La Villa candidates to contest results

Three seats on the La Villa Board of Aldermen were up for grabs in Saturday’s municipal election — each with an incumbent and a challenger vying for a win. But, after elections officials released the final tallies Saturday evening, some candidates are ready to challenge the results.

At Place 1, incumbent Alderman Manuel Hinojosa was challenged by former Alderman Ricardo Garza in a race that came down to just four votes. Hinojosa earned 50.23% of the vote with 438 votes to Garza’s 434. In La Villa, candidates need only a plurality to win.

Reached by phone Saturday, Garza said he would demand a recount.

“I’m not too excited because it’s still up in the air,” Garza said. “That’s my next option, to go and ask for a recount.”

Garza added he was surprised by the narrow tally. “I didn’t think it was going to be this close. I thought it was going to be a little bit more in our favor,” he said.

Hinojosa did not return calls from The Monitor Saturday evening.

At Place 2, incumbent Joe Contreras won his re-election bid against challenger Jesus Rodriguez. Contreras won 495 votes, or 56.9% of the vote to Rodriguez’s 375 votes, or 43.1%.

Contreras could not be reached by phone Saturday, but his challenger, Rodriguez, said he plans on challenging the election results.

“I think the election was not fair,” Rodriguez said before mentioning a pending criminal charge against Contreras.

According to court records, Contreras faces two misdemeanor charges — one for theft of property valued at less than $100, and the other for abuse of official capacity regarding something of value between $100-$750.

Both charges stem from allegations that Contreras used his position as a Hidalgo County Precinct 1 employee to obtain a truckload of caliche on Sept. 9, 2016.

Pre-trial hearings in one of the cases have been delayed several times between May 2018 and this year, with the latest one rescheduled for next Monday, May 13.

Like Ricardo Garza, Rodriguez has previously served on the board of aldermen. He said concerns over Contreras’ pending litigation inspired him to seek public office again.

“Because I care about my city,” Rodriguez said.

Garza and Rodriguez ran on a slate with the third incumbent who sought re-election, Place 3 Alderman Mario Lopez, who, like his fellow incumbents, garnered more votes than his opponent.

Lopez faced challenger Lupe Rangel Jr.

Rangel, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign against Manuel Hinojosa in 2015, could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Lopez won 483 votes for 55.2% of the vote, to Rangel’s 392 votes.

In the past, Lopez has run on a slate with his current fellow aldermen, Manuel Hinojosa and Joe Contreras, but said his feelings changed this election.

“We used to run together, but I didn’t like it, so they wanted me out,” Lopez said Saturday.

Lopez said he, too, is concerned about the integrity of La Villa’s elections. He added that he has encouraged Garza to seek a recount in his race.