Incumbents remain, new faces arise after local elections

Lydia Caballero and supporters of Norman Esquivel outside South Padre Island City Hall on Nov. 3. Photo by Gaige Davila.


By Gaige Davila 

Election season came to an end in Laguna Vista, Port Isabel and South Padre Island last night, with most incumbents retaining their seats for another term and new representatives filling unopposed seats.

Laguna Vista councilperson, Place 2, Johvonne Howard was reelected with 807 votes, a small margin against challenger Richard Hinojosa, who secured 761 votes. Laguna Vista councilmember, Place 1, Mike Carter retains his seat after running unopposed. Bettina Tolin, owner and executive chef of Marcello’s Ocean Grille and Spirits, was elected for Laguna Vista’s Place 3 seat, running unopposed. James “Bubba” Vann, owner of Gallery Built Homes, was elected to Laguna Vista’s Place 6 seat after running unopposed. 

A Laguna Vista home rule charter amendment, which allows councilmembers to fill a council vacancy without a special election, passed with 1,335 votes. Three-hundred nine people Laguna Vista residents against it. 

In Port Isabel, incumbent Juan Jose “JJ” Zamora will remain mayor after securing 843 votes to challenger Balde Alaniz’s 592 votes. Port Isabel city commissioners Carmen Rios and Martin Cantu Jr., both running unopposed, will remain for another term. A city charter amendment, where mayors and commissioners serve three-year, staggered terms, was approved by 933 votes, compared to the 378 Port Isabel residents who opposed it. 

SPI Councilmembers Ken Medders and Kerry Schwartz; Leslie Blasing; and SPI Mayor Patrick McNulty across the street from SPI City Hall on Election Day. Photo by Gaige Davila.

On South Padre Island, incumbent Patrick McNulty will remain mayor after receiving 838 votes. Challenger Brandy Buntin, owner of Lobo Del Mar Cafe, received 406 votes. Alita Bagley, South Padre Island councilmember, Place 4, will have another term, after receiving 549 votes. Challengers Thomas Bainter, CEO of Costa Cleanups, and Lydia Caballero, a former Navy nurse, received 250 and 357 votes, respectively.  

Laguna Madre Water District (LMWD) Place 2 Board Member and restaurateur Scott Friedman, who ran unopposed, will remain for another term. Incumbent Place 3 Board Member Herb Houston lost to Divots Bar and Grill owner William “Bill” Donahue, after the latter secured 2,661 votes compared to the former’s 1,912. Incumbent Place 4 Board Member Alex Avalos has lost his seat to Dave Boughter, general manager of the South Padre Island Golf Course, after Boughter secured 1,824 votes to Avalos’ 1,662 votes.

The LMWD’s Proposition A, advocating for a $27 million for water infrastructure projects, was voted for overwhelmingly, securing 3,448 votes, or 70.45 percent.

Point Isabel Independent School District police officer Norman Esquivel won the Cameron County Constable Pct. 1 seat against Port Isabel Police Department officer Daniel Holland, securing 3,725 votes to Holland’s 2,848.  

Texas state senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. of District 27 (Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties)  won his 16th consecutive term against Vanessa Tijerina. 

Texas state representative Alex Dominguez, District 37 (Laguna Madre area, parts of Brownsville, Los Fresnos, Bayview, Indian Lake) will have another term after running unopposed. 

U.S. Representative Filemon Vela of District 34 (Bee Cameron, DeWitt, Goliad, part of Gonzalez, part of Hidalgo, part of Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg part of San Patricio and Willacy counties) won another term, securing 68,501 votes against challenger Rey Gonzales, who got 39,798 votes. 

U.S. Senator for Texas John Cornyn has won reelection against Mary “MJ” Hegar for a fourth term. 

In Cameron County, 86,901 people voted early, surpassing 2016’s early voting tally (61,481). Across Laguna Madre area polling places (in Laguna Vista, Port Isabel and South Padre Island), 4,454 people voted early. On Election Day, 18,150 Cameron County residents voted, with all precincts reporting by 10:30 p.m., according to Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza. 

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