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The National Action Party's Francisco "Kiko" Vega won a surprisingly easy victory in the Baja California governor's race on Sunday, defeating Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate Fernando Castro Trenti. With nearly all of the vote counted this morning, Vega was leading Trenti 47.1% to 44.1% — Vega's 3-point margin of victory being 2 points less than the 5.1% of the vote pulled down by Citizens Movement candidate Felipe Ruanova. Ruanova, a lifelong PRIista, had viciously attacked Vega and the PAN in the gubernatorial debates. Vega's showing gave the PAN its fifth straight governor's race victory; it has held the post since 1989.
The PAN and its four-party coalition, which included the Democratic Revolution Party, was also winning 10 of 17 directly elected seats in the 25-seat legislature, which completely turns over every three years. But while the PRI won seven districts, Castro Trenti only won four of them.
Baja Californians split their votes in an election where their turnout was 39.4% — about what it was in the 2007 gubernatorial election. The PRI handily won the mayoral races in Tijuana, Ensenada, and Tecate. But while the PRI mayoral candidates' combined vote totals were nearly 30,000 greater than the PAN coalition's, Castro Trenti was trailing Vega by 25,000 votes.
What happened to Castro Trenti? A Frontera poll had put him ahead late last month. Two late-breaking scandals may have hurt him — one had him owning very expensive property in Mexico City and San Diego, and the other had a jailed Arellano Félix drug-trafficking brother reportedly claiming that he had paid off Castro Trenti's brother, Francisco. Francisco Castro Trenti is now police chief in Rosarito, a municipality the PRI lost. But it is doubtful that only the scandals cost the PRI gubernatorial candidate to lose all those tens of thousands of votes. Fernando Castro Trenti also is known as the Devil, and many who split their votes obviously did not trust him. While Castro Trenti has been a wizard at getting legislation passed, he lacks charisma and has never won a direct election for public office, even though he has served as federal senator and as a federal deputy. Vega, a former Tijuana mayor and federal congressman, had been directly elected before. Castro Trenti also may have believed his own press releases, which he managed to get Baja California's major newspapers to run verbatim. Many voters in Baja California, despite giving the PRI wins in recent elections, have strong trust issues with the PRI.
The example of the PRI's Rubén Salazar Limón may provide some insight into why Castro Trenti lost. Salazar told Tijuana's Grupo Político Lázaro Cárdenas last month that as a result of the election last year of the PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto as president (Peña Nieto won the state) and because of other changes, that he had a good chance of winning the District 11 legislative seat from Tijuana this year. District 11 has long been an impregnable stronghold for the PAN. But Salazar lost to the PAN's Rosalba López (whose poster is seen at left) by more than 4,000 votes; meanwhile, Castro Trenti lost the district by nearly 6,000 votes. The PRI also hoped that Franciscana Krauss, elected to the Tijuana city council in 2010, might be competitive in District 10; she lost to the PAN's Mario Osuna by 4,000 votes. However, Castro Trenti lost in the district by nearly 8,000 votes. Castro Trenti was fiercely rejected in Tijuana, and even lost the huge outlying poorer eastern district — which has twice the population of any other district — by 7,000 votes.
Castro Trenti only won Districts 7 (Tecate), 14 and 15 (Ensenada) and 16 (Tijuana-Rosarito). PRi candidates won those districts, as well as District 6 (Mexicali) and Districts 8 and 9 (Tijuana).
What also seemed to help Vega was that his four-party coalition held together much more tightly than many expected: the preliminary vote count indicated that each party in the coalition had won at least one directly elected legislative seat. PAN Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán may have played a key role behind the scenes in stitching the coalition together and keeping it together.
Frontera page (PDF) on legislative district races; only two candidates got over 50%.
This election was marked by the belief of many Mexicans that a decision had been made at high levels in Mexico City that Castro Trenti should lose in order to shore up the PRI-PAN-PRD Pacto por Mexico, and that a fix of sorts known as a concertacesión was in. People all over Tijuana believed this. For example, even a PRI supporter at Castro Trenti's closing rally in Tijuana at Caliente Stadium on June 30 said she believed it. Did she and others, thinking this was the case, not vote for Castro Trenti? If there indeed were such a fix, it was strange for the PRI's national leader, César Camacho, to continually deny such was the case and for him to announce Sunday night (mistakenly) that Castro Trenti had won, and for the PRI-dominated state legislature to pass last-minute legislation to give municipality status to San Quintín — the only reason to pass the legislation so hurriedly was to back Castro Trenti's campaign. Others said that the PRI's Jorge Hank Rhon, the gambling magnate and former Tijuana mayor who lost the 2007 gubernatorial race to the PAN's Osuna Millán, was so upset about losing the nomination to Castro Trenti that he was surreptitiously backing Vega; Zeta published an item about this. Many saw Hank as the stronger PRI candidate, although he has a lot of baggage, baggage that helped him lose the 2007 election. His mayoral candidate was Dr. Jorge Astiazarán, who won by 24,000 votes; how many voted for Astiazarán but did not vote for Castro Trenti? El Mexicano reported that when Hank was asked at his polling place who he had voted for, he replied: "My vote today went to my candidates, as always, all those from my party."
