Hidalgo County officials took their fight to hold a special election to the highest civil court in Texas, and today they lost.
The Texas Supreme Court denied the county's request to lift a stay that blocked a special election to fill a vacant seat on the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court. Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra wanted to hold a nonpartisan special election in November to fill the seat of former commissioner Sylvia Hand, who resigned in March after pleading guilty to charges of tax fraud and harboring illegal immigrants. County Judge Rene Ramirez appointed a local concrete company president, A.C. Cuellar Jr., to do the job until voters chose a permanent commissioner.
In the meantime, the local Republican and Democratic parties selected candidates to fill the seat for the November general election ballot. But the Democratic Party did not pick Cuellar, as many had expected. The party chose Mercedes Mayor Joel Quintanilla as the Democratic candidate for the commissioner's seat. Soon after Guerra got a visit from folks concerned about why Cuellar wasn't the pick, County Judge Ramirez decided that instead of filling the seat through the general election, he should order a special election, allowing Cuellar, Quintanilla and anyone else who wanted to to appear on the ballot in November.
Secretary of State Hope Andrade said the judge didn't have the authority to call a special election. Local attorneys echoed that opinion, and Quintanilla sued the county to try to get them to stop pressing ahead with the special election. A district judge agreed with Andrade, too, and ordered the county to proceed with the general election — not a special election — with Quintanilla as the Democratic candidate. Guerra appealed the district court's decision to the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas, which declined to take up the matter. He then appealed to the Supreme Court, which today upheld the district judge's decision.
What it all means: No special election in Hidalgo County, and Quintanilla will be the Democratic candidate for the commissioner's court spot on the November ballot.
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