McAllen candidates ‘feel good’ about runoff election

John Ingram and Victor "Seby" Haddad (The Monitor)

McALLEN — Normally, McAllen elections are decided during the early voting period before election day, but the race for central McAllen’s seat on the city commission has been all but normal.

National politics and federal issues, which don’t normally dominate local elections here, have done just that, with immigration taking up advertisements and debate topics. One candidate attacked the other for receiving endorsements from the local police and fire unions, often coveted endorsements for political candidates. And one candidate missed winning the general election outright by less than a percentage point.

Now in a runoff election, with Election Day on Saturday, incumbent Commissioner John Ingram, first elected in 2005, is hoping to fend off a fierce challenge by Victor “Seby” Haddad, a banker and a businessman who has more than quadrupled Ingram’s fundraising haul, though Ingram has never made raising large amounts of money a strong emphasis.

Tuesday is the final day for District 5 voters to cast ballots early at either Firemans Pump House or Lark Community Center. So far, during the early vote period, only 864 ballots had been cast as of Monday night, just below the nearly 900 early votes cast during the general election that culminated on May 4, with Ingram receiving 50% of the vote compared to Haddad’s 41%. The third candidate in that race, Mark Murray, a South Texas College professor, received the remaining percentage. A candidate needs to receive more than 50% to win the seat.

On Saturday, voting will be held at McAllen High School.

Turnout typically dips during runoff elections, but that’s not exactly the case in this race.

“I think the people of District 5 have stayed aware and stayed engaged,” Haddad said on Monday, adding that he “feels good” after the roughly six-week runoff election campaign of “trying to get the message out, canvassing, social media and making our best efforts to get in front of people.”

Ingram also said he “feels good,” though he wasn’t as struck with the early vote turnout from the general election.

“I think that’s just right on track,” Ingram said. “But we’ve been doing a lot of calling and talking to people, and people are bringing out family members on top of just themselves to vote because they saw how close it was, and one vote really can matter…”

Ingram pointed to immigration in McAllen and third-party attack advertisements on the radio and on social media that said Ingram helped turn McAllen into a “sanctuary city” for migrants. The assertion that McAllen is a “sanctuary city” has been shot down by Haddad, Mayor Jim Darling and city commissioners.

These attacks, Ingram said, are the worst he’s seen a McAllen election “sink,” adding that people have called his wife a “hooker” and “other dirty tricks.” Haddad said he is not behind any dirty attacks, and Ingram believes Haddad has nothing to do with them.

For his part, Haddad said he’s tried to stay positive and has heard from voters about drainage, the immigration respite center and traffic issues, all of which have been debated at forums during the general election and during the runoff.

“It’s the last chance for people to make their vote count,” Haddad said.

mferman@themonitor.com