Texas Supreme Court denies review of Mission mayoral election

The surprising 2018 victory of Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña appeared reaffirmed Friday after the Texas Supreme Court declined to review the election contest that challenged the results.

Former Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas filed the election contest following the June mayoral runoff election in which Salinas was ousted after 20 years in office.

Following a trial held that fall, the judge ruled in favor of Salinas, stating it was impossible to determine the true outcome of the runoff election and ordered a new election to be held.

However, O’Caña’s attorneys appealed the case to the 13th Court to Appeals which sided with O’Caña by reversing the trial court’s decision.

By not taking up the case, the state Supreme Court allowed the appellate court’s decision to stand.

“We’re happy that this case is finally over and that the court, I think, recognized that the decision by the court of appeals, reversing the trial court’s decision in this case, is the correct decision,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party who represented O’Caña in the case.

“Putting to rest this frivolous election contest and allowing Mayor O’Caña, without this thing hanging over him, to continue his term as mayor of the great city of Mission.”

Salinas’ son, Ricardo “Rick” Salinas, an attorney who represented the former mayor in the case, said he was not surprised by the supreme court’s decision and added that his priority was the criminal investigation into the election by the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Salinas

“My primary objective was to expose their criminal behavior and I think we did that,” Rick Salinas said. “Now, does that meet the legal definition of what the election code requires? Obviously, the supreme court says no but undoubtedly there’s a lot of information out there to suggest that they’ve engaged in a conspiracy.”

The attorney general’s office has reviewed election materials, but has not officially confirmed an investigation into a conspiracy.

Hinojosa scoffed at the suggestion that criminality was exposed during the trial, pointing to the witnesses’ criminal history.

“He brought in a series of convicted felons to testify that they somehow had received money to vote in that election,” Hinojosa said. “You can take that for what it’s worth.”

After coming in second behind Salinas in the May 2018 general election, O’Caña was victorious during the June runoff with 3,475 to 3,318 votes, according to the official canvass. A difference of 157 votes.

The election contest filed by Salians against O’Caña soon followed, alleging illegal vote harvesting and bribery by his campaign.

The trial, which concluded Oct. 5, included testimony from voters who alleged they were illegally assisted and a few who claimed they were paid for their votes.

O’Caña’s attorneys attacked the credibility of the witnesses and argued that even if their testimonies were true, they were not sufficient in number to have affected the outcome of the election.

The 13th Court of Appeals appeared to agree, not finding sufficient evidence or more than 157 illegal votes.