Corpus Christi residents have elected a new mayor, handing a defeat to incumbent Mayor Joe McComb in favor of his challenger, Paulette Guajardo, in a runoff race defined by accusations of corruption, coronavirus and dirty politics.
McComb, who was mayor of the Coastal Texas city beginning back in May of 2018 after taking over from Dan McQueen who resigned amid controversy after having only been in office 37 days. He was elected in his own right in 2018 to serve a full two-year term.
Guajardo fought through with negative campaign attack ads accusing McComb of corruption throughout the runoff campaign. Guajardo, who is a current city council member, had been endorsed by major groups such as the police officers association and the firefighters association. Despite her negativity Guajardo was able to capitalize on the situation and scrape through enough votes to propel her to a win on Tuesday.
McComb could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening following the loss.
At the end of the night Guajardo was able to secure 56% of voter support. Mayor Joe McComb saw only 44% of the vote going his way. What could prove to be even more disappointing is that in the type of race that is determined almost entirely on turnout, 28,262 of the 188, 573 registered voters turned out to the polls.
Guajardo supporters out voted McComb supporters in every method and that could mean issues along the way for the city and it would seem that could be an indicator for the future vision of the city.
Guajardo supporters obviously are buying into her philosophy of a “full-time mayor,” which would have to be approved by a majority of voters in an election as a revision to the city charter. In the past, Corpus Christi residents have chosen to not go that direction and remain home rule chartered under the city manager form of government. Based on voter data it would seem as if voters would most likely reject that agenda again should make through the charter review commission.
The next real question will be if Guajardo can build a bridge with current Corpus Christi staff such as City Manager Peter Zanoni, who many consider to be the saving grace of the city? With Guajardo’s gusto to be recognized as a full-time mayor, the threat of creating riffs with the city’s top non-elected official are certainly present. The likely move would be that Zanoni comes out with a pledge to work hand in hand with the new leadership, but where things lead behind the scenes could be a tell tale sign of things to come.
Another of the pivotal questions is where the city goes with desalination with Guajardo firmly behind the wheel? Guajardo has proven as a council member that almost any wind can blow her and that she is vulnerable to influence. She was heavily funded by personal injury attorneys and by out-of-area donors which helped propel her to victory. McComb, who was not out fundraising and holding in-person campaign events, was limited on his cash flow and Guajardo was able to largely outspend the incumbent.
The Guajardo campaign strategy focused on public safety and proven leadership while McComb rallied around his experience and leadership. Guajardo voters bought squarely into the vigorous campaign message and life-sized signs seen around town. The message, albeit a light one, was heard Tuesday night loud and clear but the cause and effect of that message may not be felt for weeks or months to come.