Update, July 10: Antonio Magaña's Frontera column (PDF) titled "Bite of the Xoloitzcuintle I" says Castro Trenti forces will be blaming Hank, whose Caliente Group sponsors the Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles soccer team, for the loss, just as the Hankistas blame Castro Trenti for Hank's 2007 loss. Magaña said the preliminary vote count showed Astiazarán getting 25,828 more votes in Tijuana than Castro Trenti.
Update, July 13: At news conference where Castro Trenti's concedes election, he said there never was any scheme for the PRI to trade the Baja California governor's race in exchange for PAN and PRD support for the Pacto de México. He blamed the belief in this on the media.
Update, July 16: Previously unknown PRI group burns Hank in effigy.
At their book presentation at the Tijuana Book Fair in June, Colegio de la Frontera Norte analysts Víctor Espinoza and Alejandro Monsiváis Carrillo lamented the paucity of polling for this year's election, which they said kept analysts and the public from having good benchmarks to figure out what was going on with the electorate. Frontera newspaper's polls had put Castro Trenti in the lead. Zeta's polling may have provided the key in seeing a shift; its poll published June 28 showed a dead heat, while its earlier poll gave Castro Trenti the lead. Meanwhile, both parties published polls throughout the election showing their candidates in the lead.
Monsiváis said at the time that he had confidence that the electorate would be able to cut through the mudslinging in the campaign to arrive at the real issues and make their candidate choices.
It turned out that Vega's decision to boycott two of the debates — both of those only broadcast on the Internet — did not hurt him, or hurt him much, with the voters. In the three debates Vega did participate in, he was essentially ganged up on by Ruanova and Castro Trenti. Ruanova was partisan but eloquent; the decision to have him be the Citizens Movement candidate, particularly considering that he won 5% of the vote, may have been too clever by half.
Update, July 10: Frontera columnist Joé Aguirre Lomelí (PDF) says he thinks Vega won a lot of votes from people opposed to the bullying he was subjected to in the debates, and credits a large number of PANistas for how they helped manage Vega's campaign.
Winning mayor's races were the PRI's Dr. Jorge Astiazarán in Tijuana (by some 24,000 votes), Gilberto Antonio
Hirata Chico in Ensenada (by 27,000 votes), and César Rafael Moreno González
in Tecate (by 2,000 votes) and the PAN's Jaime Rafael Díaz Ochoa in Mexicali (by 19,000 votes) and Silvano Abarca Macklis in Rosarito (by 4,500 votes). Díaz Ochoa is a former federal senator and previously served as mayor (2001-2004); Abarca Macklis was Rosarito's first mayor (1998-2001).
El Mexicano on the Astiazarán and Hirata victories (PDF). Frontera page (PDF) on mayoral winners.
U-T San Diego's Sandra Dibble's profile of Astiazarán.
The Baja California Electoral and Citizen Participation Institute voted yesterday to view the preliminary vote count known as the PREP as invalid because it had at one point incorrectly shown vote total percentages on its webpage. A proposal by the institute's president to invalidate the PREP and also take down the webpage was voted down 5-2. The National Action Party, which won the governor's race and 10 of 17 legislative districts on Sunday, has long complained that the institute is in the pocket of the PRI.
Carlos Treviño Ramírez, who was heading the PREP compilation, told Frontera newspaper that the error in recording percentages was corrected and that the totals and percentages on the PREP webpage are correct. The page was said to have been frozen for about half an hour while corrections were made. Frontera said the PREP totals were compiled by the company Proisi, contracted at a cost of around 6 million pesos ($466,000); the national "Noticias por Adela" news show reported that Institute President Rubén Castro Bojórquez threatened not to pay the company, saying its totals could not be trusted. But Treviño Ramírez said the vote totals were never in dispute, only the percentages — indicating that it was if one had a spreadsheet that totaled all the numbers correctly, but that the formula for compiling percentages was a little off.
