Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Tijuana Voters Prepare To Pick New Mayor

Tijuana Voters Prepare To Pick New Mayor
Tijuana Voters Prepare To Pick New Mayor GUEST: Vicente Calderón, editor,

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, it's Friday, June 3. Our new Friday lineup begins today with a half an hour midday edition followed by the Roundtable. Our top story, voters in Tijuana this weekend can complain about a lack of challenge -- candidates. There are 12 on the ballot to succeed the current mayor Jorge last year's around -- tran eight -- Jorge Astizaran . I spoke with Vicente Calderon, editor of the tran -- Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Who are the front runners in this very crowded race? It's difficult to say, it's too close to call. Everybody agrees the main contenders will be the PRI or the coalition and probably the surprise could come from the former chief of police and the independent candidate, who is running for the first time. It's the first time we are seeing independents on the ballot. Why is it the first time? Those were banned by the electoral attorneys. The effort to include people without the backing of the political party has been going on for several years. Even before the presidential a lot -- election prior to this. The previous midterm election, where the Congressman from Baja where elected included the candidates without backing. This will be the first time in a local election that all those things materialize. What are some of the top issues being raised by the candidates? The main issues are public services, street lighting, garbage collection, the public transportation, the city infrastructure, and the economy. The economy and public safety are the main concerns for the voters. They have to be addressing those issues, it's tricky. One party is trying to complain about the role of their opponents, in the PRI, its ruling the federal government and the city government for the second term. They don't want to blame their own colleagues. The PN is blaming the problems that we are facing in the economy on the policies of the government that comes from the PRA. -- PRI. We are facing the highest inflation rate, we have some of the highest prices on gasoline. The sales tax increase came from the beginning of this federal administration, it went from 11% to 16% and they are blaming that on the policies. You mentioned public safety. Tijuana has had a rise in violent crime, homicides. The homicides in May were about 80 murders in Tijuana. Does that give Julian Leah Zola an edge? I think this place in his favor, many people see him as the guy who was a key element bringing down the level of impunity in facing the drug cartels, during the worst period of violence in the city. Even though he is a longshot, many people are turning to him as a way to vote against the Mayor. This is a possibility, even though the race is too close to call, the surprise can be on the candidacy. Are any of the candidates talking about immigration? Not really. That hasn't come out on the issues they are facing. Even public safety, again, the candidates have some level of government in the topic. Voter turnout has gone from great in the 1990s to dismal of late. What is the turnout expected for this election? 30%, based on the last elections. The optimists are talking that it could be 40%, that would be a lot. The voting is the Sunday. I've been speaking with Vicente Calderon editor of

Voters in Tijuana can't complain about a lack of choice in Sunday's mayoral election. There are 12 candidates on the ballot to succeed current mayor Jorge Astiazarán.

This is the first election that independent candidates not affiliated with any political party are on the ballot in Tijuana. But despite the abundance of choices, only about 30 percent of voters are expected to turn out on Sunday, as in previous mid-term elections.


Experts say Tijuana residents are confused by all of the options.

“It’s a whole universe of messages that’s difficult for citizens to process,” said Victor Alejandro Espinoza, an expert of public administration at Colef, Mexico’s border research institute.

Surveys show the most popular candidates are from the two most established parties: René Mendívil of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), currently at Tijuana’s and Mexico’s helm, and Juan Manuel Gastelum of the National Action Party (PAN), which governs the state of Baja California.

Tijuana resident Sylvia Castro plans to vote for Mendívil because of his experience.

“He’s going to keep his promises,” she said.


If any non-establishment candidate has a chance of beating the PRI and PAN candidates, it’s Julian Leyzaola, a former police chief known for his heavy hand with the cartels. Leyzaola was featured in the 2016 documentary, “Mexico’s Bravest Man.” He’s with the Social Encounter Party (PES), primarily composed of evangelical Christians.

“Even though he’s a long shot, many people are turning to him as a way to vote against the major two parties,” said Vicente Calderon, editor of the online news website Tijuanapress.

Voters in Tijuana want their next mayor to improve public safety, infrastructure, such as transportation and the quality of local jobs.

On the independent side, mayoral candidate Gaston Luken has garnered the most support via social networks. San Diego resident Jonathan Hernandez – a 30-year-old registered voter in Tijuana – supports Luken because he believes that as an unaffiliated candidate, Luken represents a true departure from the status quo.

“I don’t like political parties,” Hernandez said. “If there’s a chance there’s a mayor without a political party, maybe things can change a little bit.”

He said he’s not sure how many of Luken’s numerous online supporters besides himself are actually going to show up to vote on Sunday.

Gilberto Leyva Camacho, president of Tijuana’s Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are offering discounts to people who vote on Sunday to encourage participation.

“It’s a lukewarm election. It hasn’t really inspired a lot of feeling. And we want citizens to go out and vote,” he said.

Leyva said he thinks Tijuana residents are largely disillusioned with politics, in addition to feeling overwhelmed by the number of candidates.