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Former military man Lt. Col. Julián Leyzaola came oh-so-close to winning the Tijuana mayor's race, but in the end was defeated by a narrow margin by Juan Manuel Gastélum of the National Action Party (PAN). Gastélum won the mayor's post in a 12-candidate race with 23.18% of the vote to 22.14% for René Mendívil of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and 22.13% for Leyzaola of the tiny Social Encounter Party. The Morena Party candidate had 11.67% and independent Gastón Luken 8.44%. How much has two-time presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador's lefist Morena party eclipsed the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in Tijuana? The PRD gained just 1.79% of the vote, according to preliminary results. Independent Carolina Aubanel won 1.4%.
Update: Final results placed Leyzaola in second place, but Gastélum was elected. Leyzaola said in November that he may run again for mayor in 2019. Story, Frontera.
How much legitimacy will Gastélum have by becoming mayor while winning less than a quarter of votes cast in an election with with 32% turnout? His 80,665 votes defeated Mendívil by 3,600 votes, who in turn finished ahead of Leyzaola by 34 votes in an election where 348,023 ballots were cast. Although Luken in the end appeared to have directed some of his voters toward Leyzaola, had Luken not run, it appears likely that Gastélum would have won with a greater plurality; Luken represented the PAN in Congress from 2009-2012. Former PAN Mayor Héctor Osuna Jaime of the Baja California Party won 1.96% of the vote; both he and Luken vied for but lost the PAN nomination for governor in 2013 to former Tijuana Mayor Francisco "Kiko" Vega, now serving as Baja California's state executive.
Could Lt. Col. Julián Leyzaola, the former Tijuana police chief who brought down the city's murder rate, be elected the city's mayor today?
Polls are unclear, but at least one has put the Social Encounter Party candidate (seen here with his wife) relatively close to the perceived front-runners, National Action Party (PAN) candidate Juan Manuel Gastélum and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate René Mendívil.
Gastélum, who has been an ally of Gov. Francisco "Kiko" Vega, was the only PAN candidate from Baja California to be directly elected to the national Congress in the 2012 election. (In the 2015 election, however, the PAN swept all eight races).
Mendívil, long an ally of the man whom Vega defeated in the 2013 governor's race, former Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti, served as leader of the state PRI and has more recently been a leader in the state legislature.
He has been promising a lot to Tijuanenses, like many other candidates.
Since Leyzaola left the Tijuana police post, the murder rate began creeping up again, largely because of infighting among local drug dealers, rather than the infighting that took place between drug cartels over who was going to have control of the Tijuana "plaza." He has promised to clean up the city.
A Leyzaola spokesman told MexicoPerspective that the campaign had been making 4,000 phone calls a day to Tijuana voters, and that 80% had said they were with him.
Leyzaola, who suffered numerous assassination attempts in Tijuana and later in Ciudad Juárez, where he also served as police chief, is now wheelchair-bound thanks to an attack against him in Juárez.
If the campaign were decided based on billboard messages, it is very likely that independent candidate Gastón Luken would win. His billboards have called for an end to corruption and for greater transparency — indeed, one of his billboards calling for transparency actually had a transparent background. But few have given Luken, who represented the PAN in Congress from 2009-2012 even though he never joined the party, much of a chance in the election. SanDiegoRed reported that in a forum sponsored by Frontera newspaper, Luken, when asked who he would want to win if he didn't, answered "Julián, period." He has blasted Mendívil for ties to the long-corrupt practices of the PRI and Gastélum for the backing he is receiving from taxi organizations that the city must regulate.
This is the first election where independents have been allowed to run in Tijuana, but other than Luken, they are not expected to do well. One of the independents is Carolina Aubanel, daughter of a former mayor who was once married to Carlos Bustamente, a PRIista who served as mayor from 2010-2013. Their daughter served as the city's first lady during his term. Many of the independent and small-party candidates who are running are expected to damage Gastélum more than Mendívil.
The candidates are vying to succeed Dr. Jorge Astiazarán, also a member of the PRI.