The motion that did get passed, viewing the PREP count as invalid, also was proposed by Castro Bojórquez, Frontera said.
The preliminary vote count was just that, preliminary; the official vote tally will begin Wednesday, and is to be finished Sunday.
Update, July 11: Institute allows vote-by-vote recount Wednesday even though that is reserved for elections where margin of victory is less than 1%; some anomalies found.
Update, July 13: It was announced that Vega's final vote margin was 24,959 over Castro Trenti; the difference in the preliminary count, or PREP, was 25,554. The PREP wound up pretty close, despite the anomalies.
There were 17 directly elected seats in the state legislature, where 10 went to the PAN coalition and seven to the PRI coalition. Who gets the other eight? According to Tuesday and Wednesday's Frontera, they likely will be assigned as noted below, if the final vote count approximates the current count. This would leave the PAN coalition short of a majority with 12 seats, the PRI coalition would have 11 and the Citizens Movement two.
Three at-large seats go to the candidates at the top of their coalition's at-large list, and one to the No. 2 at-large list candidate of the PRI coalition:
• René Mendívil Acosta, the former state PRI leader who had sought the PRI nomination for Tijuana mayor who was No. 1 on the list.
• Julio César Vázquez Castillo, who was elected as a Tijuana city councilman for the Workers Party in 2010, No. 2 on the PRI coalition at-large list.
• Alcibiades García Lizardi, No. 1 on the Citizens Movement at-large list.
• Cuauhtémoc Cardona Benavides, former top aide to Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán who had sought the PAN nomination for governor. He was No. 1 on the PAN list.
While the paper had said Tuesday that Jesús Ruiz Uribe, a member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) who was No. 2 on the PAN coalition list, would become an at-large legislator, the paper corrected itself Wednesday, and said the PAN coalition, as the overall winner of the election, does not get a second at-large seat from the list. This means that the PAN coalition would fall short of a majority in the 25-seat legislature. The paper also said that it was incorrect when it said that the PRI's David Ruvalcaba Flores and the PRD's José Luis Pérez Canchola were likely to gain seats for being top losing vote-getters. On Wednesday, July 10, the paper also reported that Laura Torres Ramírez of the PRI, although she lost in Rosarito District 17, would be in the legislature, but in the end she was edged out for the post by Ruvalcaba, the paper said July 14.
Four seats go to top losing vote-getters, Frontera reported Wednesday (PDF) and Sunday, July 14 (PDF):
• Claudia Casas of the Citizens Movement, who lost in District 16, according to the July 15 El Mexicano newspaper (PDF). Frontera had previously reported that the seat would go to Juan Manuel Molina García, who it said had had the best vote percentage, 11%, of any Citizens Movement candidate, in Mexicali District 1. Casas has acted in low-budget films about drug trafficking. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Update, Aug. 16: Electoral tribunal throws out votes for Casas, awards seat to Molina García.
• Gerardo Álvarez of the PAN, although he lost Tijuana District 9, would become an at-large legislator.
• David Ruvalcaba of the PRI, although he lost in Tijuana District 12.
Update, Sept. 26: His eligibility to take the seat was challenged because he returned to his Tijuana City Council seat after the election; however, the state electoral tribunal denied the challenge.
• Laura Torres, who lost in District 17, according to El Mexicano (PDF) on July 14. Previously, media had reported the winner as Jorge Tsutsumi of the PRI coalition, although he lost in Tijuana District 13. Table on PRI's best two losers.
The PAN itself will have seven of its coalition's 12 seats, with one going to the PRD, two to the teachers union party New Alliance, and two to the Baja California State Party.
Winners from the PAN coalition who are not from the PAN included the Baja California State Party's Francisco Barraza Chiquete, winner in Mexicali District 1, and Felipe Mayoral, who won in Playas de Rosarito District 17; the New Alliance Party's Irma Martínez in Tijuana District 13 and Alberto Martínez
Carrillo in Mexicali District 5; and the PRD's Roberto Dávalos Flores in Tijuana District 12.
Update, July 11: Dávalos Flores, who had only a 688-vote advantage in the preliminary count over the PRI's David Ruvalcaba Flores, saw his lead diminish in the official count. Story, AFN.
Update, July 12: Frontera reports that Dávalos won recount by 30 votes; El Mexicano reports he won by 75 votes.
For the PRI coalition, there would be seven seats for the PRI, two for the Workers Party, one for the Green Party, and one for the Social Encounter Party.
