EDINBURG — The mayor here apologized Monday for a comment he made about one of his opponents in a secretly-recorded audio clip.
The recording of Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia began making the rounds on social media Sunday after his opponent Gina Alamia posted it to her Facebook page.
“I will not tolerate bullying and neither should anyone else,” Alamia wrote in her post. “Here is the sound clip.”
The audio — which was recorded at Danny’s Sports Bar in Edinburg last week — begins with Garcia addressing a group of supporters.
“Somebody asked me the other day ‘Who are your running against?’” Garcia can be heard asking rhetorically. “I’m not running against anybody.”
After a few laughs and several inaudible seconds, Garcia can be heard talking about the two people running against him: Alamia and Edinburg Council Member Richard Molina.
He begins with Alamia.
“God had spoken to her… she’s supposed to be the mayor. I think the devil made her do it,” he said before the crowd erupted into laughter.
“Molina where are you?” he asks derisively a few seconds later. “In case you all don’t know. There was a debate yesterday in McAllen for the Edinburg mayoral campaign. The news headline in the paper today was ‘No show Molina.’ He didn’t show up.”
The two-minute recording goes on, but it’s difficult to make out what he says. At one point he talks about his experience and says the community has been good to him. He also makes a reference to “incestuous relationships.”
Alamia said she doesn’t know who recorded the audio clip.
“I don’t know the origin of it,” she said. “I just know that about five or six people sent me a link. And so I heard it, and someone went ahead and converted it into a YouTube video, so it can’t be taken down.”
Whoever did it, though, did not seem to like what Garcia was saying, she added.
“I think he just thought ‘everyone is going to be with me anyways’ and apparently not everyone felt the same way,” she said.
The 37-year-old immigration consultant said Garcia’s comment was degrading.
“On a national level we see that our president is not very respecting to women, and to see that at a local level… that’s not a very good message to be giving,” she said. “I revolve a lot of the things I do around God, and to make a reference to the devil like that, that’s terrible.”
Garcia, however, said he made the comment in jest, referring to it as a “tongue in cheek” remark.
“It was certainly a joke. I’m not implying she’s the devil or devil worshiper,” he said. “I wish her the very best, and I have no qualms with her.”
Garcia also said he did not mean to disrespect Alamia’s religious beliefs.
“I have no idea why someone would take this personally or seriously because that’s not who I am,” he said. “My grandfather was a preacher. I’ve had religion around me all my life, and that’s what my life’s been.”
He suggested some of the attention his remarks received may be for “political mileage.”
“As a matter of fact, her father applied to be city attorney once or twice since I’ve been mayor,” he said. “I don’t know if any of that has anything to do with it.”
Still, if faced with the situation again, he may have done things differently.
“In retrospect… if I had to do it again, I maybe wouldn’t have done that,” he said. “Personally, I send her my apologies, though I’ve yet to receive any apology from anyone when I’ve seen and heard some things that are disturbing to me. But you know, that’s politics, and I’ve learned it’s part of the game.
“If you’re going to be part of the game you have to have some thick skin.”
The council member who is challenging Garcia said he was not surprised when he heard the audio clip.
“As far as Mayor Garcia, I’ve known that people have seen his arrogance, and at the council meetings he’s always condescending,” Molina said. “He’s got a better-than-thou attitude, and it doesn’t surprise me in any way.”
Molina disputed the idea that he was a no-show at a political forum hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Home Builders Association last week, saying he had never agreed to participate in the event.
“I had advised them on four different occasions that I would not be attending because I had a previous engagement,” he said about the forum. “It was not the day of.”
The event was held in McAllen, rather than Edinburg, and was closed to the public, so he chose to meet with others for a previously agreed-upon meeting.
“That was a no-brainer to me,” Molina said, adding he would definitely be at the upcoming debate hosted by the Progressive Young Democrats at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
The forum, which will be open to the public, will be held at the university Student Union at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18.