Historic Mexican Elections Include Vote For New Baja California Governor
June 6 is election day for Mexico.
Thousands of offices are at stake, and almost half of the country will elect new governors.
Christian Dunn, a representative for the Morena party, said this election is the first of its kind.
“This is the largest election in the history of Mexico because it's a concurrent election. Before, local elections were held one year and federal elections the next. For the first time, federal and local elections have been combined,” said Dunn.
INE, the Instituto Nacional Electoral, or Electoral National Institute, is the sole organization putting together the electoral process for Mexico.
In Baja California, seven candidates are running for governor. Three of them are women.
Rafael Fernandez De Castro, the director of U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC San Diego, says three candidates are currently leading the polls.
“The one who is ahead in the polls is Marina del Pilar, which is the candidate of Morena, the party in power. She’s currently the mayor of Mexicali,” said Fernandez De Castro.
Pilar has been advocating for free drug rehabilitation, increased salaries for police forces, and keeping an eye on crime by setting up 10,000 security cameras.
Following Pilar in the polls is PES candidate Jorge Hank Rhon, who owns the Tijuana soccer team, los Xolos de Tijuana, as well as the largest sports betting company in Mexico, Grupo Caliente.
“For PES, sort of a religious affiliated party, is Jorge Hank Rhon, who is a very controversial figure in Tijuana, in the entire of Mexico,” said Fernandez De Castro.
Jorge Hank Rhon is a former Tijuana mayor and son of the late Carlos Hank Gonzales, who was the mayor of Mexico City in the PRI era.
Hank Rhon’s estate in Tijuana is said to have an exotic zoo with white lions and panthers. He has also been rumored to be a suspect in a variety of money laundering investigations.
Tijuana Innovadora, a platform for social innovation in the city of Tijuana, asked Hank Rhon how he plans on keeping relations with the U.S. when he doesn't have a visa.
“I’m not only going to take that relationship, I’m going to bring it to Baja California. I don't think Baja California has to go out to show itself. On the contrary, we invite the people to visit and, being here, fall in love with Baja California,” said Hank Rhon.
His campaign message has been about providing security, education and development. Fernandez de Castro said Hank Rhon may also be taking votes from another top three candidate.
“He’s basically the second or the third in the poll. People say he’s basically dividing and limiting the chances of the coalition between PAN and PRI, who have Guadalupe Jones, a former Miss Universe,” said Fernandez de Castro.
Originally from Mexicali, Guadalupe “Lupita” Jones won the first Mexican title for Miss Universe in 1991.
She doesn’t have much political experience, but said this is to her advantage as she claims to be a true “citizen candidate.”
Her goal is to create a model state of Baja California by creating a transparent government, stopping violence against women and connecting Baja California with the rest of the world.
Fernandez De Castro said Baja California could see its first woman governor.
But in order for that to happen, voters will need to get out and exercise their right to vote.
“Unfortunately, Baja California has a much lower turnout freight of voters than in other states. In the last election for governor, only 29% of Baja Californianos voted, ” Fernandez De Castro said.
In comparison, 64% of California voters participated in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
Dunn, the representative for the Morena party, said, “In this election, our biggest rivals aren’t the competing parties. It’s getting people to go out and vote and gaining their trust.”
The San Diego Mexican Consulate said that Mexican citizens living outside of Mexico are also eligible to vote through mail and electronically, if they registered on time.
The deadline for registration was on March 10th.
We asked Mexican citizens at the San Ysidro border if they were participating in the upcoming elections. Everyone we spoke to said they were not participating.
“I don’t plan on voting. Every time a new government takes office, everything stays the same. We don't see the change,” said Brian Contreras, a Mexican citizen who works at an Amazon facility in Chula Vista and lives in Tijuana.
Jonathan De La Cruz, a Mexican citizen who works at the Jack in the Box near San Ysidro, also said he would not be participating in the upcoming election.
“I find it complicated to vote because in the past candidates made promises to do things and bring change, but when the power is handed to them, those promises fall through,” said De La Cruz.
With California neighboring Baja California, Fernandez De Castro said this election will have an impact on San Diego.
“It will impact not only San Diego, but this coming election will impact Southern California because there's a very important integration happening here,” he said. “Not only the economy, it’s tourism, it's social, there’s a lot of family ties. There’s thousands of workers, some coming to Mexico, others into the U.S., so there's a very important connection.”
He said the connection between the U.S. and Mexico hasn’t been taken advantage of due to poor government, but this election could shift that.
“What are the personalities who will ensure that Baja California gets a house in order and profits and takes advantage of being next door to California, the single richest state in the U.S,” said Fernandez De Castro.
The elections will take place on Sunday June 6. The candidate with the most votes will become governor of Baja California on Nov. 1 for a six year term.