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PAN Energized as Rhon Projected to Lose Baja Gubernatorial Race

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Aired 4/19/09

( Photo : About 30 reporters waited seven hours for Jorge Hank Rhon to give a press conference as election results rolled in. Photographers began snapping shots of Hank’s empty red chair. Hank never showed up. Amy Isackson/KPBS News .)

With 90 percent of the vote counted, it appears an economist has beat out a gambling tycoon in the race for Governor of Baja California. PAN party candidate Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan's apparent victory is a feather in the cap for the PAN party. KPBS reporter Amy Isackson has details.

In Tijuana, thousands of Osuna supporters dressed in the PAN party's signature blue partied in the streets until the wee hours this morning.

Arturo Martinovich says the PAN's win is a dream come true.

Martinovich : We weren't sure if people were going to find the difference between the good and the bad. The person running against us doesn't represent much good. So, this is huge.

Osuna beat out the PRI party candidate Jorge Hank Rhon.

Rhon is the flamboyant racetrack owner with alleged ties to drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption.

Many Osuna supporters vehemently dismiss him as a scary mafioso. But they won't say it on tape.

Margarita Vargas says the PAN had to win to restore values and morality to Baja.

Vargas says a victory for the other side would have been shameful.

David Shirk directs the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego.

He says Osuna will provide continuity to the previous PAN Governor's policies, including a pro-business atmosphere and an emphasis on good government and transparency.

And Shirk says the fact the PAN has held onto the Baja governorship for a fourth consecutive term may play into a larger national context.

Shirk : Felipe Calderon, the sitting president, has enjoyed very favorable public opinion ratings. And so this might be seen as well as an endorsement of the PAN at the larger national level.

Meanwhile, this morning in Tijuana, it seemed as though the earth had swallowed Jorge Hank Rhon and his PRI supporters.

Hank is yet to make an appearance or make any statement about his defeat.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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