Haddad takes down longtime Commissioner Ingram in McAllen District 5 runoff

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

McALLEN — Victor “Seby” Haddad, a banker and a businessman, defeated District 5 City Commissioner John Ingram in Saturday’s runoff election, a race fueled by divisive immigration rhetoric that Haddad navigated to make him the second candidate for city office this century to defeat an incumbent.

Haddad’s 54% (719 votes) compared to Ingram’s 46% (622 votes) surprised Ingram a bit, he said, but not Haddad, who said “we put the hard work in.”

“I think the people of the district chose to make a positive change,” Haddad said, adding that “we knew we had the momentum.”

That momentum was thought to be tilting toward Haddad after Ingram fell just a couple votes short of winning the general election outright. Ingram received 50% of the vote compared to Haddad’s 40%. A candidate needs to receive more than 50% of the vote to win the election outright.

After a recount yielded no change in the outcome, the candidates began campaigning for the runoff, where Haddad received an endorsement from the third candidate in the general election race, South Texas College professor Mark Murray, who earned 10% in the general election. Haddad also received endorsements from the local police and fire unions.

The candidates hardly appeared together in debate settings during the runoff campaign, and as the race wore on, Ingram criticized Haddad’s union endorsements. The critique didn’t work, and Haddad was able to corral enough support to overcome Ingram, marking a generational shift of the city commission, which will have two commissioners under 40 years old once the votes from Saturday’s election are canvassed on Tuesday at a special called meeting.

Haddad’s arrival to the city commission will also mark the second incumbent to go down since 2017, when District 2 Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora defeated then-incumbent Commissioner Trey Pebley. Once Haddad is sworn in, the city commission will also feature five commissioners with two years of experience or less.

For his part, Ingram was thankful for his central McAllen support that had kept him on the city commission since 2005.

“It’s been a long campaign, I’m glad it’s over,” Ingram said in an interview from Breckenridge, Colorado, where he was attending a wedding. “It was great to have the support of so many people who had to go out not once but twice.”

The campaign likely puts an end to political office for Ingram, who was known throughout central McAllen for his annual trash pickups. Rhetoric throughout this race also upset Ingram, who said his wife had been called nasty names by his political detractors in recent months.

But Ingram said that rhetoric did not come from Haddad, who said he tried to run a positive campaign that focused on business growth, drainage, traffic and other local issues. But the campaigns could not escape the most polarizing issue in McAllen in recent months — the migrant relief center.

Since 2014, federal authorities have dropped off asylum-seeking immigrants in McAllen. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has temporarily cared for these immigrants before they depart the city to connect with family or sponsors elsewhere in the United States. The city has spent more than $1 million to assist Catholic Charities since 2014, Mayor Jim Darling said this week, but has not yet been reimbursed by the federal government for the costs of what officials have called a federal problem that happens to be playing out in the city.

Commissioners this year have made multiple controversial votes, which ignited campaign rhetoric. Radio advertisements and other campaign material was distributed during the campaign attacking Ingram for allegedly turning McAllen into a “sanctuary city” for immigrants, which Ingram, Haddad, Darling and city commissioners have said is false.

Ingram has pointed to this immigration hostility as a reason for him not winning the general election outright. But on Saturday, he offered a job well done for Haddad, even though Ingram doesn’t plan to call him.

“ I won’t talk to Seby, I don’t think,” Ingram said. “But I will say, he did a good job.”

Haddad, however, said he intended on talking to Ingram.

“He has definitely served the district well,” Haddad said. “He has a lot of people in the district that support him and we hope we can earn their support as well.”