|HARLINGEN, May 13 - You can never be sure an election is in the bag until the votes are counted but Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell says he could sense things were going well.
“It was really sort of interesting to go from door to door and person to person. People who I had never met before said almost the identical thing: we really like what you are doing. We really like what is going on in the city, we can see a lot of progress,” Boswell said.
Boswell won re-election on Saturday evening, handily defeating challenger Rick Morales. The unofficial vote totals were: Boswell 2,848, Morales 1,458. That gave Boswell 66.14 percent to Morales’ 33.86 percent.
Boswell said it was almost uncanny, the way voters were saying the same things. “It was almost the same words they were using. It was very positive. You never think you have it in the bag and you always run scared but it was sure was a positive reinforcement when you go out and talk to the folks and you ask them how it is going and how do you think I am doing and the answer is, I think you are doing good.”
Boswell said he and the new city commission plan to continue where they left off.
“We are going to continue doing what we are doing. The four areas I have laid out, we are going to build on that. We have some new ideas and new projects that are in the works and we are going to keep working on those and I think we are going to have a really good city commission we will be able to make a lot of progress.”
The four areas identified by Boswell for the campaign were education, particularly medical and higher education, job growth in the manufacturing and service sectors, public safety, and improving the beauty of the city. His campaign theme was ‘Momentum, Momentum, Momentum.’
Also speaking on Saturday evening, Morales said he accepted the will of the voters. He said he wanted to move Harlingen in a different direction but the vote totals clearly showed most people are happy with the way things are going.
“I am obviously disappointed but the people have spoken. In this great country of ours, when the people speak we respect that,” Morales told the Guardian. He said he wishes city leaders the best.
“I want the city to prosper. I am not leaving Harlingen. It is my home. It has always been my home. I am looking forward to serving in other capacities in my city. You have to live with the results. The voters want to continue with this type of government. They have said, we want more, we want more.”
Morales said it was not easy challenging Boswell because, as the incumbent, he used the election apparatus to maximum advantage. Morales said this included closing down certain early vote polling locations on the heavily Hispanic west side of the city, reducing the early voting hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and reducing the number of days of early voting from ten to seven.
“I have never seen such election shenanigans - shenanigans that were pulled to lean the race over to my opponent,” Morales said. “This why they keep winning, over and over, when you stack the deck that much it is hard for any individual to come up. You have to out fund raise them, then you have to take on the Valley Morning Star, then you have to take on the hours being skewed against you, the days being skewed against you. It is kind of like a domino-effect.”
Boswell has refuted Morales’ claims about voter suppression. "City Secretary Amanda Elizondo made the recommendation to the City Commission to use five polling locations. That recommendation was originally adopted by the City Commission at a meeting I was not present at on Feb. 6 because I was in Austin supporting the University/Med School legislation," Boswell told the Guardian in April.
Morales also told the Guardian he is worried Harlingen could lose the Regional Academic Health Center if city leaders do not agree a compromise with their counterparts in the Upper Rio Grande Valley over legislation to create a four-year medical school. “We have to reach a compromise with our friends in Hidalgo County. If we do not I can see Texas A&M University going in there and building a medical school in McAllen-Edinburg. We would be left high and dry,” Morales said.