HIDALGO — The fight for council member Place 5 spanned more than a year and was fought hard, but in the end, it didn’t make a difference — at least as far as the seat on the council is concerned.
Oziel Treviño will remain at his post after defeating Gilbert Perez by 17 votes. The small-business owner received 1,102 votes, while Perez received 1,085.
This marked the third time Treviño and Perez faced off at the ballot box.
After battling a contentious race May 2016, the candidates were forced into a July runoff that ended with a victory for Treviño with a six-vote difference.
After a recount, Perez accused Treviño’s camp of voter fraud and state District Judge Don Wittig agreed with him. Wittig ordered a second election late last year after he found “clear and convincing” evidence Treviño received votes in violation of the Texas Election Code.
Wittig gave the city about three months to organize a second election due no later than March 6.
Perez, however, appealed to the 13th Court of Appeals, but the court refused to hear the case, triggering Saturday’s election.
Perez lamented what he described as a waste of time and resources before Saturday’s results were revealed.
“Look, here we are a year-and-a-half later doing the same election that we had last year,” he said. “There’s nothing to celebrate. We need to get work.”
It’s unclear how much the city paid Hidalgo County Elections department to run the election.
“I’m definitely going to ask,” Perez said.
When asked if he had witnessed or heard of potential violations to the Texas Election Code, Perez responded, “Oh, yeah. It’s happening again. Not to the same extent.”
Much of the testimony in the voter fraud case centered on mail-in ballots for Treviño and the people who handled the ballots. Treviño received votes from more than 200 absentee ballots during the May 2016 election. This time around, only 110 voted through a provisional ballot during the five-day early voting period. (The early voting period was about a week shorter than last year’s election.)
“I think now that the state and Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s office has stated that voter harvesting is a felony, not a misdemeanor, people are taking it a lot more seriously,” Perez said.
Electioneering is serious business for the small town of about 12,000 people. Several political parties have formed within the city seeking control of the city government, and battling it out on social media. Fights, both physical and virtual, have broken out and employees routinely accuse their employers of political retaliation.
This election was no different, with both sides disparaging each other on Facebook and Twitter.
Treviño, however, maintains he has done nothing wrong.
“I’m clean, and I’m going to prove all those things posted about me are lies and phony advertising,” Treviño said.
He also said he would begin working to unify the factions for better outcomes at the city council meetings.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge because I have found the opposition has been pushing really hard… to accuse me of wrongdoing,” he said. “I never did anything wrong.”