A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
Although National Action Party presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota finished third in Baja California and nationwide voting, one happy result of her candidacy for the PAN is that former Gov. Ernesto Ruffo is headed to the Senate. Vázquez Mota personally recruited Ruffo (right), the first elected opposition governor in modern Mexican history, to run. Elected along with Ruffo was former Mexicali Mayor Víctor Hermosillo (left).
And although Andrés Manuel López Obrador finished second in Baja California and nationwide voting Sunday, one happy result of his candidacy for his Progressive Movement coalition may be a razor-thin victory for the state's third Senate seat. López Obrador personally recruited radio talk show host Marco Antonio Blásquez to be the coalition's candidate.
Most outstanding precincts are in districts where Blásquez did well
Results as of late Monday night were too close to call, with the PRI's Eligio Valencia Roque trailing Blásquez by 160 votes with 99.6% of the ballots counted. The official vote count will be Wednesday. One outstanding voting section * was attributed to Mexicali, where Valencia rolled up big margins against Blásquez; however, there were 15 outstanding voting sections in Tijuana, where Blásquez had a big advantage over the PRIista. This appears to favor Blásquez, who said Monday that there likely will be challenges to the vote by whichever candidate is behind when all the votes are tallied up. Vote table below. (* The section in question actually encompassed the Isla de Cedros and southern Ensenada.)
For want of a PRI-Green Party coalition, the election was lost
If the PRI had chosen a different candidate, it likely would have had a joint coalition candidate with the Green Party and have easily won the third Senate seat, at the least. The PRI is in coalition with the Green Party nationwide. But Ensenada Councilman Alfonso Blancafort (left) said Valencia was such a poor candidate that he felt he had to run for Senate on the Green Party ticket. Blancafort, who won more than 46,000 votes, also told the newspaper Zeta in April that he has had numerous run-ins with Ensenada's PRI mayor, Enrique Pelayo. Zeta's story.
Television reported that more than 93,000, or 7.9%, of Senate ballots were annulled, many of them because people marked them for both the PRI and Green parties, apparently thinking they were on the same ticket. If the parties' had fielded a joint candidate, voters could cross off both parties and still have their ballots count. There was a nationwide movement for people to spoil their ballots, and some voters spoil some ballots by accident. The null vote percentage in the presidential and Chamber of Deputies races in Baja California was around 2.5%. If it is assumed that all of the null votes above the 2.5% mark would have gone to the PRI, the party would gain around 64,000 votes, which would mean that the PRI would be in dispute with the PAN over which party won two Senate seats rather than in dispute with the leftist coalition over who gets the leftover seat. However, the PAN and Blásquez disputed that all of those votes would have gone to the PRI. Valencia's running mate, former Mexicali legislator Nancy Sánchez (left), told Televisa that the PRI would seek to have the ballots examined to determine voters' intentions, indicating that that could propel the PRI to first place and two Senate seats. It could be that a recount might at least award enough votes to Valencia to still give him one seat. See theoretical table below. (Welcome to Al Gore's world!)
Update, July 3: Frontera's report on the Senate race (PDF). Sánchez said she will continue her "commitment with the people, the people who got confused." On July 4, El Mexicano (PDF) reported that she is returning to the state legislature; she had to leave her post to run for the federal Senate.
Update, July 4: Rene Mendívil, state head of the PRI, said he is confident that the PRI will be ahead of Blásquez when the official tally takes place beginning Wednesday, saying Valencia had a 300-vote lead in Isla de Cedros and southern Ensenada polling places not included in the PREP count. Mendívil also said that many voting section tallies were entered incorrectly and that the PRI lost votes there; he said he thought the official count would show the PRI-Green ticket candidate as the winner of the District 5 deputies race by the end of the day once a vote-by-vote recount there took place. Story, Frontera (PDF). Recounts automatically take place if there are more null votes in a district than the difference between the first- and second-place finishers.
Update, July 6: PAN wins District 5 race by a bigger margin than in the preliminary count.
