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Polls: Calexico-born Elorduy likely next Baja governor

July 06, 2001|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Did you ever think a Calexican could become governor?

Polls say it may happen.

On Sunday it could become a reality as slightly less than 1.5 million voters will go to election sites in Baja California to give one of six candidates the opportunity to establish policies and make decisions for the state.

Six candidates are running for governor, and one, Eugenio Elorduy Walther, former Mexicali mayor and a member of the conservative National Action Party, was born in Calexico.

According to polls, he should be the next governor.

The other five candidates are Daniel Quintero, former mayor of Ensenada and a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party; Federico Sánchez Scott, a professor from Ensenada and member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party; Amador Rodríguez Lozano, an ex-PRI senator and congressman who resigned from his party to become a candidate of the Work Party; Milton Castellanos Gout, ex-mayor of Mexicali (1989-1992) of the Citizen Alliance and another former member of the PRI; and Beatriz Avalos of the Baja California Party.

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According to polls, Elorduy will win the race by a 2-1 ratio over Quintero, his closest competitor.

Elorduy would have to deal with several problems the Alejandro González Alcocer administration will leave, including lack of security and allegations of corruption and nepotism.

Javier Alberto Gutiérrez-Vidal, municipal president of the PAN, said the party ran a positive campaign full of proposals the citizenry has accepted.

A significant number of Baja Californians live in San Diego and Imperial counties and keep their state electoral cards (a driver's license-like card that allows voting) and are permitted to vote. Baja California is the only Mexican state that issues a voting card.

"We campaigned at the border during the 56 days of the campaign and the media campaign through the Hispanic channels that are delivered in Southern California," said Gutiérrez.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has sworn that Mexicans who live in other countries — especially in the U.S. — soon will have the right to vote in their cities or residence instead of traveling to Mexico to vote.

"This is a legal matter, because there has to be a constitutional amendment to make this possible, and parties' policies will be involved," said Ismael Dávila, a PRI spokesman.

The bi-state agenda that the new Baja California governor and California's governor, Gray Davis, will have to deal with includes immigration, pollution, drug smuggling and the lining of the All-American Canal, which, according to Gutiérrez, will affect Mexicali's agricultural businesses.

Positive about his party's win, Dávila said its campaign will help the PRI return to control Baja's government.

The PRI spokesman said Jaime Martínez and Aurelio Flores, PRI mayoral candidates for Tijuana and Mexicali, respectively, have reached the electorate with their campaigns but other factors are influencing the electorate.

One is González's administration, which has been connected to cases of corruption of state police officers accused of protecting drug smugglers allied with the Arellano Félix brothers.

At the beginning of the González administration, there were accusations of nepotism as the governor's brother-in-law Juan Manuel Salazar was appointed to the Attorney General's office.

There is the case of some lots in the Tijuana River redevelopment area being sold to drug smugglers by a state agency whose director, Jorge Ramos, was appointed by González.

And then there is the issue of security. Regularly in rural areas people are killed and rolled into blankets, apparently drug-related "ajustes de cuentas," or "paybacks" among drug bands.

"This hasn't affected Elorduy. This is not a campaign issue and Baja Californians see the government as something positive," said Gutiérrez.

Other factors contributing to the election are proposals of President Fox to apply a 15-percent tax to medicines and groceries, and "toalla-gate," in which the federal executive office was discovered to have mounted a $1 million expense in repairing Los Pinos, the "Mexican White House."

Sergio Haro, veteran journalist and publisher of the weekly newspaper Siete Días, said if voters recount the mistakes of the government, they won't vote for the PAN again.

"But there is a social inertia to the PAN that will determine the win of the party," said Haro.

His newspaper is working on stories on the lack of voter turnout. About 60 percent of registered voters expected to go to the polls this year.

PAN leader Gutiérrez said his party hopes citizens vote Sunday.

"Ours is a mature citizenry and we expect this isn't mainly abstentionist," said Gutiérrez.

PRI spokesman Dávila said the party's candidates' images have been seen throughout the state and there was enthusiasm among the electorate.

Haro said this gubernatorial campaign is different from those in 1989 and 1995.

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