Incumbents come out ahead in Alamo election

ALAMO — Although all but one position on Alamo’s city commission were up for grabs Tuesday, most of the incumbents defended their positions and the commission will only see one new member.

Oscar “Okie” Salinas beat out Joel Casas to fill the two years left of Trinidad “Trino” Medina’s Place 1 term. Salinas garnered 59.66% of the vote with 1,439 votes while Casas won 40.31% and 973 votes.

Medina’s bid for mayor was halted by incumbent Diana Martinez, who took 54.97% of the vote with 1,389 ballots cast in her favor while Medina garnered 45.03% with 1,138 votes.

Place 2 incumbent Pedro “Pete” Morales defended his seat with 53.96% of the ballots cast and 1,328 votes, while challenger Joseph Sweet came in with 46.04% and 1,133 votes.

Place 4 incumbent Maria Del Pilar Garza came out ahead of both of her challengers, Michael P. Benedetti and Lora “LJ” Gioeni, but will face Benedetti in a runoff election.

Garza won 45.34% of the ballots cast with 1,148 votes, while Benedetti scored 29.30% with 642 votes and Gioeni netted 25.36% with 642 votes.

The results have effectively stymied prospects of reinstalling former police chief Baudelio Castillo, who was fired in May.

Medina, who campaigned with Casas, Morales and Benedetti, called the police chief post one of the central issues of the election.

Castillo was fired in May after ongoing friction with Martinez and some of the council.

Castillo sued the city, Martinez, Commissioners Robert De La Garza and Maria Del Pilar Garza and Alamo City Manager Luciano Ozuna Jr. in June, accusing the defendants of retaliating against him by firing him from his job because he opened investigations into what he says is wrongdoing by city officials.

The defendants generally deny the allegations, and in answer to the lawsuit, said they

are protected by government immunity.

“I believe that the police chief got fired unjustly and after he sued the city and the mayor we (ended up) finding out a lot of things under sworn testimony, about what was going on, because nobody knew and the mayor and the majority did not want to give a reason to the rest of the council and to the citizens,” Medina said Tuesday. “We didn’t find out until the court case came out in Marla Cuellar’s court that he was investigating the mayor for the fraudulent checks she had written.”

Freshman Commissioner Salinas, who campaigned with Martinez, Sweet and Garza, said that he didn’t intend to dwell on the police chief controversy as a commissioner.

“The majority on the city commission had a decision that they made, and they went ahead and chose to remove him from the police chief position,” he said. “They want to keep on going back and forth on something from the past. It’s in the court, it’s the judge’s decision.”

Salinas said that while on the commission he hopes to focus on improving Alamo’s infrastructure.

There was a steady turnout at the polling place in Alamo despite technical difficulties that delayed voting for about an hour.

Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon said that a technical error Tuesday morning with the controller, the device that issues people access numbers to vote, temporarily caused election officials to send voters to other polling places.

“The controller is what gives this number out so there’s less room for error,” Ramon said. “Once we have an issue with something, we put it in a corner and replace it.”

Ramon says that according to staff at the location the delay caused little issues.

“Everybody was so understanding, out of the three [voters] that left, three came back,” she said.

Other voters were directed to a nearby location in Donna.

“That’s the great thing about countywide voting,” Ramon said.