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Barbara Canales Elected Nueces County Judge

Port Corpus Christi Commissioner Barbara Canales, a Democrat, was elected Nueces County judge, defeating Mike Pusley, a Republican, in a strong showing of bipartisan support. Courtesy photo

Democrat Barbara Canales became the first woman elected to serve as Nueces County judge in the county’s 172 years. She replaces retiring Judge Loyd Neal, a Republican at the end of his second four-year term. The win by Canales shifts a 3-2 vote split that has dominated commissioner votes in recent years to the Democrats.

Canales, who will have to give up her seat on the Port of Corpus Christi board, won a decisive victory with 52.4 percent of the vote over Republican Mike Pusley. After serving nine years as a Nueces County commissioner, Pusley resigned last year to run for county judge.

“It took Democrats, it took Republicans, it took all of us, and we are going to have a new day,” Canales said from her election night victory party. “I want to thank the crossover vote, the Republicans who knew the best choice for this county was Barbara Canales. We could not have done this without them.”

In the Corpus Christi race for mayor, incumbent Joe McComb was forced into a runoff with Michael Hall in a race with five candidates. McComb just missed winning the race outright. Needing 50.1 percent of the vote, he garnered 49.73 percent to Michael Hall’s 19.64 percent.

Runoffs also will be held Dec. 18 for four of the city’s five district seats.

Incumbent Greg Smith retained his seat representing District 4. He drew only one challenger in that race, unlike all the other seats, which had multiple people file. In all, 30 people filed to fill the nine seats, including mayor on the Corpus Christi City Council.

In the hotly contested race to replace Lucy Rubio, who resigned to run for justice of the peace, Roland Barrera and Eric Cantu will face off for the chance to represent District 3. Rubio was on the ballot for Precinct 1, Place 3 justice of the peace. She was on the ballot unopposed after the death of incumbent Robert “Bobby” Balderas last July.

District 3 drew the most candidates of any district with five names on the ballot. Of those, one died before the election, and another was charged with a felony.

Candidate and Realtor Roland A. Gaona, 57, was found dead in his home in October. A warrant was issued days before the election for candidate Eric Tunchez, who was charged with participating in a prostitution scheme. He announced on Election Day that he would turn himself in “when the time is right.”

In District 5, the only other open seat, Gil Hernandez and Paul Thurman each garnered just over 25 percent of the vote, pushing them into a runoff. The other two candidates were Carlos Torres and Eric Rodriguez.

The District 1 race, which had three candidates, pits incumbent Everett Roy against Joy Miller. That race was so close that only eight votes separated Miller from Julian Firo, the third candidate. Although an incumbent, this is Roy’s first election as he was appointed to fill a seat left vacant when Carolyn Vaughn resigned to be appointed to the Nueces County Commissioners Court.

Incumbent Ben Molina, who has represented District 2 since the 2016 election, will face Sylvia Campos in a race with two other candidates.

Seven candidates filed to fill three at-large seats on the council. The top three vote-getters are all familiar faces. Incumbents Paulette Guarjardo, Michael Hunter, and Rudy Garza Jr. will return to the council. Garza is moving from representing District 5 to serving as at-large.

In other local election news, each of the city’s six bond initiatives, totaling about $95 million, was approved by 60 percent of the vote. A bond to build a new Carroll High School was also approved by voters in the Corpus Christi Independent School District.

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