RAYMONDVILLE — Residents began going to the polls Tuesday in one of Willacy County’s most hotly contested elections in years.
Early voting was brisk for the March 3 Democratic Party primary — the first election in which Sheriff Larry Spence isn’t on the ballot since he took office in 1985.
“There’s quite a bit of turnout right now,” Joe Vasquez, the county’s voter registrar, said of early voting. “It’s pretty busy — so far so good.”
Spence’s decision against running for re-election as he battles cancer has opened the field to six candidates.
“When the incumbent is not running for re-election we have a slew of people running,” Lefty Cavazos, the county’s Democratic Party chairman, said.
District attorney’s race
The race for the county’s top prosecutor has turned into a rematch of the 2016 contest, with District Attorney Annette Hinojosa facing her two political rivals — Bernard Ammerman, a Travis County prosecutor who lost his seat to her four years ago, and Juan Angel Guerra, an attorney who held the office from 1997 to 2008.
“I think it’s going to be close like the last time,” Cavazos said.
Meanwhile, former County Judge John F. Gonzales Jr., an insurance agent who lost his gavel to Judge Aurelio Guerra in 2014, stunned many local politicos with his bid for the Precinct 5 constable’s badge, for which he’s vying against Manuel Guerra, a former prison guard.
Crowded sheriff’s race
The race for the sheriff’s badge pits Andres “Andy” Maldonado, who serves as the department’s major; Ernie Garcia, who previously wore the major’s badge; J.M. Gonzalez, a deputy sheriff; Daniel “Dan” Solis, a cook who formerly served as a deputy sheriff; and Isabel Hernandez, a deputy sheriff.
“It’s unusual because there are no fireworks going off — because everybody knows each other,” Cavazos said, referring to the race crowded with sheriff’s deputies.
In the race for the Precinct 2 Constable’s badge, Andres “Andy” Chavez, a former Raymondville police officer who serves as the city’s code enforcement director, faces Juan “Johnny” Mijares, a deputy constable, and Gustavo “Gus” Prieto, a deputy constable.
Meanwhile, Precinct 3 Constable Ben Vera faces Jonathan Scaggs, a Kenedy County sheriff’s deputy.
In the county’s Republican Primary, there are no candidates running in contested races.
The early voting period ends March 28.