Hidalgo County voters elect first appraisal district representatives

The Hidalgo County Appraisal District office is seen in this undated photo in Edinburg. (Courtesy: Hidalgo County Appraisal District/Facebook)
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For the first time since their inception in 1981, voters in large counties across Texas have selected who they want to represent them on their appraisal district boards of directors.

That’s because this election cycle a new law went into effect requiring that counties with a population greater than 70,000 people expand their appraisal district boards of directors to nine members.

Five of those seats will continue to be appointed through the votes of local taxing authorities, such as cities and school districts. Meanwhile, a county’s chief appraiser will serve as an ex officio — or non-voting — director.

But for the first time, three seats must be elected by voters thanks to the bipartisan, bicameral passage of SB 2 during a special session of the 88th Legislature last July.

In Hidalgo County, residents had seven candidates to choose from for those three seats in Saturday’s election.

The Place 1 and 2 races each drew two candidates, while three people vied for the Place 3 seat.

Approximately 20,000 people came out to vote in the first-of-its kind election.


In the Place 1 race, Erica Canales won a resounding victory over her opponent, the onetime chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, Patricio Eronini.

Erica Canales won 17,231 votes — or just over 86% of the electorate — to Eronini’s 2,787.

“It is deeply humbling to have received such an incredible outpouring of support from the entire county, and I am honored to have been entrusted with such a great responsibility,” Erica Canales said via a news release on Sunday.

Though a first-time political candidate, Erica Canales is no stranger to political campaigns. That’s because she is the wife of well-known state lawmaker, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who has served District 40 since 2012.

In the leadup to the May 4 election, Erica Canales also outraised the six other candidates seeking a seat on the appraisal district’s board of directors.

According to Erica Canales’ 8-day campaign finance report, which she submitted on April 26, she raised an even $18,000 in campaign contributions while expending just under $7,000.

Her husband, Terry Canales, contributed $3,000 to the campaign.

Meanwhile, several other public officials gave sizable donations, including:

>> $1,000 from Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes;

>> $1,000 from Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ellie Torres;

>> $1,000 from outgoing Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa;

>> $500 from state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Terry Canales also contributed $7,624.28 in non-monetary, “in-kind” contributions in the form of “signs & trailer vinyls,” the report shows.

Eronini failed to file both the 30-day and 8-day campaign reports that, by law, were due on April 4 and April 26, respectively.


In the race for Place 2, private ambulance company owner and CEO Veronica “Ronnie” Ontiveros secured a nearly 3-to-1 margin of victory over her opponent, Paul M. Vazaldua Jr.

Ontiveros won 13,625 votes, or just under 70%, compared to 5,861 for Vazaldua.

According to Ontivero’s 30-day campaign finance report, she raised zero dollars in campaign contributions, while spending $4,150 between Jan. 1 and March 25.

Ontiveros also agreed to pay her campaign treasurer, Sarah Hammond, $3,000 per month for her services, according to what appears to be a draft copy of the contract that was included with the report filing.

Between March 26 and April 24, Ontiveros raised $1,000 in contributions, but spent nearly double that — $1,911.60 — according to her 8-day report.

Meanwhile, though Vazaldua filed a 30-day campaign finance report at the beginning of April, he failed to submit one as required eight days before the election.

The one report Vazaldua filed shows he loaned his own campaign $6,450 and used another $7,400 in personal funds and credit cards to pay for expenditures, including $3,000 to a consultant from Weslaco, Luciano Garza III.


A former employee of the Hidalgo County public affairs department won the three-way race for Place 3.

Karina Cardoza won precisely 55% of the electorate, with 10,908 votes compared to Pete Garcia’s 5,872 and Jane Cross’ 3,051.

Cardoza’s campaign finance reports show that she raised zero dollars in monetary contributions, and spent $400 to pay her candidate filing fee.

However, like Erica Canales, Cardoza received a non-monetary, “in-kind” contribution from Terry Canales valued at $7,624.28 in the form of “signs and trailer vinyls.”

Pete Garcia, the only candidate who had previous experience on the appraisal district board of directors, raised and spent $560, according to his 30-day campaign finance report.

Garcia did not file an 8-day report.

And finally, Jane Cross’ campaign finance report filings consisted of two spreadsheets illustrating budgets for the months of March and April.

According to the documents, Cross received at least $5,000 in contributions from five donors in late-February and early-March.

However, it is unclear if those five donors — who are listed again on the “April Budget” spreadsheet with identical dollar amounts — made a second contribution to her campaign.

Cross submitted the spreadsheets on May 1, nearly a week after the 8-day campaign finance report was due.

The three winning candidates will be sworn into office on July 1.