Fernando del Monte, long the iconic anchorman for Tijuana's Notivisa Televisa news, was persuaded in 2007 by then-gubernatorial candidate Jorge Hank Rhon to be the PRI's Tijuana mayoral candidate in substitution for Astiazarán, whose candidacy was withdrawn for residency reasons. Both Hank and del Monte lost.
Fast forward to this year's election: Del Monte signed on with Castro Trenti as his top media official. Although Castro Trenti beat out Hank for the PRI nomination, Castro Trenti lost the general election. Unfortunately, under del Monte, Castro Trenti's policy of having his staff write news stories about his campaign events and then having them published word-for-word in the Baja California media continued.
Update, July 13: Del Monte introduces Castro Trenti at news conference where Castro Trenti concedes, telling media there will be no questions.
July 10, full-page ad from Vega thanking voters. El Mexicano (PDF).
July 11: Analyst Víctor Espinoza calls Tijuana residents' votes for PRI's Astiazarán for mayor but for the PAN's Vega for governor "schizophrenic." His column in Frontera (PDF).
July 13: Coparmex business group president Jorge Escalante says in Friday talk that Baja Californians exercised a "voto razonado," which can be translated as saying they split their votes, or had reasoned voted. Voto razonado is often used in court cases when a judge issues a separate opinion. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Excelsiór column by Javier Aparicio titled "El Votante Razonable," which could be translated as "The Reasonable Voter" or "The Reasoning Voter."
Milenio column by Liébano Sáenz comes to some very odd conclusions. It does say that early exit polls on Sunday favored the PRI, but that midday polls showed a tight race and that afternoon polls showed a PAN victory, which he said indicated that the PAN had a better get-out-the-vote effort.
Cosme Collignon writes in Frontera how PANistas' vehicles were destroyed and ballot boxes in PAN-leaning precinct were burned in Mexicali on Sunday. He noted that Castro Trenti, once again, as noted above, has never won a direct election, and joked that it was too bad that there is not a plurinominal (at-large) election for governor that Castro Trenti could win. Collignon's column (PDF).
July 14: Antonio Magaña, in his column "Bite of the Xoloitzcuintle III," says national PAN President Gustavo Madero and PRD President Jesús Madero have been crowing too much, even though Vega never would have won without "their alliance which goes against nature." Column, Frontera (PDF).
Sergio Sarmiento, a nationally syndicated columnist and TV editorialist who spoke to Tijuana's Coparmex business group Friday and who owns a home in Ensenada, writes a good synopsis about the election with an Ensenada dateline. He criticized the state electoral institute for allowing recounts not permitted under the law. He saw the PRI ploy of having Felipe Ruanova as the Citizens Movement candidate as a good one because Ruanova's 5% of the vote took away from the PRD vote that might have gone to Vega. However, another way to look at it is that the Ruanova vote might have gone to Castro Trenti instead of to Vega, as Castro Trenti is a lot closer ideologically to the left than the PAN. Sarmiento concludes by saying that Baja California voters, in splitting their ballots, are mature, but that the electoral machinations by Mexican politicians show they have not yet learned how to be democrats. Sarmiento's column.
Update, July 17: Antonio Magaña indicates that he thinks Ruanova helped Vega. He said Castro's imposition of a state legislative candidate in Mexicali turned off his base, and caused the creative political strategist Memo Rentería to come up with a campaign cartoon that said, "Castro castrates me." Column, Frontera (PDF).
José Aguirre Lomelí says Castro expected victory and did not work intelligently enough to win it, likening him to a soccer goalie who sees the ball apparently heading way away from the goalpost, until spin on the ball causes it to bend just enough to score the winning goal. Aguirre Lomelí criticized the PAN's Tijuana mayor candidate, Alejandro Monraz, for not conceding defeat immediately, instead of waiting for nearly a week, when the results immediately showed he had suffered a crushing defeat. (The losing PRI candidate for Mexicali mayor, Elí Topete, who suffered a similar crushing defeat, waited even longer to concede.)
Photos: Ballot boxes and poll workers wait for voters on Avenida Revolución next to the Calimax at Juan Sarabia (10th Street). Last year, the precinct was in the Calimax parking lot; poll workers said this year's spot was much shadier.
Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán speaks at Vega's closing rally in Tijuana on June 29; behind is a poster for the PAN's Rosalba López, who handily won the 11th legislative district. How well — or badly, as the case may be — the PRI did in the district was a key to how the election turned out.
Update, July 24: Rosarito police chief Francisco Castro Trenti says he will not take any legal action against Mexico City daily that published excerpt from government interview where Arellano Félix brother had said he had paid off Francisco Castro Trenti a decade ago. Story, Frontera (PDF).