MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling coasted to a comfortable win in his re-election bid.
His margin was so great in the early vote that Darling claimed victory before the final totals were confirmed.
“It’s the hardest race I’ve ever run,” Darling told joyous supporters. “I’m humbled. I can’t wait to start a new term.”
Speaking to reporters outside his campaign headquarters, Darling, an attorney, said: “Othal Brand just called me and congratulated me. I appreciate that.
“Next year will be my 40th year with the City in some capacity. I think some of the love came back. It sure feels good to win.”
The unofficial result shows Darling securing 4,409 votes, or 57 percent. His main challenger, businessman Othal Brand, Jr., picked up 3,601 votes, or 40 percent. Libertarian Jonathan Carranza trailed with 250 votes, or three perent.
“It’s not about me, it’s about you,” Darling said, pointing to his supporters. He thanked campaign treasurer David Guerra, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, and campaign managers Martha Hinojosa and Mike Carrera.
“It was hard fought. I love you all. Viva the City of McAllen,” Darling added.
The Darling campaign headquarters on N. 2nd and Nolana was noisy and boisterous. “We won, we won, we won,” campaign manager Martha Hinojosa texted, as soon as the early vote totals were announced.
Another campaign worker commented: “We wrapped it up at Lark (Community Center). We felt the love for Jim.”
Brand outspent Darling 3-1 during the campaign. The Darling camp was so confident it kept tens of thousands of dollars in the bank.
Darling later issued this statement:
“I am honored and humbled that the citizens of McAllen have once again, believed in me to serve as their mayor of our great city. Ultimately, this race was about a difference in philosophy about how best to manage, lead and grow McAllen to continue to be the leading city in the Rio Grande Valley. Now let’s get back to work.”
There was a stark contrast in the atmosphere at Brand’s campaign office in north McAllen. “It does not look good,” said one campaign worker, as soon as the polls closed.
In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Brand said he was pleased to have run a clean campaign.
“It was not the way we wanted it to come out. We really thought there would be a stronger showing than we had. Not good enough,” Brand said.
“I just hope that some of the things I brought to light… I am real happy for J.J. Zamora, and Omar, being two new faces on the city commission. I am sorry I am not going to be there with them. The two of them will add a lot of what we had in our campaign, those guys will carry a lot of that.”
Challenger J.J. Zamora defeated incumbent city commissioner Trey Pebley. Omar Quintanilla won an open seat on the city commission.
“We are not done but that is it for now,” Brand said.
Asked if negative publicity hurt his campaign, Brand said: “I believe the smear tactics that were used certainly played a part in it. I felt some of it was not worth responding to. It was all on Facebook, where you have anonymous people making all sorts of statements. You discount a lot of it because they are not even McAllen people but what they say still has an effect on those that can vote. It resonates.
“Trying to dredge up stuff from 20 years ago, 40 years ago… if you are going to tell the story, tell the whole story. I will be addressing these issues now that the election is over. We will go from there.”
Asked if his late father would have been proud, Brand answered affirmatively. Othal Brand, Sr., is the most famous mayor in McAllen’s history. He served as mayor for 20 years in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I think he would have been proud. My Dad put 100 percent into it and I think we did. Our 100 percent was not enough but you live and learn,” Brand said, pointing out that his father lost his first election.
Brand interrupted his concession speech to take a call from Darling. He quipped that he and Mayor Darling would go see an Enrique Iglesias concert. A show Iglesias put on in McAllen was a talking point in the campaign, with the City of McAllen saying the terms of a contract prevented it from telling taxpayers how much Iglesias was paid.
“Jim told me a month ago, when this is all over we will go and see Iglesias. I said, sure. We are not going to go,” Brand said.
Brand later issued this statement on his Facebook page:
“Thank you to all the voters that came out to support our campaign this election. I want to thank my wife, Sara; my family, my friends, and my amazing campaign team. We will continue to fight for what is right for McAllen. We ran a clean and honest campaign and hope that we have shed light on what’s going on in our city. I ask everyone to continue to ask questions and hold our city commission accountable. I trust in God’s plan and only He knows. Thank you again and God bless you and this great city of McAllen — we’ll see you again.”
Canvassing the Votes
Results are unofficial until they are canvassed on Tuesday May 16, 2017 at a Special Call City Commission Meeting at 7:30 a.m. The official Oath of Office Ceremony will take place prior to the start of the next regularly scheduled Commission Workshop on Monday, May 22, 2017.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows McAllen Mayor Jim Darling with his family at his campaign headquarters on Election Night.
Editor’s Note: Video Journalist Apolonio Sandoval, Jr., contributed to this story from McAllen, Texas.