Precinct chairs to decide Democratic nomination for 93rd district court

As many as 69 people will decide tonight whose name will be on November’s ballot as the Democratic candidate for the 93rd state District Court.

Hidalgo County Democratic precinct chairs find themselves in this spot after ex-state District Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado retired and resigned from the bench in April amid federal bribery charges, leaving a vacancy in the courtroom over which he had presided for nearly two decades.

The candidate elected to fill Delgado’s seat will carry out the remainder of his term beginning in January 2019 — a term which ends in 2020.

Until then, the county’s political parties are each tasked with nominating a candidate for the November ballot.

Elected precinct chairs will vote Friday evening on four attorneys vying for the Democratic nomination — a process that could arguably decide the judgeship given the region’s strong Democratic bend. Given the tradition of incumbent judges not being challenged, some argue that the precinct chairs’ nominee may very well preside over the court indefinitely.

Those seeking the seat are retired District Judge Fernando Mancias, attorney Teodulo “Ted” Lopez, former Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chair Ricardo “Ric” Godinez and current Edinburg school board member Juan “Sonny” Palacios Jr.

Precinct chairs will each select one candidate using a “non-secret” paper ballot, which will then be verified by Democratic Party Chairwoman Norma Ramirez and representatives for each candidate.

Those who make multiple selections, leave the ballot blank or fail to sign it, will have their vote voided, per the party’s rules.

The ballots will be read aloud as they come in, including the precinct chair’s name and selection, said Ramirez, who said, “We are doing our best to make sure that we’re as transparent as possible; we want to make sure the election process is held to the highest standards we could possibly have.”

In order to become the nominee, one of the four must receive a majority of the vote — 50 percent plus one. Given the large pool, it is likely there won’t be a majority, triggering a second round of voting between the two candidates who receive the most votes, something Ramirez said she is prepared for.

The second round will be held immediately after the first, she said, and the nominee must receive a majority.

The party chair does not vote, and there are 69 elected chairs who can task ballots. Ramirez, however, said not all are expected to be in attendance, with at least a few having notified her of their absence due to a host of reasons, including medical procedures and travel outside the county.

The vote, which will be held in the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium and begins at 6 p.m., will be open to the public, and in order to ensure that “they all feel very comfortable and pressure-free,” the chairs will be separated from the public, Ramirez said.

“We want the precinct chairs and candidates to conduct themselves in a manner free of any type of harassment or intimidation,” Ramirez added.

Police will also be on hand to escort chairs in and out of the building.

msmith@themonitor.com