Blásquez says recount could benefit him and not PRI ticket
July 3: Blásquez says he thinks a recount could benefit him, because some polling place officials threw out ballots for him that marked off more than one of the three parties whose banner he ran under. But any Senate ballot marked for the Democratic Revolution Party, Workers Party or Citizens Movement, or any combination thereof, should have been a valid vote because all were for the same candidate.
PRI Senate candidate does not lead in a single district
While PRI presidential election candidate Enrique Peña Nieto ran up a big victory in the state and the PRI won seven of the state's eight district seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies, the PRI's Senate candidate did not finish first in a single district. Indeed, the ticket led by Valencia, a union leader and El Mexicano newspaper director, came in third in all Tijuana districts. Maybe Tijuana residents knew him too well? The reason Valencia likely finished second in all three Mexicali districts was because of Sánchez being on the ticket. That allowed Valencia to obtain an advantage of around 43,000 votes over Blásquez in the capital, a number that would have been far greater save for the spoiled ballots.
The race shows how candidates matter. Even if the PRI had gotten 5% more through null votes, and the 4% of the vote that went to the Green candidate, it still did not match the PRI's presidential or Chamber of Deputies vote percentage. A good PRI candidate likely would at least have easily won second place.
Hank's wife made smart move staying off Senate ticket
The results, while an anomaly, show how the wife of former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon made the right decision in deciding not to take the second spot on the PRI ticket. Under the Mexican system, the winning ticket gets two Senate seats and the second-place ticket gets one. She would have been left out in the cold running for the Senate; as it is, she will be an at-large deputy in the next Congress. She has not been seen or heard from lately, prompting speculation that the rare blood disorder she received treatment for in Switzerland last year may have come back. She did attend a Peña Nieto rally for women held at the old jai alai fronton in downtown Tijuana on June 3. Update, July 16: She tells Frontera in a full-page interview that she is ready to be a legislator and will work to provide more jobs for her constituents. Interview, Frontera (PDF).
The Baja California Senate results, while an anomaly, also help show the split in the PRI in the state. Amaya de Hank had wanted to be No. 1 on the ticket and was one of many warning the national PRI that Valencia, who ducked many public appearances, was a liability. Valencia's El Mexicano attacked David Saúl Guakil, who had also hoped for the Senate slot, for allegedly attempting to get the PRI to name someone else after Valencia had been anointed. Guakil, who had directed Tijuana's social development agency, then became Peña Nieto's campaign manager for the state. Guakil's team of PRIistas, including Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante, partied in one location in Tijuana on Sunday night, while the group with Valencia met in another. Political page, Frontera (PDF). Guakil-El Mexicano dispute.
Update, July 7: Guakil returns to his previous post heading Tijuana's social development agency.
Shades of "Dewey beats Truman?" El Mexicano wrongly proclaims PRI sweep Monday morning
El Mexicano ran a multipage profile of Valencia during the campaign, but no such profiles of Ruffo or Blásquez. Closing rallies of non-PRI candidacies were not covered in the paper last week. And to add insult to injury, in a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment of embarrassment, El Mexicano's front page Monday blared the headline: "Ganó PRI carro completo en BC" — The PRI wins every race in the state. This might be understandable in the light that exit polls likely showed a strong PRI showing for the Senate, not taking into account voter ballot mistakes. El Mexicano's front page (PDF). And the Green Party-PRI candidate, Mariano San Román, only narrowly lost in the District 5 race in Tijuana to the PAN's Juan Gastelum (left). Still, Frontera's front page (PDF) had both Blásquez and Gastelum ahead when it went to press Sunday night. El Mexicano has Gastelum, San Román pictures switched (PDF). San Román, a former city councilman, put in a poor performance at the Coparmex Chamber of Deputies debate in May.
