Javier Villalobos, a Republican, has won a mayor’s seat in Texas currently held by a Democrat by a small margin, according to unofficial election results.
Villalobos won the election in McAllen with 4,744 votes—just over 51 percent of the vote—leading his Democratic opponent, Veronica Vela Whitacre, by 206 votes, the results (pdf) show.
Whitacre received 4,538 votes.
Both candidates are currently McAllen city commissioners but serve in different districts.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott congratulated Villalobos on the victory.
“Javier Villalobos is a proven leader who cares deeply about the people of the Rio Grande Valley,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Whitacre’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
McAllen, located at the southern tip of The Lone Star State in the Rio Grande Valley, is a hub for illegal border crossings. The city is struggling to balance the benefits of border trade with the pressure on the budget caused by the inflow of illegal immigrants.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling announced on Dec. 14, 2020, that he will not run again for election after 43 years of public service.
“I’ve served the [City of McAllen] for 43 years and I’ve made the difficult decision to step down as Mayor,” Darling wrote in a Twitter post. “I will not seek re-election after my term expires in May. I’ve had 8 great years as Mayor of the best city in the world, in my humble opinion.”
The candidates’ viewpoints on immigration didn’t appear to play a key role in the mayoral election, as Villalobos and Whitacre hold similar views. Both have said that the handling of illegal immigrants is the duty of the federal government and that the city should be paid for it. Both have urged for the border to remain open for trade.
Villalobos told Texas Public Radio that the border wall is a dead issue, while Whitacre is doubtful about its efficacy.
“I don’t even think it’s worth talking [about] anymore,” Villalobos said. “I know the issues we have are not really the border wall, but reconstructing the levees to protect our residents. Whether somebody was for or against, that’s honestly not an issue anymore.”
Villalobos ran on a typically Republican pro-business platform, being against higher taxes.
“Cut expenses and work efficiently and effectively, but always work carefully to hold the line on taxes,” he told Texas Border Business.
He also believes the $15 an hour minimum wage will kill small businesses in McAllen.