HARLINGEN — Challenger J.J. Gonzalez calls it a “movement” that brought him back to the forefront of city politics.
But incumbent City Commissioner Richard Uribe feels the city’s upward “momentum” will lead him to a second term.
On June 22, the two clash in a runoff following a city election in which Gonzalez was the top vote-getter in a three-man race.
In the May 4 election for the commission’s District 1 seat, Gonzalez, a former commissioner, received 264 votes while Uribe pulled 256 votes.
Isidro Marquez, a retired maquiladora marketing director, fell short with 80 votes.
The City Commission ordered the runoff because neither of the two top candidates received at least 50 percent of the vote.
“I call it a movement,” Gonzalez, a real estate broker who served as a commissioner from 2000 to 2006, said Friday. “You’re running against the establishment. I used to see different factions. Now I see unity. You could see the excitement.”
Gonzalez said residents are calling for change.
“Voters are dissatisfied with City Hall,” he said. “They’re not happy with the status quo. It was grassroots people who want change who voted for me.”
However, Uribe said he’s confident his wide voter base will lead him to victory.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult run having two opponents,” the restaurant owner said of the May 4 race. “I look forward to Round 2.”
Uribe said his voter base represents different sectors of the community.
“It’s not just young people, it’s not just old people,” he said. “It’s all different demographics. It’s a good mix. I really look forward to continuing the momentum we have.”
During his three-year term, Uribe, a former Waterworks board chairman who oversaw a sewer plant overhaul whose in-house work saved the city $28 million, said he is most proud of helping to bring four all-inclusive playgrounds for special needs children.
“We have a really good council,” he said. “We can disagree but it’s always for what’s best for the city. When we work together as a community for our community there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Puente takes office
In the May 4 race for the District 2 seat, Frank Puente, another former commissioner, received 298 votes to defeat incumbent Tudor Uhlhorn, a farmer and real estate investor who had 262 votes in his bid for a third term.
Like Gonzalez, Puente believes residents are calling for change.
“I see the citizens of Harlingen are ready for some kind of change,” Puente, a roofing contractor who served as a commissioner from 2003 to 2006, said.
“Things are going well for the city but there’s always room for improvement. I feel that’s where the movement is headed. I’ve received a lot of congratulatory messages about bringing a breath of fresh air, new ideas and changes to the city.”
However, while Puente and Gonzalez talked about change, the city’s top elected position remains held by the man who will become the city’s longest-serving mayor in at least 40 years.
In the at-large mayoral election, attorney Chris Boswell won a fifth term in office, receiving 1,937 votes to defeat political newcomer Miguel Angel Segura, an assistant physical therapist who finished with 864 votes.
After taking the oath of office Wednesday, Boswell called on the commission to “work together.”
“I am more committed now than I’ve ever been,” Boswell said in a powerful speech. “We can have an even better city than we have now.”
June 22 runoff
Where to vote: Harlingen City Hall
When: Early voting June 10-18
Who: Richard Uribe (I) vs. J.J. Gonzalez