Early voting starts today in Weslaco race

WESLACO — Early voting begins today in the special election to fill the unexpired term for the District 4 seat on the Weslaco City Commission.

The seat was vacated in late April when then Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla stepped down from office after pleading guilty to federal programs bribery in relation to a $38 million project to rehabilitate the city’s water treatment facilities.

Four men are vying to fill the seat — Humberto “Beto” Chavez, Adrian Farias, Jose Guadalupe “Lupe” Garcia and Roy Hernandez Jr. The four gathered at the Business Visitor & Event Center last Wednesday for a candidate forum hosted by the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce.

The forum — which was moderated by AIM Media Texas’ John Greider — utilized a structured format in which each candidate gave a brief introduction before answering pre-determined questions in turn.

Happening just two days after a torrential rainstorm deluged the Mid-Valley — which itself occurred just one year and four days after another 500-year storm inundated the region — the topic of drainage remained at the forefront of discussion during the forum.

Even as they were asked questions regarding boosting economic prosperity, bettering quality of life, and improving communication between public officials and residents, thoughts of drainage were never far off.

“The big question here in Weslaco is if you guys were a large company or corporation, would you want to come and do business here in Weslaco with the drainage problem we have right now?” said Humberto Chavez during a question about whether the city has a well-prepared workforce to entice large employers into locating in Weslaco.

“Would you want to put your business at risk knowing that you might get flooded or you don’t know what’s going to happen — lose your business?” he asked.

Drainage resurfaced during another question about the candidates’ opinions on the challenges District 4 faces.

“I believe it’s infrastructure,” said Roy Hernandez Jr. “How are we gonna get the funds for the drainage? That’s one of the main things. Also, if we don’t have the right infrastructure, how are we going to expand?”

In response to the same question, Adrian Farias spoke of how having two major floods in just over a year’s time stresses street infrastructure, something District 4 residents are seeing firsthand. “The issues we’re having are potholes in our neighborhood streets. We want to continue to fix those, as well,” Farias said.

All four of the candidates made note of the city’s efforts to improve its drainage system in the wake of last June’s historic flooding. Those efforts have included conducting long overdue maintenance of drain pipes, debris and overgrowth removal from canals and ditches, investing in equipment purchases, and passing a $10 million bond aimed at furthering projects.

“There’s a lot of money there to be used than (what) we had before, and I think that’s gonna attack a lot of the issues,” Lupe Garcia said of those strides, as well as the county’s similar passage of a drainage bond and the release of some $46.4 million in federal flood relief funds.

Garcia said he hopes the maintenance will continue. “Anything that has to do with maintenance is just what’s needed,” he said.

Early voting in the special election begins today and continues through Friday, July 12. Polls will remain open until 7 p.m. today.

Tuesday, July 2 through Saturday, July 6, polls will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with the exception of this Thursday, when polls will be closed in observance of Independence Day.

Polls will reopen Sunday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, July 8 through Thursday, July 11, and from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Friday, July 12.

Election Day is Tuesday, July 16.

Voters may cast their ballots at the Business Visitor & Event Center, 275 S. Kansas Ave. or at Stephen F. Austin School, 514 W. 4 th St. in Weslaco.