County judge candidates report hefty donations in Democratic primary race

EDINBURG — In just three months, former McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez outraised and outspent his Democratic primary opponent Eloy Pulido, who spent most of 2017 fundraising, in the quest to become Hidalgo County Judge.

Cortez began fundraising in late September and amassed more than $201,000 in political contributions — or almost three times as much as Pulido, who raised over $63,400 beginning in March 2017.

The former McAllen commissioner also spent twice as much as his opponent. Cortez reported about $161,000 in total expenditures, while Pulido reported just over $82,000.

Both candidates also loaned themselves money. Pulido loaned himself almost $10,000, while Cortez borrowed $70,000 from himself.

Almost half of the contributions Pulido received came from two different donors: John A. Rodriguez and Burns Brothers Ltd. Rodriguez gave Pulido a total of $18,500, while the Burns Brothers gave him $10,000.

The former county judge also received help from at least two other political allies of note. Edinburg council member Homer Jasso Jr. gave Pulido $2,500, while former McAllen mayoral candidate Othal Brand Jr. gave him $2,200.

Cortez’s biggest supporters appear to have come from members of the Kamel family, which gave him a total of $15,000, and from Eddy Betancourt, who gave him $6,000 in monetary contributions and $12,000 in in-kind donations for materials and labor.

Cortez, who previously boasted widespread support from political allies, received numerous donations from his colleagues in McAllen and elsewhere, including:

>> Former McAllen District 1 candidate Joseph Caporusso, $250.

>> Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, $2,500.

>> McAllen Commissioner John Ingram, $200.

>> Former McAllen Commissioner Trey Pebley, $500.

>> McAllen District 1 candidate Tim Wilkins, $750.

>> McAllen Commissioner Joaquin Zamora, $350.

Other contributors to Cortez’ campaign include:

>> Reza Badiozzamani, B2Z Engineering, $5,000.

>> Jacinto Garza, L&G Engineers, $5,000.

>> Ramiro Garza Jr., former Edinburg city manager, $1,000.

>> Veronica Gonzales, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley vice president for governmental and community relations, $125.

>> Val Peisen, L&F Distributors, $3,500.

>> Carlos I. Garza, Hallmark Construction LLC, $5,000.

>> Ezequiel Reyna, local developer appointed to the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority board, $2,500.

>> Rene Ramirez, Pathfinder Public Affairs, $2,000.

>> Sam F. Vale, Starr-Camargo Bridge, $5,000.

>> S&B Engineers, through its political action committee, $5,000.

Cortez invested heavily in political consultants, which account for more than $63,000 of his expenditures. He paid $25,000 to the Positive Program, $27,500 to Carrera Communications and more than $10,000 to his campaign manager Martha Hinojosa.

Pulido spent almost $22,000 for consultants. He paid more than $19,000 to Leslie Gower, $1,500 to Nathan Gower-Schwartz and $900 to Sylvia Handy.

It’s unclear if Handy is the former Hidalgo County Precinct 1 commissioner who was sentenced to jail for using public funds to hire domestic cleaners and babysitters.

nlopez@themonitor.com