HARLINGEN — Change is coming to City Hall after voters stunned incumbents in two of three races.
Frank Puente defeated Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn by 35 votes in a rematch capping a six-year-old rivalry.
Meanwhile, former Commissioner J.J. Gonzalez pulled an eight-vote margin to force a runoff with Commissioner Richard Uribe.
But for longtime Mayor Chris Boswell it was business as usual as he easily won re-election. Boswell defeated challenger Miguel Angel Segura, 1,937 – 864 votes.
“I feel great to have the confidence of the voters to reelect me to another term and am very appreciative,” Boswell, an attorney who has become the city’s longest-serving mayor in at least the past 40 years, said. “I believe the voters like the direction the city is going in, that they approve what we’re doing. My goal is to improve the city and grow the city and see it progress.”
In the race for the District 2 seat, Puente, who was vastly outspent, won 298 votes to defeat Uhlhorn, who fell short in his bid for a third term with 262 votes.
Since Uhlhorn won election six years ago, he and Puente have been locked in a rivalry.
“It’s redemption,” Puente, who lost by 13 votes three years ago, said. “It’s a sweet, sweet, sweet victory. It’s an awesome feeling knowing the people from District 2 said they believe in me now.”
Puente said he counted on grassroots support from precincts across District 2.
“I was meeting people. Putting a face to me made a big difference,” he said. “I had a good team. I had a lot of people who believe in me. Now it’s time for a change.”
Uhlhorn, who reported $9,391 in political contributions, dramatically outspend Puente, who listed $950 in contributions.
“I knew he was going to spend more money because he can afford it and I know he had the backing,” he said. “I banked my campaign on my grass roots effort.”
Puente, a roofing company owner who served as commissioner from 2003 to 2006, said he would work with commissioners.
“Nothing can be done unless we’re a team,” he said. “What do we need to do to move Harlingen forward.”
Uhlhorn, who first won office six years ago with a victory over Puente, said his rival worked harder this time around.
“That’s the way it goes. The citizens have spoken,” Uhlhorn, a farmer and real estate investor, said. “I had my six-year run. I’m fine with that. I congratulate Frank. He’s always run a clean race against me and I know he’ll do what’s right for Harlingen.”
In the race for the District 1 seat, Gonzalez pulled 264 votes to force a runoff with Uribe, who took 256 votes in a bid for a second term.
Isidro Marquez, a retired maquiladora marketing director, fell short with 80 votes.
Uribe and Gonzalez, who served as a commissioner from 2000 to 2006, did not respond to messages for comment.