McALLEN — Two contested city elections in McAllen earlier this month officially culminated on Monday, with one prompting a recount and the other the departure of a longtime city commissioner.
After 18 years representing Southwest McAllen, District 4 Commissioner Aida Ramirez retired from the commission after her last meeting Monday. She wished well to her successor, attorney Tania Ramirez, who is not related, and who handedly won the May 4 election.
“Make sure you stay in contact with our people,” Aida Ramirez told her successor at Monday’s regularly scheduled city commission meeting. The outgoing commissioner added: “Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver. And if you do that, you’ll be just fine.”
Minutes later, Aida Ramirez’s tenure ended with a long embrace with her successor, marking 793 meetings attended since May 14, 2001, according to city officials. Ramirez’s departure leaves District 5 City Commissioner John Ingram as the most senior member on the commission. But Ingram’s future on the commission is unclear.
Tania Ramirez, a 30-year-old attorney who has been entangled in a voter fraud investigation referred to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, was sworn into office on Monday. She took her seat on the commission and was seated next to the city attorney, a tradition for freshman commissioners. Ingram was not sworn in, but sat in his seat at the dais.
Ingram’s District 5 seat was up in the May 4 election, as was District 6 Commissioner Veronica Whitacre’s, but she did not face opposition and was sworn in for another term on Monday. But Ingram received 570 votes (50%) compared to 463 votes (40%) for one of Ingram’s opponents, Victor “Seby” Haddad, a banker and a businessman. The third candidate in that race, Mark Murray, received 110 votes (10%).
A candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to win an election outright, otherwise there is a runoff election. On Monday, city commissioners voted to officially call for a runoff election for June 22. Commissioners also approved a recount of the District 5 election, which Ingram narrowly missed winning outright. Instead is heading to a runoff election, unless the recount results in Ingram earning a larger percentage than the May 4 election yielded.
The McAllen City Secretary’s Office oversees city elections, and City Secretary Perla Lara said the recount will be conducted imminently, and could be done as soon as the end of this week. While there were several provisional ballots cast in the District 5 race that were referred to Hidalgo County elections officials, who ruled a few ballots were ineligible, those ballots will not be counted in the recount, Lara said.
Any ballots that were rejected by the county were exactly that, which is out of the city’s jurisdiction, Lara said.
Ingram has felt the heat from a near-miss outright victory, specifically from what he said have been false attack advertisements that have stated Ingram has helped turn McAllen into a sanctuary city.
“I lost a lot of votes because of that,” said Ingram, who on Monday asked Mayor Jim Darling what he thought about the city passing a resolution declaring that the city is not a sanctuary city.
“We are not a sanctuary city. In fact, we are probably the opposite of a sanctuary city,” Darling said, adding that he met with Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in McAllen last week, and McAleenan thanked Darling for the city’s immigration efforts, Darling said.
Before the meeting ended, Tania Ramirez chimed in on the subject and spoke at length, her first time doing so as a commissioner.
“I agree with Commissioner Ingram that I think the public needs to be well informed as to the issue with the respite center,” Ramirez said. “Like him, I also got a lot of badgering on the campaign trail — there’s a lot of misconceptions of what the city’s diong, how the city’s involved. Actually informing the public of what the city is doing and how far the involvement is, I think, would actually go a long way.
“Especially to avoid people making up that we’re a sanctuary city.”