Voters in Hidalgo County on Nov. 3 will either vote to keep incumbent Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, a Democrat, or choose his Republican rival Ezequiel “Zeik” Jurado to run the county’s largest law enforcement agency.

During the primary election, 63,921 people cast votes on the Democrat side, with 39,944 of those votes being cast for Guerra. On the Republican side, 9,898 people cast votes for Jurado, who was the sole candidate in the Republican primary.

Guerra’s campaign finance report from July 15, which covers Feb. 23 to June 30, indicates he had $26,850 in contributions and made $108,441.81 in political expenditures. As of June 30, Guerra had maintained $5,182.57 in campaign contributions. The sheriff also took out a $200,000 loan from Lone Star National Bank to help bankroll his campaign.

Jurado has not filed any campaign finance reports. That’s because he says he hasn’t taken any political contributions — a point he is proud of, saying he believes that will show voters he can’t be influenced and that he thinks he can reach voters through Facebook.

The Monitor interviewed both men last week and asked them two identical questions: what is your pitch to voters and what will you do if you’re elected?

The newspaper also asked Guerra about his handling of the coronavirus and asked Jurado his opinion on Guerra’s response to COVID-19.

In his message to voters, Guerra said his department has lowered the crime rate in Hidalgo County and improved partnerships with the agency’s local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

“We’ve expanded a lot of our community programs and we’ve been able to work with our county leaders and help our employees here at the sheriff’s office and give them some needed increase in salary,” Guerra said.

Guerra says his department has fought against all crimes in Hidalgo County, including human trafficking, and lowered domestic violence rates here.

“We’ve been able to work with a lot of our community partners and I’m very proud of that and am asking they keep me here and continue the success we have seen here at the sheriff’s office in Hidalgo County,” Guerra said.

Jurado said he doesn’t believe the crime rate in Hidalgo County has decreased under Guerra’s leadership.

“I think the people of this county deserve a lot better than they are getting. I know for a fact that Sheriff Guerra is lying to the public when he says the crime rate is the lowest it’s been in 25 years. That’s a lie,” Jurado said.

Crime data submitted yearly to the FBI indicates that violent and property crime has been decreasing in the last decade despite the county’s growing population.

“I know they are cooking the books,” Jurado said. “If you get out to the colonias and you ask the people, they are going to laugh. Excuse me? The crime rate is the lowest in 25 years? Come around here when the sun goes down and see what happens.”

As for deputy pay, Jurado says if he’s elected he’ll increase deputy salaries by 10% across the board.

However, Jurado was most emphatic about stamping out corruption he believes runs rampant throughout the county.

“If I get elected, just give me four years. I’m going to turn this county upside down in four years,” Jurado said.

Jurado claimed that if elected he will open investigations into bribery and solicitation of bribery that will expose corruption throughout Hidalgo County.

The Republican candidate also said that if elected he will promote transparency in the sheriff’s office by creating a new website where he will make a video to update the public on the agency’s arrests and provide monthly crime data to the public.

He also said he would start a ride-along program for people to ride around with him and spend the day with him.

Guerra said that if he is re-elected his focus will be expanding the Hidalgo County Detention Center.

“The cost of having to bear the added expenses of housing inmates outside of our county detention facility since we don’t have any room is going to continue so that’s going to be my challenge in the next four years, is trying to expand,” Guerra said.

The sheriff said officials are looking at all avenues, including a public-private partnership to build another jail.

“We have worked with our courts, with our District Attorney’s Office and I think that everything we’ve done that we can do to minimize the population of our detention facility has been done,” Guerra said. “And now the only option is to expand. However, we are competing with every other department in Hidalgo County and we a brand new $150 million courthouse and so we’re going to have to compete with that and expand our staff within that courthouse.”

As for coronavirus, Guerra said his office has been able to minimize the spread of the virus in the sheriff’s office and the detention facility.

“We just went through our jail inspection two weeks ago and talking with the jail inspector it was mentioned that we did a fantastic job in minimizing inmate risk to the coronavirus,” Guerra said.

As of last Tuesday, Guerra said there were no active cases in inmates and there were just three active cases in his staff.

Jurado was critical of Hidalgo County’s response to the coronavirus, saying the county judge’s emergency orders that included a mask mandate violated the Constitution.

“Well, there is document, if you will. It’s called the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the United States says the government cannot infringe on its citizens without due process or without having a law,” Jurado said.

He was also critical of Guerra’s deputies for arresting and citing people for violating Hidalgo County’s emergency orders.

As for the election, Jurado said he believes he will win in a landslide.

“I don’t need money. I can do this on Facebook. I’m going to make history. I’m going to be the first Republican sheriff in the history of this town,” he said. “If not the first, the first in a long time.”

As for Guerra, he asked voters for their continued trust.

“I’m still out here asking the citizens of Hidalgo County to come out and humbly asking for their continued trust and their vote in this election,” Guerra said.