‘Tranquil' day for newly elected Baja leader

July 09, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — "¡Vamos!"

With that call to action, members of the reporting corps here left a news conference and headed toward the polling site, or casilla, where Eugenio Elorduy Walther was scheduled to vote.

Identification tags swinging, the reporters and photographers piled out of vans and spotted the National Action Party candidate for governor of Baja California walking toward the casilla hand-in-hand with his wife, Maria Elena.

Elorduy, the 6-foot-3 Calexico native, was immediately surrounded by Spanish-language media and peppered with questions.

He would later be asked about the Imperial Valley and local water issues, but with the Spanish-language reporters he stuck to a refrain echoed by other candidates: "I hope there is maximum participation in the election and that the day's events are tranquil."


For Elorduy, the day turned out to be most "tranquil."

Elorduy won Sunday's state-wide gubernatorial election with 48.86 percent of the vote. He will be the fourth consecutive PAN representative in the state's highest office.

His closest challenger, Daniel Quintero Peña, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, took in 36.48 percent of the vote.

The four remaining challengers garnered no more than 4.1 percent of the vote.

It was after 10 p.m. Sunday when Elorduy made his victory speech to a crowd of supporters and a sentry row of videocameras.

He thanked everyone for coming and then — speaking slowly and calmly, said, "Soy muy contento, " or "I'm very content."

Before voting Sunday morning, Elorduy was asked how the Imperial Valley would work with an Elorduy administration.

Speaking in English, he said, "As mayor of Mexicali from 1995 though 1998, I had a good relationship with Calexico and the Imperial Valley. If elected, we will continue that."

In addition to his connections with Valleyites, Elorduy said he "has good friends in San Diego County and (has) worked with Gov. Gray Davis in the past."

After voting, he described his signature campaign phrase, "Un Cambio de Acción," or "A change in action."

Speaking in Spanish, he said, "It is a very different direction for Baja California. Participating in politics should not be confined to the one day of the election. It should be every day."

While he stressed combating crime is his number one priority, he addressed water issues as well.

He referenced the Imperial Irrigation District's tentative water transfer with San Diego's Metropolitan Water District when talking about efforts his administration would make to provide the four coastal cities, Tijuana primarily, with more water.

He said a new reservoir would be built alongside the Rio Colorado to fill an aqueduct that would send water west.

When asked if he thought sending water to the coast could weaken Mexicali's agricultural and industrial economies, his tone changed from friendly to serious.

Speaking in English, "There is no risk to Mexicali. We have the capacity to maneuver."

He said the Imperial and Mexicali valleys could mitigate any loss of water by using water more efficiently.

"We, on both sides of the border, need to take good care to not continue wasting water."

Specifically, he mentioned agricultural use of water as one area that could be made more efficient.

Regarding his stance on crime, Elorduy has said he will create the position of secretary of public safety in his administration to deal with the issue.

At 7 p.m. Sunday when the first exit poll numbers were made public, Elorduy's PRI challenger, Quintero, addressed a room crammed full of the same reporters who interviewed Elorduy when he voted earlier in the day.

He told them not to jump to conclusions from the preliminary results. "The election is not be over until Wednesday," he said, smiling for the cameras.

Quintero's 36.48 percent of the vote, totaled after all the districts reported their results, was 1.5 percent less than the early poll numbers he discounted.

Finishing behind Elorduy and Quintero, Milton Castellanos Gout kicked off election Sunday when he voted at 8 a.m., right after the polls opened.

Castellanos, former PRI mayor of Mexicali, ran in the election as the gubernatorial candidate of the Citizen's Alliance Party.

After casting his vote, Castellanos was quickly asked if he thought he had a chance to win.

He said he had cautiously optimistic expectations but — if he was not elected — he would work to establish his new party in future state and federal elections.

Castellanos' party, dubbed AC, was running for election for the first time. He garnered 2.85 percent of the vote.

The man who abandoned PRI in favor of the new "citizens" party, said he never thought about joining Elorduy's PAN. He considers his citizens' party a new concept in politics, adding he left PRI because the party changed its principles.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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