McAllen commissioners likely set runoff date

McALLEN — Two days after neither Javier Villalobos nor Timothy Wilkins earned more than 50 percent of the District 1 votes, causing a runoff election, city commissioners quibbled over a potential runoff date for mid-March.

At Monday’s commission meeting, City Attorney Kevin Pagan recommended March 10 as a runoff election date, which would allow for more time to register voters and to file campaign finance reports, he said. Pagan also cited the March 6 Texas primary election, which is a blackout date, in which the runoff could not occur. The early voting, however, could overlap, Pagan said.

Commissioners peppered Pagan with various questions, including other potential election dates, early voting periods and a possible weekday election. Wilkins, who was in the audience, stood up and asked to speak.

“The 10th falls during Texas week spring break,” Wilkins said. “There’s gonna be a lot of people out of town. I think that’s a terrible date to pick… MISD spring break, families will be out of town, leaving town. If you could consider a weekday election day, which is unprecedented, it needs to be considered.”

Commissioners, who also discussed March 17, were not going to officially determine the election date on Monday, but they were setting the date to canvass the votes from Saturday’s District 1 Special Election. In that election, Villalobos received 505 votes (37 percent) compared to Wilkins’ 472 votes (35 percent) — Joseph M. Caporusso, the other candidate in the race, earned 28 percent of the vote.

Pagan cautioned commissioners by setting the Jan. 29 canvassing date, they are boxing themselves into a certain set of election dates. They ultimately, however, voted to hold the canvassing Jan. 29, and will set the election date at that time. Later in the meeting, it appeared commissioners decided on March 3 for the election. Mayor Jim Darling said after the meeting that is the likely date.

“The 10th and the 17th are both Saturdays during spring break,” Wilkins said.

“Right, and we considered that,” City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said. “It’s kind of, six of one, half a dozen of the other,” but, he added, that city staff felt voters could cast ballots before they left for spring break.

“That’s a ridiculous statement, Roy, I’m sorry,” Wilkins said. “You got 7 percent voter apathy, for that exact attitude, and that’s why I’m in a runoff.”

Wilkins then exited the commission chambers.

After some more questions from commissioners, Rodriguez and Pagan said the March 10 date was to “give the candidates the most amount of time.”

“If I just finished a three-month campaign, I think I’d want it sooner,” Darling said. “That’s just me.”

Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora agreed with Darling. March 3 was then proposed, which is when Pagan then spent the meeting checking if that date would work.

“I’m just saying, if I was a candidate, I wouldn’t be worried about new registration,” Darling said. “And I don’t mean that — we’re just going through the thought process. I think getting the voter turnout is more important than new registration.”

Commissioners brought the discussion back at the end of the meeting, where Pagan said March 3 would work. If commissioners ultimately decide on that date, which Darling and city officials said appears highly likely, early voting would probably start in mid-February, Pagan said.

Wilkins wrote in a statement that he was not intending to influence the date selection.

“I did not speak up in an attempt to dictate a date,” he said. “I spoke in opposition to the total disregard of consideration for accommodating the voters. Which is what this entire process is about.”