School Board Place 7 goes to voters again on date still to be set

HARLINGEN – The Harlingen school board last night officially canvassed the results of its recent election in which both candidates tied.

Dr. Nolan Perez certified the tally of the May 10 election in which Eladio Jaimez and Rosalinda Mercado-Garza received 1,422 votes. The canvassing took place at a special board meeting.

The board will meet again tomorrow night to determine the date for another election. Julio Cavazos, chief financial officer, said the election must be held within no less than 20 days and no more than 30 days.

The election May 10 resulted in Jaimez receiving 1,422 votes and Mercado-Garza receiving 1,421 votes. Mercado-Garza’s tally included one curbside vote.

The community was in disbelief. Julio Cavazos, chief financial officer, said he’d never seen an election this close. Others voiced similar sentiments.

However, there was more to come.

Last Saturday, the Early Voting Election Board added one provisional ballot to the election returns. The extra vote was in favor of Mercado-Garza, bringing the vote to a tie.

Mercado-Garza, 43, and Jaimez, 39, had the option of flipping a coin to determine the winner. The Texas Election Code gives them that option.

However, both candidates declined the coin toss, stating they had a responsibility to their supporters to continue the campaign.

Tuesday night, the district held a formal recount of the votes at Harlingen City Hall. That recount confirmed the tally.

Although another election will be held, the votes from May 10 still had to be canvassed and declared the official result.

Mercado-Garza said Tuesday night she looked forward to continuing her campaign.

“We will continue to visit all the areas that have polling places in the community,” she said. “We will continue doing the meet and greets and block walks.”

Jaimez said he and his supporters are excited and ready to extend his campaign. He pointed out this situation provides him the rare opportunity to learn from the election and act accordingly.

“It’s not often you get a second chance to work on things you should have done better,” he said.

The recount Tuesday night cost the district $2,000, Cavazos said. Another election will cost $30,000, all from the general fund.

Jaimez and Mercado-Garza are vying for Place 7, which was recently vacated by long-time board member Verna Young. Incumbent Greg Powers ran unopposed for Place 3 and received 2,385 votes. There was an issuance of certification for his re-election to the board, where he began serving in 2009.

“It really is an honor to serve with this board,” Powers said. “It’s a very diverse board. Everyone brings something different to the table.”

The school board was also reorganized last night. Long-time board member Gerry Fleuriet was named president for the third time, taking over the reigns for Perez who just finished his year. The position is a one-year term.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to serve,” she said. “This is the best board and administration in the state of Texas. Everyone here is committed to doing the best we possibly can to meet the needs of all our students.”

Board Member Bobby Muñiz, owner of Rio Grande Pharmacy, was named vice-president. George McShan, former president of the school board, was named secretary.