EDINBURG — Justice of the Peace candidates here continued to point fingers at each other Thursday following a heated altercation at the polls Wednesday night.
Armando M. Guerra, who is running against incumbent Homer Jasso Sr. for the Precinct 4 Place 2 seat, issued a statement Thursday morning accusing Jasso Sr.’s adult children of instigating an argument outside a polling location in Edinburg.
Guerra didn’t mince words in his statement and took the opportunity to draw attention to a public reprimand Jasso Sr. received last month from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for a number of violations to the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, including hiring and making inappropriate comments to a female employee with whom Jasso Sr. had a previous relationship.
“Any anger and frustration that Judge Jasso’s children may be feeling is understandable as it must be hard to face the fact that their father has been found guilty of sexually harassing his former female employee in the Justice of Peace Precinct 4, Place 2 Court,” Guerra wrote. “However, the use of violence is never justified in response to speech.”
It’s important to note Jasso Sr. was not convicted of a crime, but rather reprimanded and ordered to repeat an 80-hour training course.
Guerra and his supporters, however, have been using the reprimand as a platform in his campaign, often chanting “no means no” and “Guerra against sexual assault” as voters walk into the Hidalgo County Elections Annex to cast a vote.
Tension boiled over as the polls drew to a close Wednesday night with Jasso’s adult children confronting one of Guerra’s most ardent supporters. The siblings, Edinburg Councilman Homer Jasso Jr. and Laura Jasso, were filmed as they tried to confront Miguel Angel Garza while others held them back.
Garza said the Edinburg councilman crossed into Guerra’s camp to talk to him.
“Homer Jasso (Jr.) came across the street. I told him I don’t want to talk to you. If you want to talk to me, I’ll talk to you later,” Garza said. “He came at me real aggressive. You could see the anger.”
At least three videos have been circulating on social media ever since.
“Clearly the videos speak for themselves,” Guerra said.
The Edinburg attorney provided copies of the footage to The Monitor and highlighted a portion of a video that shows Jasso Jr. turning his attention to Guerra, who was standing outside of the camera’s view.
“(He) turned his aggression to me and said, ‘and you,’ as he rushed toward me, but was restrained by Gabriel Salinas,” Guerra said.
Jasso Jr. accused Guerra’s camp and Garza of harassment and disorderly conduct at the polls following the incident Wednesday night.
Jasso’s camp pointed to a portion at the end of one of the videos where a Guerra supporter can be heard saying excitedly, “It worked. It worked.”
While it’s unclear what the supporter was referring to, the Jasso camp alleged the comment was proof of a coordinated attack.
“If I was doing that — there’s police officers here — they would’ve arrested me,” Garza said in response to the accusations of harassment and public disorder.
But Jasso believes police didn’t do enough Wednesday to keep the calm.
On Thursday, about five officers could be spotted huddling under a tent, keeping a watchful eye on the camps. The atmosphere, however, appeared calm compared to the traditional hoopla that has come to be the norm there.
“I’ve been a judge for 16 years, and I’ve never ran in a campaign like this one,” Jasso Sr. said from under his tent Thursday. “This is ugly. It’s out of hand. No respect whatsoever.”
The incumbent was not present during the scuffle, he said. His sister died Monday, leaving him with little time to spend at the polls.
The 74-year-old said he was concerned about the negative light the incident cast on his family.
“Of course I am,” he said when asked. “But, I’m doing everything in my power to keep the peace. That’s’ why I’ve been going to the (police department), the Texas Rangers, to the sheriff’s office. I don’t like none of this.”
The justice of the peace said he’s been trying to get police to review an alleged incident that occurred last week between himself and Garza.
“He shouldn’t be allowed here,” Jasso Sr. said. “He’s got a record this long.”
Garza made headlines last week after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated for the fourth time since 1988. Critics argued he received preferential treatment because Edinburg Mayor Pro-Tem David Torres stepped in and had him released before Garza appeared in front of a judge for formal charges.
Garza, who is out on bond after being charged with the third-degree felony, pointed at the criminal charges he faced as a result and said he did not get a free pass.
“How can I be,” he asked rhetorically. “I’m out on bond… I reported to the judge and they gave me a bond.”
Garza instead pointed to an incident that happened about five years ago in which Jasso Jr. stepped in for his sister Laura Jasso, who was facing a possible arrest after an alleged domestic dispute. Monitor records indicate Jasso Jr. arrived at his sister’s home to try to stop Edinburg police from arresting the former Hidalgo County court bailiff.
Laura Jasso was not arrested and her partner refused to file charges against her. Police at the time said the councilman’s involvement was not a factor in the decision.
“She thinks she’s above the law,” Garza said about Laura Jasso. “I really believe councilman Homer Jasso needs to get arrested, too. He crossed a line. He’s the one that started the fight. He instigated everything.”
Police continue to investigate the scuffle and could be seen trying to take statements from witnesses at the polling site Thursday.
Early voting will continue through Friday, with Election Day set for Tuesday.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct runoff date.