Election Day: 5 races to watch in the Rio Grande Valley

Local News

The ballot includes a hotly contested Texas House seat, a judicial race that may pit the Valley against Corpus Christi, several county-level propositions and a slew of school board candidates. (CBS 4 News File Photo)

When Rio Grande Valley residents head to the polls on Election Day, they’ll have plenty to do after picking a president.

The ballot includes a hotly contested Texas House seat, a judicial race that may pit the Valley against Corpus Christi, several county-level propositions and a slew of school board candidates.

Here are five contests worth watching when the polls close:

Proposition 1: the Hidalgo County Healthcare District

The marquee issue in Hidalgo County is deja vu for voters.

In November 2014, voters narrowly rejected the Hidalgo County Hospital District.

Just how narrowly?

About 34,300 people supported the district, according to Hidalgo County Elections Department data. Another 36,800 voted against it. And 12,400 skipped the proposition altogether.

It’s back with a few tweaks and a new name: the Hidalgo County Healthcare District.

Listed on the ballot as Proposition 1, the district would collect a new property tax to fund health care for the poor and partially support the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

Proponents say it’ll boost the Valley’s economy and provide vital support for the long-sought medical school.

Proposition 1 brought together local hospitals, which funded a pro-Healthcare District political action committee called the Healthy Hidalgo PAC.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance provided the majority of the money, pouring $590,000 into the Healthy Hidalgo PAC since mid-June, according to campaign finance reports filed with the county Elections Department.

Opponents warn the Healthcare District will create a new property tax that Hidalgo County can’t afford.

The anti-Proposition 1 players weren’ as well coordinated, spending money through two small PACs. Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas also paid for anti-Proposition 1 advertisements.

The Texas Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC provided a major boost, spending $114,000 on anti-Proposition 1 advertising.

Whether the money will change minds remains to be seen.

Hilda and Bobby

The fight for Texas House District 41 pits Republican challenger Hilda Garza DeShazo — a former McAllen school board trustee — against state Rep. Bobby Guerra, a Democrat.

District 41 voters rejected the Hidalgo County Healthcare District in 2014, and DeShazo built her campaign around opposition to Proposition 1.

She relentlessly attacked Guerra, calling the Healthcare District “Bobby Guerra’s tax scheme.”

“Bobby ignored his constituents and forced a revote on the Hospital Tax District,” according to an ad DeShazo’s campaign placed in The Monitor.

Guerra fired back, reminding voters that DeShazo served on the school board when trustees pushed a plan to fund campus renovations with a major property tax increase.

Voters rejected the tax increase and DeShazo, who lost her re-election bid in May 2015.

Guerra also ran an ad in The Monitor, calling DeShazo “Trump’s #1 cheerleader in the Valley” — and showing news coverage of her at the GOP convention in Cleveland.

She’s the only Republican with a shot at winning Hidalgo County.

Tony Yzaguirre vs. the Write-Ins

Embattled Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre is the only candidate on the ballot, but he’s running for re-election under indictment.

In January, a grand jury indicted Yzaguirre on 10 counts of bribery, 11 counts of abuse of official capacity, one count of official oppression, and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Investigators called the case “Operation Dirty Deeds” and accused Yzaguirre of accepting cash to register vehicles without following the normal process.

Yzaguirre claimed Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz brought the case against him for political reasons and denied doing anything wrong.

“I ask that the citizens of this county hold off judgment until all the facts have been presented,” Yzaguirre said in January, days after investigators raided the Tax Office.

Prosecutors quietly dropped charges against several former Cameron County employees, prompting speculation about the veracity of the allegations. The charges against Yzaguirre, though, remain pending.

Without an opponent, Yzaguirre won the Democratic Party primary by default. Nobody bothered to run as a Republican.

He’ll have opposition on Election Day: write-in candidates Leonel “Leo” Lopez and Randy Gonzales.

Cameron County voters must decide whether to or not to write Yzaguirre off.

13th Court of Appeals: Perkes vs. Hinojosa

Voters have a tough choice for the 13th Court of Appeals Place 3: Two qualified, well-respected candidates with deep Valley connections.

Former state Judge Leticia Hinojosa — the first female judge elected in the Valley — challenged 13th Court of Appeals Justice Greg Perkes for the seat.

Raised in Hidalgo County, Perkes graduated from McAllen High School and earned his doctor of jurisprudence from the St. Mary’s School of Law. He now lives in Corpus Christi.

Perkes is running as a Republican.

A Cameron County native, Hinojosa graduated from Brownsville Hanna High School and earned her doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Texas Law School. She now lives in Hidalgo County.

Hinojosa is running as a Democrat.

When the State Bar of Texas polled attorneys on the race, lawyers split: 138 supported Hinojosa and 137 supported Perkes. Another 46 supported Nueces County attorney Carlos Valdez.

The 13th Court of Appeals hears appeals from Hidalgo County, Cameron County, much of the Coastal Bend and rural counties surrounding Victoria.

… And Don’t Forget the School Boards

From Brownsville to Rio Grande City, more than 140 candidates have filed for seats on 15 school boards.

The dizzying array of candidates includes everyone from Erasmo Castro, the Facebook purveyor of Brownsville chisme, to the Zambrano brothers, who want Pharr-San Juan-Alamo residents to “Vote Zambrano twice.”

The Donna Independent School District attracted more applications than any other: 26 candidates running for six school board seats. And in Valley View, tension over the school board race sparked a fight at the polls that sent incumbent Trustee Prisciliano “J.R.” Treviño to the hospital.

Winners will control the biggest government budgets in the Valley and dictate hiring at the region’s largest employers.

While serving on a City Commission or winning a mayoral seat may be more prestigious, school boards wield more power.

Just ask Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried, who’s running for the Edcouch-Elsa board.

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