Hidalgo officials in a scuffle outside polling location

HIDALGO — Elections are getting ugly here.

HIDALGO — Elections are getting ugly here.

Candidates, campaign managers and city officials are at war with each other in the fractured city of Hidalgo — and it’s even getting physical.

Hidalgo Commissioner Rudy Franz and the head of the city’s economic development arm, Prisciliano “JR” Treviño, got into a “minor” scuffle at a polling location Friday morning.

Hidalgo Police Chief Rudy Espinoza said the executive director of the Hidalgo Economic Development Corporation filed charges against Franz for pushing him while electioneering outside city hall.

“What we know is that they were there, and they’ve been kind of going at each other, and all of a sudden they’re there talking and Rudy Franz pushes the other individual,” Espinoza said. “Something minor, but still, we have to take control.”

Franz alleged Treviño was accosting one of his female supporters and threatening her job at a school district, where Treviño serves as a board member.

“He went and told a lady that worked for Valley View (Independent School District) — started pointing the finger on her nose and told her — he was going to get her fired at Valley View,” Franz said. “When I got there, he was still putting his finger in her face.”

Treviño denied the claim and said he would never do that.

“What happened is, I was explaining to the pastor — because she is a pastor — that one of the reasons I got hired as the director for economic development is to straighten out the money leaving my department … to the chamber of commerce where … there was no accountability,” Treviño said. “And that’s when Mr. Franz crossed the parking lot and approached me and started yelling at me.”

“So when I got there, I told him, ‘JR, here you are again, picking on the women,’” Franz recounted. “And he said, ‘Oh yea, well let me pick on you.’ So he came and put my stomach against his arm so I pushed him away.”

The clash resulted in a class C misdemeanor charge against Franz, Espinoza said. He referred the case to Municipal Judge Juan Pimentel, who will have the final say on the amount of the citation, which Treviño vowed to follow up on.

Meanwhile, supporters outside city hall continued to indirectly bicker with each other, speaking loudly about each other’s transgressions and throwing accusations around.

The battle has also found its way to social media, where the accusations are even worse. At least one alleged transgression resulted in a libel and slander lawsuit.

Franz’s slate mate Leonard Rodriguez filed a suit against Treviño, Karla Cantu and Mildred Escobedo late last month. Cantu is the wife of Franz’s opponent and former Hidalgo Fire Chief Mentor Cantu. Escobedo is a campaign manager for the People’s Alliance, a political party that supports Cantu, Gilbert Perez and recently endorsed Gustavo “Gus” Sanchez.

The lawsuit claims the “defendant published illegally-obtained documents which appear to paint Mr. Rodriguez in the most vile of lights.” It calls the publication on social media an “attempt to defame and libel a political opponent for the sake of the upcoming runoff election.”

Karla Cantu said Friday afternoon she was not aware of the lawsuit and seemed unfazed by it.

“He always does that,” she said about Franz and filing lawsuits — even though Rodriguez was the one who filed it against her.

The lawsuit also came with a temporary restraining order against Escobedo. Judge Arnoldo Cantu of Hidalgo County Court at Law No. 5 scheduled a hearing for June 9.

Despite the drama and the bad weather, voters continued to flock to the polls. A total of 1,113 votes had been cast during the first three days of early voting and another 99 had already voted as of 1 p.m. Friday, bringing the grand total to at least 1,212. That equates to about 18 percent of total registered voters in the city.