Runoff set to decide District 1 position; Uribe to face Gonzalez

HARLINGEN — The city commission’s balance is on the line.

In the city’s May 4 election, voters shocked Mayor Chris Boswell’s administration.

Although Boswell earned a relatively easy victory, the incumbent commissioners didn’t fare as well.

Former City Commissioner Frank Puente narrowly ousted two-term incumbent Tudor Uhlhorn, a strong voice on the commission.

Now, a runoff pitting City Commissioner Richard Uribe against challenger J.J. Gonzalez has been tentatively set for June 22, City Secretary Amanda Elizondo said yesterday.

Tomorrow, city commissioners are expected to officially call the District 1 runoff for June 22 as they canvas the May 4 election’s results.

In the city election, unofficial results show Gonzalez, a former commissioner, received 264 votes while Uribe, running for his second term, pulled 256 votes.

Isidro Marquez, a retired maquiladora marketing director, fell well short with 80 votes.

Commissioners will order the runoff because neither of the two top vote-getters received at least 51 percent of the vote.

In the city election, Puente, who was vastly out-spent and a roofing contractor, received 298 votes to defeat Uhlhorn, who took 262 votes in the race for the commission’s District 2 seat.

Meanwhile, Boswell pulled 1,937 votes to defeat political newcomer Miguel Angel Segura, an assistant physical therapist who finished with 864 votes.

In the runoff, Uribe represents the city’s current administration while Gonzalez is calling for change.

Uribe, a restaurant owner, did not respond to several telephone calls and messages.

However, during his campaign, Uribe said he supported construction of the new $16.7 million Harlingen Convention Center and the $4.5 renovation of the Baxter Building into a largely “affordable-income” apartment development.

Uribe said he believes the city should work with Valle Vista Mall’s new owner to market the property which could feature restaurants, fitness centers and recreational facilities.

Meanwhile, Uribe described a strong city economy focused on funding continued street and drainage upgrades.

Yesterday, Gonzales said he was counting on “grassroots” support to defeat Uribe in the runoff.

“People want a change,” Gonzalez, a real estate broker, said. “People are not happy with the status quo. They want accountability and transparency.”

Gonzalez noted Uribe vastly outspent him during the campaign, amassing $4,100 in contributions, far more than his $1,262.

“He has a lot more supporters than I do — he’s an incumbent,” Gonzalez, who borrowed $1,000 in loans, said. “I’m running on a tight budget. “I’m walking the streets, making phone calls, touching base with the community.”

During his campaign, Gonzalez described the city’s economy as falling behind some Valley cities.

Gonzalez called on the city to hire “business lobbyists” to draw major companies offering high-playing jobs to town while pushing for the development of a business incubator to help entrepreneurs open their own shops.

According to Gonzalez, the city could use Community Development Block Grant money to fund more street repair projects.

As part of the city’s annual street repair project, so-called CDBG money are used to fix streets in low-income areas qualifying for such funding.

Gonzalez also called for a committee to propose plans to develop Valle Vista Mall, describing the property as “a major revitalization effort.”

Marquez could play a role in determining the outcome of the race.

Yesterday, he said he had not decided whether he will support Uribe or Gonzalez.

“I’m considering it,” he said.

Marquez said he wants his voters to cast their ballots for the candidate who will promote the city’s centralized location, Valley International Airport and the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios while pushing attracting manufacturing jobs over low-paying retail jobs.