results remain unofficial until canvassed by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

Over in the race for the 476th state District Court, Nereida Lopez-Singleterry had a 10-point lead over Jesse Contreras.

County records show Lopez-Singleterry has won 17,612 votes, or 55.05% of the ballots cast, to Contreras’ 14,378, or 44.95%.

Two years ago, Lopez-Singleterry ran in the 2022 Democratic Primary for Hidalgo County District Attorney. Former Edinburg Municipal Judge Toribio “Terry” Palacios beat her in that election by 2,169 votes.

Prior to that, Lopez-Singleterry ran for Place 6 on the 13th Court of Appeals, but ultimately lost to Republican Clarissa Silva in the November 2020 general election.

Contreras, meanwhile, served two stints as a state judge when he presided over the 449th state District Court from 2009 until 2016.

Contreras lost his second bid for reelection during a May 2016 Democratic Primary runoff against Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt, who continues to preside over the 449th to this day. Rodriguez-Betancourt won that race by a 2-to-1 margin.