San Román's speech at last year's state-of-the-city event.
|Baja California Senate ticket||Votes (99.6% counted)||Percent (99.6% of vote counted)||Party||National Senate vote||Direct seats||There are 96 directly-elected Senate seats and 32 at-large seats|
|Ernesto Ruffo (PAN)||373,428||31.4%||PAN||25%||28||Senators serve
|Marco Antonio Blásquez
|Eligio Valencia (PRI)||312,985||26.3%||PRI coalition||35.2%||48|
|Nullified votes||93,805||7.9%||Null votes||5.5%||-||In Baja California deputies races, null votes were 2.5%|
|Alfonso Blancafort (Green Party)||46,934||3.9%||Green Party||1.8%||0||Theoretical table if null votes reallocated below|
|Amado Gil (PANAL)||45,709||3.8%||PANAL||3.7%||0|
Ruffo, Ensenada mayor from 1986-1989, ousted the PRI from the governor's post in 1989 and served until 1995. Now he may have a part in knocking the PRI out of representing Baja California in the Senate.
The only other state where the PRI did not finish first or second Sunday was Tlaxcala. It was won by the leftist coalition, and the PAN finished second. Beatriz Paredes, who finished a distant second in the Mexico City mayor's race behind the leftist coalition, was once governor of Tlaxcala.
What does the PRI debacle in the Baja California Senate race mean for governor's race next year?
Does this strengthen Jorge Hank Rhon's hand for the PRI nomination for Baja California governor next year, and weaken that of Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti, who also won an at-large post in the Chamber of Deputies? Still, it does not make a lot of sense for the PRI to nominate a man, Hank, who told a media conference last year that he no longer was able to obtain a visa to cross into the United States. Is there a young, fresh face like those the PRI elected Sunday as governors of Jalisco and Chiapas states that the party could put forth in Baja California?
PRIista elected governor of Chiapas is 32. Story, Frontera (PDF).
PRIista elected governor in Jalisco, breaking PAN's 18-year run, is 38. Story, Frontera (PDF).
The PAN has held Baja California's governorship since 1989, and, until Sunday, had not lost a congressional race in the state for 12 years.**
Editor's note, July 3: This table was based on an assumption that most of the null votes were cast for both the PRI and Green Party. However, Blásquez says he thinks many of the spoiled ballots actually are legitimate votes for him, and that some poll officials threw out ballots that put an X through two or more of the three parties whose ticket he ran under. Each such a ballot should represent a valid vote for him because they were all marked for the same candidate. Ballots marked for both the PRI and the Green Party would not be valid, however, because they were for two separate candidates.
|Baja California Senate ticket||Votes (99.6% counted)||Percent (99.6% of vote counted)||Adding 87% of null votes over 2.5% to PRI||Adding 13% of null votes over 2.5% to Green Party||New theoretical totals||Division of PRI-Green vote|
|Ernesto Ruffo (PAN)||373,428||31.4%||373,428||31.4%|
|Eligio Valencia (PRI)||312,985||26.3%||55,784||368,769||31.1%||87%|
|Marco Antonio Blásquez
|Alfonso Blancafort (Green Party)||46,934||3.9%||8,335||55,269||4.7%||13%|
|Amado Gil (New Alliance)||45,709||3.8%||45,709||3.8%|
Number of null votes over 2.5% = 64,119
Total votes counted as of late Monday night = 1,187,444
The ballot at left shows a valid vote for Enrique Peña Nieto. A vote marked for the PRI, or the Green Party, or both, were valid votes, because he ran on the ticket of both parties. The PRI and Green Party also ran joint candidates in deputy races in Baja California, which meant that voters could mark their deputy ballot for the PRI, Green Party, or both to have their vote count. However, in the Baja California Senate race, there were separate PRI and Green candidates, which meant that if both parties were marked, the ballot was spoiled. Many voters mistakenly followed the pattern they had used in the presidential and deputy elections and voted for both the PRI and the Green Party for the Senate. This may cost the PRI a Senate seat, or even two.
The ballot at right shows one of seven combinations that constituted a valid vote for Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Marking a ballot for the PRD, Workers Party or Citizens Movement, or any combination of those three parties, constituted a valid vote for him. The same held true for Marco Antonio Blásquez in the Senate race. But Blásquez said he believes that voting officials threw out many ballots where two or more fo the parties he represented were marked off; he said he thought a recount would increase his vote total and ensure him victory.
** An earlier version of this story said the PAN had not lost a Baja California Congressional race in 15 years. In fact, it lost the District 1, Mexicali, race, in 1997, 44,050 votes to 42,0643 votes.