McALLEN — Voting returns show Place 3 incumbent Debbie Crane Aliseda successfully defended her seat on the McAllen school board in Saturday’s election and trustee hopeful Sofia Peña won the race for Place 6 by a large margin.
Peña pulled ahead of challenger Gilda Garcia by a commanding margin of 1,730 votes, 67.48% to 32.52%.
Crane Aliseda won by a fairly healthy margin of 7.58%, taking 3,919 votes to competitor Lucia Regalado’s 3,367.
Peña, running for former trustee Larry Esparza’s Place 6 seat won by 35.98%, earning 4,606 votes to competitor Gilda Garcia’s 2,169.
Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon said things went smoothly Saturday.
“Everything went very well,” she said. “There was quite a bit of a turnout.”
Incumbent Sam Saldivar Jr., who ran unopposed to retain his Place 7 seat, received 6,254 votes.
Candidates said pandemic recovery was a priority in this voting cycle, along with usual priorities like district finance and student services.
“I think this one is drawing a lot of voters out,” Saldivar, who was at the Gonzalez Elementary polling location Saturday, said. “Earlier this afternoon we were about 575, in the past that would have been closer to the end, so I think we’re going to see good numbers coming out of this location.”
Saldivar said he felt pandemic recovery was a priority for voters in both McAllen’s school board and municipal races.
“We’re about to hit a reset button,” he said. “For the first time since the inception of the city and the school districts and the county we have a chance to do a do-over, so to speak. Everybody’s been sheltering in place at home, now we’re going to be coming out.”
Crane Aliseda, the victor, said her experience serving those voters and their community won her another term on the board.
“I think it’s my path, I think it’s my history,” she said. “I think people trust me to be very conservative with their money and they trust me to always fight for teacher’s raises — teacher’s raises are always more important than administrative raises. I think eight years of that really resonates with the community.”
The win was — understandably — exciting for the incumbent candidate.
“Honestly I’m so excited,” Crane Aliseda said. “Like I said earlier, I love the school district, I love being a part of it and I’m just so excited that the community is happy with my work and I won’t let them down. I’m 100% all in.”
Despite the defeat, Lucia Regalado complimented her rival and said she intends to stay active in the community.
“I’m just thankful to all of the voters that came out and all the supporters that I had and I wish the best for Ms. Crane Aliseda, she ran a very clean and kind race to me,” she said. “So I’m excited for the district and I’m hopeful for everything that’s to come for McAllen ISD and I hope to be a resource and impactful in some other way for the community.”
Peña, the board’s sole newcomer, thanked the voters who helped her win her seat.
“I am so grateful and just beyond humbled by the amount of support I got,” she said.
A history of serving McAllen and a strong resume contributed to the win, Peña said.
“My community service history speaks for itself, and my education as well. Just my commitment to helping the community at this point, so I think my message resonated with everybody,” she said.
In addition to COVID-19 response and ensuring student safety, Peña said advocating for special education students will be one of her priorities on the board — something she has experience with in her current role as executive director of the Capable Kids Foundation in McAllen.
“I’m an advocate for special ed students,” she said. “I will always advocate for special needs students and I heard a lot from the disability community, their concerns and the changes they want to see. I will definitely advocate for that.”
Peña’s opponent, Garcia, responded to a request for comment via text Monday, May 3.
“The education of McAllen ISD students will always be a top priority for me,” she wrote. “I appreciate all of the kind words and support that I received throughout my Campaign! I congratulate Sofia Peña! I know that she will do an amazing job!”